Ad aired as training take-up set to tumble

Steve Hook

A "hand ballet" is the eye-catching centrepiece of the Government's Train to Gain campaign as it returns to the screens this week.

The latest Pounds 2.4 million advertising promotion - broadcast during prime time slots including Coronation Street, The Bill and Emmerdale - features "dancing" hands, presumably meant to represent the scheme's now well-known slogan: "Our future. It's in our hands".

In this latest push for the Train to Gain programme, which subsidises companies to train their staff on courses run by colleges and private providers; the aim is to improve take-up among employers

It has already fallen below expectations and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Learning and Skills Council fear it could fall further due to the downturn in the economy, when training budgets traditionally become vulnerable as companies cut costs.

John Denham, Secretary of State for Universities, Innovation and Skills, said: "Investing in training is essential to any business, but it is more important than ever in the current economic climate.

"Research shows that companies that don't train are 2.5 times more likely to fail than those that do.

"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy but don't always have the time or resources to find out about the support that is available to help them thrive.

"This campaign will ensure no small business that needs support misses out.

"We're making it quicker and easier to build the skills and expertise of people in the small business community, and making small businesses the focus of a Pounds 350m support package."

Train to Gain is available through colleges and private training providers, which are put in touch with employers through a national network of brokers.

The brokerage service is expected to be liberalised to allow the best- performing colleges to have a more direct relationship with companies, as recommended recently by the UK skills commission.

Colleges have complained that relationships with employers have sometimes been obstructed by the brokerage system, which some companies see as a layer of red tape.

The commission said that some colleges could be a first port of call for companies, providing training directly or referring companies to other specialist providers.

Train to Gain provides training in small modules to meet specific skills gaps, level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) training or more advanced programmes, such as developing leadership and management skills.

It was launched in 2006. Since then, it has helped more than 570,000 people get training - with 291,000 gaining a qualification.

More than 300 colleges - the vast majority - offer courses through the programme and more than 100,000 businesses have used it to train their staff.

The budget is expected to reach Pounds 1 billion in 201011.

Chris Banks, chair of the LSC, said: "Our work is critical to companies for whom well-trained staff are more important than ever.

"So far, more than 100,000 businesses have benefited from the Train to Gain service.

"I urge employers large or small to get in touch, so they can take full advantage of the help available."

Ofsted on Train to Gain, page 5.

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Steve Hook

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