A week in training: CBI reports on skills in the downturn

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A major report by the CBI finds that employers are committed to training through the downturn and reveals that many still suffer skills shortages, writes Claire Savage. Meanwhile the LSC comes under fire in a damning report about the college funding fiasco, while investment in teaching adults the three Rs is not paying off - a leading academic cliams.

Employers see benefit of training staff through downturn
Employers are looking to get more out of staff training during the recession to help their business survive, according to a major survey by the CBI.

The CBI/Nord Anglia education and skills survey of almost 600 firms, Emerging stronger: the value of education and skills in turbulent times, shows that in response to the recession, over half of employers (51%) say that they want to target their training more effectively to get maximum return on their spend.

Main findings:

  • Train to Gain: The survey showed that while employers support the principles behind the government's flagship Train to Gain programme, many felt it was not delivering. Two-fifths (42%) of employers using Train to Gain programme said it delivered ‘no impact’ for their business, and three-quarters rated its training brokerage service as ‘poor’ or at best ‘mixed’.
  • Apprenticeships: Around half (51%) of firms had apprentices and over a third (38%) hoped to increase their numbers. Over half (51%) said the government should introduce incentive payments for companies taking on apprentices, half (50%) wanted to see apprenticeship qualifications better matching business needs and half (50%) wanted young people that would not have traditionally considered an apprenticeship to consider taking this route.
  • Skills levels: Over half (57%) of employers in the survey lacked confidence in there being enough highly skilled staff in future. This is a particular problem for firms recruiting people with science, technology and IT skills (72%) and in the energy and water sector (68%). Two-fifths (40%) of employers were concerned about the basic literacy and numeracy skills of their current workforce.
  • The CBI’s director-general, Richard Lambert, said: "During turbulent times, it would be understandable if firms have to reduce their training budgets, but this survey shows that they are most concerned with getting more value from their training, to ensure they are better placed for an upturn when it comes."

    Andrew Fitzmaurice, chief executive of Nord Anglia Education, said: "Since the last CBI survey on education and skills was published a year ago, the world's economy has seen a severe economic downturn. Employers are keen not just to survive the recession, but to emerge from it in the best possible shape. To do so, training and development remains vital."

    Basic skills training 'not paying off'
    An academic claims that the billions of pounds spent on boosting adults' basic skills has been a waste of money, the http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7979582.stm BBC reports.

    Professor Anna Vignoles, from the Institute of Education, is quoted as saying: “It is well known that an individual's basic skills level affects how much they earn, but research shows that the three Rs are best acquired in childhood. Policies and qualifications to help adults develop them have proved largely ineffective."

    Since 2001 the government has spent £5bn in England on its basic skills programme Skills for Life. A spokesperson from the Department of Innovation and Skills defended the scheme saying that 2.8m had achieved a first qualification through Skills for Life, equating to £660 per achievement.

    LSC under fire
    An inquiry has accused the Learning and Skills Council of poor management over the collapse of a college building scheme.

    The LSC was providing money for a host of college building projects across England. However, the LSC ran out of funds before many were completed and a total of 144 colleges' building projects were then put on hold. Many colleges had already made significant investments in the building projects.

    Sir Andrew Foster, who headed the inquiry said: "At the heart of the problem is the absence of a proper long-term financial strategy and inadequate management, information and monitoring.

    "I have been forced to conclude that the crisis was predictable and probably avoidable. Certainly it could have been mitigated if action had been taken earlier."

    Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "The report reveals mismanagement on an astonishing scale. Colleges that have had to invest heavily in preparing for these projects should be indemnified against any losses. We also need a quick, clear and fair resolution."

    Sir Andrew, former head of the Audit Commission, said that the priority now was to have a consultation to decide on criteria for funding the projects affected, to be based needs rather than on a first-come-first-served basis.

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