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Could workplace training become a statutory right?


Organisations must invest in workplace training voluntarily by 2010 – or the government will need to legislate to make it a statutory right, says the Leitch Report, ‘Prosperity for all in the Global Economy: World Class Skills’.

The report examines the UK’s long-term skills needs and sets out a reform agenda to meet ambitious goals by 2020.

At the moment, 5 million adults in the UK lack functional literacy and 17 million adults have difficulty with numbers. Even if current government targets are met, by 2020 the UK’s skills base will be inferior to that of many other developed nations.

Lord Leitch said: “Without increased skills, we would condemn ourselves to a lingering decline in competitiveness, diminishing economic growth and a bleaker future for all. The case for action is compelling and urgent. Becoming a world leader on skills will enable the UK to compete with the best in the world.”

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Routing public funding of vocational skills through Train to Gain and Learner Accounts

  • Strengthening the employer voice on skills through creation of a new commission for employment and skills, increasing employer engagement and investment in skills, reforming sector skills councils who will simplify and approve vocational training;

  • Launching a new ‘pledge’ for employers to voluntarily train more employees at work. If insufficient progress has been made by 2010, introduce a statutory right for employees to access workplace training

  • Increasing employer investment in higher level qualifications, especially in apprenticeships and in degree and postgraduate levels; significantly more training in the workplace

  • Raising people’s aspirations and awareness of the value of skills, creating a new universal adult careers service to diagnose skill needs with a skills health check available for all

  • Government to introduce compulsory education or workplace training up to age 18 following introduction of new diplomas and expanded apprenticeship route.

Both the CBI and the TUC welcomed the Leitch Report’s reform proposals but the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) was more cautious, pointing out that while an increase in skills was important, it is not sufficient to increase competitiveness.

Eileen Arney, the CIPD’s learning and development adviser, explained: “There is much to commend Lord Leitch’s review of skills, but improvements in the supply of skills must be matched by improvements in management in the workplace. Poor management all too often means that skills are not used to best effect, and investment in workplace learning does not deliver the intended benefits.

“The report acknowledges in passing that ‘skills must be effectively used for the benefits to be fully realised’, and calls for improvements to management and leadership skills to enable this, but puts too little emphasis on the key role of effective people management.”

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