From education to employment

Research indicates worrying findings

Over a third of small businesses have failed to provide training for their staff, rising to 40% for the very smallest companies, according to new research released today.

Furthermore, 11% of smaller businesses see no benefit in investing in training for their workforces, compared with 3% of larger businesses.

The survey, conducted by the Skills for Business Network, sampled the training habits of over 13,000 employers finding that nearly half of those surveyed believed training costs to be too high. Consequently, over 30% also believe that extra qualifications for their staff would result in higher pay premiums, again adding to business costs.

Mark Fisher, Chief Executive of the Sector Skills Development Agency, commented on the results: “These are worrying findings for the UK economy. Small to medium sized employer’s have not got the resources of larger companies and feel they have less to gain from training staff”.

“Most colleges are reluctant to invest time in developing relationships with small to medium sized employers who can only offer small numbers of trainees and who are seen as unlikely to be willing to pay the full cost of training in any event”, Mr Fisher added.

The impact of the survey was given particular resonance with the fact that of the UK’s 4.3 million businesses, 99.3% are almost all small to medium sized. This is coupled to the statistic that Britain’s productivity levels are already nine percentage points lower than the European Union average.

Mr Fisher continued: “We believe that effort needs to be put in to address this situation, including providing small to medium sized employers with incentives to pool their resources to pay for training”.

And Paul Warner, Operations Manager at the Association of Learning Providers (ALP), said: “The survey results certainly illustrate the size of the challenge and I”m sure that Lord Leitch’s forthcoming report on Britain’s skills needs won”t shirk from telling us what needs to be done”.

“However, the launch of Train to Gain is a strong sign that the issue is already being addressed, with early indications that the LSC’s brokers are targeting SME’s that have not accessed publicly-funded training before. The new programme answers smaller firms” fears about the costs of training and there is no reason why training should disrupt existing work patterns if organised correctly”.

“We must move towards a fully demand-led system for skills provision. And while the FE white paper had good things to say about that, ALP members are hoping that Lord Leitch’s recommendations will lead to an acceleration of the proposed timetable”.

“The survey suggests that a much better job needs to be done in communicating to employers the benefits of training. ALP, as a member of the Government’s Skills Alliance, has been pressing for a strategy to achieve this for some time, especially if we want firms to contribute financially to provision at NVQ level 3 and above.”

Vijay Pattni.

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