Leitch report fails to make impact

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Over half (53%) of organisations say their learning and development work has not yet been influenced by the government’s post-Leitch skills agenda, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s annual learning and development survey.

Only 13% have signed the employer skills pledge, despite the majority of organisations reporting that they will require a broader range of skills in two years and 44% reporting that they will also require a higher level of skills.

However, there is some positive news for the government looking forward: nearly half of employers report that they are considering or would consider signing up to the skills pledge or the Train to Gain initiative.

Despite regular complaints about standards of literacy and numeracy, it is the so-called soft skills that are at the top of the organisations’ list of concerns regarding the lack of skills of new employees joining from school, college or university. More than 65% of respondent organisations feel that new employees lack both communication and interpersonal skills and management and leadership skills (54%), yet these skills top the list as necessary for organisations to meet business requirements in the next two years.

Literacy and numeracy are still concerns for employers – but they feel that government should address these gaps. The vast majority of organisations (87%) believe that it is government’s responsibility to ensure that young people are educated to appropriate standards of numeracy and literacy. Just over half (57%) believe employers have a role to play in raising standards within the workforce.

Victoria Winkler, learning and development adviser at the CIPD says:

“There is no doubting the government’s commitment to making the UK a skills leader by 2020. But there appears to be more work to be done to convince employers that the government has the right answers to the problem. There is a danger that the government’s drive to equip everyone with basic skills may be coming at the expense of the urgent need to develop higher level skills on a more selective basis. This may be one reason behind the relatively low take up of initiatives following the Leitch report.

“There is a disconnect between what government is offering employers and what they feel they need, but the large proportion of employers considering signing up to government skills initiatives demonstrates that there is much to play for.”

Investing in training during tighter times
Despite a gloomy economic outlook, marginally more respondents expect the funding of learning and development to increase over the next year rather than decrease (25% compared to 20%) with the majority (51%) predicting that funding will remain stable.

However, the reality in the public sector is different: 45% of respondents reported a cut in training funds available over the past 12 months. Voluntary sector organisations continue to spend more per employee per year on training, compared with both the private sector and public sector: 77% in the voluntary sector reported that funding for training has remained stable or increased, compared with 75% in the private sector and 54% in the public sector.

Victoria Winkler added: “It is encouraging that many employers are stepping up training efforts despite starting to feel the economic pinch. With employers still reporting recruitment difficulties, it is clear that investing in learning and development will continue to be crucial if firms are to maintain the skilled workforce they need to meet their objectives. Cutting investment in learning and development means employers will risk struggling to compete when the economy picks up again.

“The continued post-Gershon squeeze on public sector training budgets is worrying. Public sector employers seeking to reduce head count and cut costs may come to regret the further false economy of cutting back on investment in their people.”

The CIPD Learning and Development Survey 2008 will be available at www.cipd.co.uk/surveys from 18 April 2008.

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