...but better scheme is on the way
The government said it would respond to employers' concerns over the Train to Gain scheme by improving specialist brokerage services and offering a wider range of qualifications.
John Denham, Secretary of State for Skills, has published a plan to ensure that, by 2010, the scheme meets its target of training 800,000 people a year for level two (equivalent to five good GCSEs) qualifications.
Under the plan, skills brokers will provide more industry-specific expertise. To boost take-up, they will also offer more specialist support to larger employers - those with more than 5,000 staff - shifting the focus away from small companies, which are least likely to train staff.
The range of qualifications is also set to expand and become more flexible, following criticism of the narrow focus on full level two qualifications.
Apprenticeships will be available for over-19s and basic skills will be offered as a stand-alone qualification rather than just as part of a level two programme.
In certain circumstances, funding will be available for a second level two qualification for those whose qualifications do not match the requirements of their job.
The Government also expects colleges to do more to involve employers, saying that FE should persuade businesses of the benefits of paying for training where it is not covered by public funding.
But it said that Train to Gain had already made significant achievements, despite some employers' misgivings.
Assessing the scheme so far, the Government reported that brokers were ahead of target, having seen more than 52,000 employers about their training needs - although fewer than half of these went on to train staff in the first year. Almost 250,000 employees were trained last year.
In total, 72 per cent of companies involved were defined as being "hard to reach" - smaller firms that have not done any accredited training in the past 12 months.
Overall, satisfaction with the scheme was high, with more than four out of five employers satisfied with the service and similar rates of approval among staff.