Changes needed to Train to Gain

30th March 2007 at 01:00

Ian Nash is correct when he highlights obstacles to overcome if Train to Gain is to be a success ("Ministers struggle to improve modest uptake of Train to Gain", FE Focus, March 9).

In addition to the difficulty he identified with convincing small businesses to train staff, the FE strategists at the Department for Education and Skills and the skills gurus at the Treasury need to understand that, from a small firm's perspective, the design of the Train to Gain scheme is fundamentally flawed.

For many small businesses, there are some basic givens when it comes to training:

* It must be focused on the specific needs of employees.

* Time out from the workplace must be minimised.

* It must be cost effective.

Regrettably, there is a mismatch of these simple requirements with one of the fundamental pillars of Train to Gain, which is that only "long" level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) qualifications of 365 or more guided learning hours are eligible for inclusion in the programme.

I fear the laudable aim of a higher skilled workforce by 2020 will be undermined by the current Train to Gain funding restrictions and that, as an immediate priority of Sir Digby Jones, the skills tsar, policy makers and ministers, funding must be restored, either within or outside Train to Gain.

More often than not, it is the short, accredited qualifications which provide the technical and intermediate skills much needed by small businesses (like those provided by the IAB) that will determine Britain's future success.

Malcolm Trotter

chief executive,IAB - Qualifications for Business,Sevenoaks, Kent

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