The government’s move to allow employers to bid for a share of a £150 million pot of public money in order to help fund their training schemes has met with an enthusiastic reception, despite concerns over the complexity of the bidding process.
The funding is the second round of the Employer Ownership Pilot
, which was launched in November 2011 and has already given almost £70 million to companies ranging from Nissan
to GE Aviation
, bringing the investment total to £250 million.
Examples of projects to date include extending skills training to local suppliers and doubling the number of female apprentices.
Matthew Hancock described the scheme as a unique opportunity for companies to secure their future by addressing their skills needs now.
"I would encourage businesses – large and small – to be ambitious and innovative in their vision for how the fund can help them grow, from creating new apprenticeship programmes to setting up specialist training academies," he said. "The EOP is not only strengthening individual businesses. It is showing us new ways to make sure the whole of the UK economy has the skills it needs to compete in the global race."
Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
, welcomed the launch of the second funding round, while pointing out that "taking collective responsibility for learning and development is a win-win for all concerned".
Employers had a vested interest in actively developing a pipeline of future talent and if they were simply left to stand on the sidelines as passive consumers, "the education and training system will never deliver the skills employers need to grow their businesses and contribute to economic growth", he said.
James Fothergill, head of education and skills at employers’ lobby group, the CBI
, warned, on the other hand, that it was important to make the application process as simple as possible to encourage smaller firms, in particular, to bid.
Tim Thomas, head of employment and skills policy at manufacturer’s organisation, the EEF
agreed. "Today’s announcements show we are finally moving towards a demand-led approach to skills, where the employer is in the driving seat. We know that firms are looking to increase their investment in skills and we need to make it easier for them to do this," he said.
He also hoped that the focus of round two would be to encourage "more creative and ambitious bids" that involved businesses of all sizes and which saw firms collaborating with their customers and suppliers in making joint pitches.
The round two prospectus is available online
and the deadline for bids is 28 February, 2013.