Employers perspectives on skills development

View Latest News Publish Date: 29-May-2006

Employers perspectives on skills development

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the Public Accounts Committee report 'Employers' Perspectives on Improving Skills for Employment'.

The report recommends that skills training should not just concentrate on literacy and numeracy but on practical vocational and life skills which will help with employability. The report also concludes that such training should be employer-led to meet wider skills needs.

The main barrier preventing small firms undertaking external training is losing workers from the workplace. In a small firm, sending employees on training off site can mean 50% of the workforce is absent from work at any one time.

The FSB's latest membership survey shows that the most acute skills shortages are in numeracy and literacy. A work force lacking these basic skills puts an enormous constraint on businesses’ ability to recruit well-qualified staff. The FSB believes that the schools system must improve to allow school leavers to focus on training for their career as opposed to retracing literacy and numeracy steps.

The FSB’s 2006 member survey found that many employers are keen to train their staff and that:

  • 45% of firms responding stated they had encountered literacy or numeracy shortages amongst new staff.
  • 52% of small firms say that with financial incentives they would be able to pursue more training for employees.
  • Wage compensation to small firms for lost staff who are on training courses would encourage 37% of small firms to engage in such training.
  • 18% of small firms are seeking to grow through investment in staff training.
  • 76% of small firms undertake staff training.

However this only takes into account formal training, all firms have carried out training of a more or less formal nature in the past two years.

Norman Mackel, FSB National Education Chairman, said:

“This report focuses on intermediate and higher skills of real worth to small businesses and the economy. The Government must accept the recommendations if they want the UK to be truly competitive.”

“We also believe that the Government should focus on encouraging craftsmen, technicians and other employees of all ages to learn the skills that will help them grow in the profession that they have chosen to better serve employers and the public.

“A very great concern for our 195,000 small firms is that many potential employees now leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills. This holds business back because they either do not recruit or they do hire someone and then spend the first few months of employment training them in skills that they should have learnt in schools. However, it is not the be all and end all for firms.

“For example in the modern economy, IT skills are vital to business success. Despite huge investment in IT equipment in schools, it is not clear if this money is bringing the required results. The legend of the Polish plumber also demonstrates that the skills that business needs are not always available from UK school leavers. This lack of skills across the board is holding the UK economy back.”

Members of the Work Place Learning Centre team are available to provide journalists and media organisations with expert comment on all aspects of learning at work.

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