Education & Family

Skills training: Employers 'want more control'

Nissan car plant
Image caption Government funding for training is not tailored to business needs say employers

UK employers overwhelmingly want more control over training, with qualifications better tailored to their needs, a major annual survey suggests.

Some 93% of 294 firms surveyed for the Confederation of British Industry and education group Pearson felt they knew best what employee skills they needed.

Last year a key government review said the traditional relationship between employer and trainee had been lost.

The CBI says skill shortages in key sectors may hamper economic recovery.

More than a third (39%) of the firms surveyed said they were currently struggling to recruit workers with the advanced scientific, technical, engineering and maths skills they needed. Some 41% said they expected difficulties within the next three years.

Work ready

Almost half of those surveyed (45%) reported that many applicants with the right technical skills did not have the right attitude for work, while 39% said they often lacked any general work experience.

Skill shortages are particularly acute in the engineering, hi-tech, computing and science sectors.

Businesses also expressed dissatisfaction with the current skills of their workforce, with 62% worried about poor computing skills, 55% about literacy and 51% about numeracy.

About a third of employers said school leavers lacked basic literacy and numeracy, and a third that they lacked technical skills.

Some 80% of firms said the top priority was better designed qualifications, more focused on employers' needs and industry standards. Public money should be focused where training is most needed, says the report.

"The most important thing is to ensure funding flows to the parts of skills provision most helpful to employers, but public resources committed to training and development have often been poorly targeted," it goes on.

At the moment the CBI says there is little incentive for smaller businesses to invest in training. It calls for the system to be fine-tuned to different sizes of employer with devolved funding and less red tape.

In particular it calls for "local training clusters... to enable employers of all sizes to take a leadership role" in training.

Last year an independent review of apprenticeships for the government by Doug Richards warned that too many training schemes had become government-led initiatives, shaped by training professionals rather than employers.

'Box ticking'

He called for new qualifications to be redefined by employers, with less "bureaucratic box ticking assessment", and for funding for training to go directly to businesses.

The CBI wants the government to implement these recommendations and to protect funding for skills training and apprenticeships.

CBI director general John Cridland said: "We are facing a critical lack of skills in some key industries. just as the economy starts to pick up. There are few better ways of underpinning long-term growth than investing in skills.

"Firms are already investing in training but they cannot do it on their own. We want to see the skills budget protected as far as possible, while focussing on business needs.

"That means routing funding more directly to firms. We can't afford for funding to be badly targeted or sucked up by bureaucracy."

Skills minister Matthew Hancock said: "This report highlights a serious problem. For far too long our education and skills systems have not been rigorous and have been distant from the needs of employers".

He added that government reforms would tackle skill shortages in England, add rigour and make the whole system more responsive to employers' needs.

"We are also giving employers greater control through a £250m fund that allows them to design their own training programmes. Later this year we will put in place reforms so employers can design their own apprenticeships."

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