Please give Train to Gain time

22nd January 2010 at 00:00

I read with interest and a sense of deja vu the front-page article and editorial covering the report published by Policy Exchange ("Scrap `wasteful' Train to Gain, says think tank", January 8). The sense of deja vu results from the allegation that Train to Gain is a failure because it subsidises training that employers would have done anyway.

I have been in this business for a long time and every four years or so, someone trots out the same old line: "The Government is paying for training employers should be doing anyway."

According to the OECD and other research bodies, the UK workforce does not possess the same levels of qualifications enjoyed by other nations, and we are constantly told that we have a long tail of low or unqualified people in the workplace.

For example, in measuring the percentage of educational attainment of the adult population - 25- to 64-year-olds - the UK is below the OECD average. We do worse than the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary among our European neighbours. (Better not mention the United States, Russian Federation or Korea - oops!)

To address these issues, and improve our standing and ultimately our economic performance as a country, Government needs a long-term strategy. Upskilling and improving the vocational qualifications of a nation doesn't happen overnight and doesn't happen without state funding.

What Train to Gain has done over the last couple of years is to demonstrate to employers the benefits to their businesses of training and developing their staff. The businesses that have engaged with Train to Gain are now advocates.

By all means, after a couple of years, refine and improve the offer to employers, but scrapping an initiative that has turned employers on to the benefit of staff training will only turn them off again. What employers need, especially at the present time, is some continuity in government initiatives, not wholesale changes.

Climbing the OECD performance tables is a long haul and requires sustained endeavour. You never know, once employers acquire an appetite for staff training, they might start putting even more money into training and developing their employees .

John Herman, Managing director, Intec Business Colleges.

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