From education to employment

Queen unveils statutory right to an apprenticeship and flexible training

The Queen’s Speech today underlined the Government’s "overriding priority" to tackle the economic downturn.

However, as well as introducing legislation aimed to prevent another banking crisis, the Queen also announced measures to help families and businesses secure their long-term futures in the difficult climate ahead.

Using her address to the nation, the Queen unveiled 12 bills (plus two carried over from the previous Parliamentary session), including the Education and Skills Bill, which promises an apprenticeship place for every suitably qualified young person by 2013. It also guarantees the right for time off for ongoing training for all staff.

Paul Williams, Chairman of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF) and its training arm ReMIT, welcomed the announcement.

Mr Williams said: "Offering an apprenticeship or equivalent vocational training to young people is vital for the UK economy. This would provide them with a skill, and go some way to reducing the staffing shortages experienced by many industries, including the retail motor sector."

However, he was less positive about what he described as the “laudable” idea of time off for training, “but businesses will need to be able to accommodate this right."

He added: "As one of the major motor industry trainers, ReMIT, which currently administers training for 3,000 apprentices, has seen the draft Bill, and we will follow its progress through Parliament, and will continue to work with Government to make sure that the outcome is practical for both business, employees, and young people."

Jackie Orme, CIPD Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), believes the move to flexible training is good news for employers and employees alike.

Ms Orme said: "We welcome the proposal to introduce a ‘right to request’ time off for training. The ‘light touch’ right to request approach has worked well with flexible working for both employers and employees. However it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that training is a two-way street. It is of benefit to the learner, but must also contribute to meeting the business needs of the employer. It this test is not met, the employer must be able to decline requests for training.

"It is crucial in this economic downturn that organisations invest in training. Those that upskill their workforce during the tough times will come out stronger and more competitive when the economy picks up."

Liam Byrne, Cabinet Office minister, said the Queen’s address showed "real help now for families and businesses to help them get through the downturn."

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