The first 150 employers have signed up to the government's “Skills Pledge” – to get all of their workforce up to a level 2 qualification.
The equivalent of five good GCSEs, the level 2 qualification is increasingly seen as essential for the workforce, as the number of unskilled jobs decrease.
Those signed up to the pledge include all government departments, Sainsburys, McDonalds and the police.
Education and Skills Secretary Alan Johnson congratulated the first 150. He said: “As the demand for unskilled jobs continues to decline at a significant rate it is essential that government and employers do all we can to ensure those people are receiving the skills training they will need to be able to compete for jobs in the future.”
The pledge has backing from both the CBI and TUC. CBI Director General Richard Lambert said that skills were essential to the UK's competitiveness. “The CBI is pleased to support and encourage member companies to sign the pledge as it makes it clear that this is a three-way partnership between employers, employees and the Government.”
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber agreed that the pledge could help boost the UK's skills base.
However, he added: “The government needs to find a way of reaching the third of UK employers who steadfastly refuse to offer their employees any form of learning at work. Ministers need to make good their commitment to introduce a statutory right to training by the end of the decade if these short-sighted bosses continue to short change their staff over training.”
Also announced was the chair of the new UK Commission for Employment and Skills – an employer-led body set up in response to a recommendation in Lord Leich's review of skills – in the form of Sir Michael Rake, currently international chairman of KPMG, and soon-to-be chair of BT.
And there are to be four further National Skills Academies in: retail; sport and active leisure; glass manufacturing, coatings, print and building products; fashion textiles and jewellery sector.