The Confederation of British Industry is trying to beat off compulsory controls over employee training by denying the UK has a problem.
In a confidential paper obtained by The TES, the CBI argues: "There is little evidence to imply that the UK lags behind its competitors in terms of employer-provided training and that, even if this were not the case, great care would need to be taken in applying public-policy instruments to the diverse training market."
The paper has been submitted to the National Skills Taskforce, which has been charged by the Government to make practical recommendations on how to improve employees' skills and ensure company-wide investment in training.
The paper says that UK training rates are high and that "on all the main measures of training provision the evidence is that in the past 15 years there has been a substantial increase. This is particularly significant given that the early 1990s saw the longest recession in the UK since the 1930s."
Although conventional wisdom held that employers cut back on training in a recession, there was no evidence of a dramatic decline, it says.
"Arguments to suggest a problem must be considered but do not seem compelling," says the CBI.
"The evidence from international comparisons casts doubt on the assertion that there is a deficiency in the quantity of workplace training in the UK."
Employers were best-placed to respond to skill demands and there should be caution about "top-down policy initiatives".
In contrast a paper from the Trades Union Congress argues that "there is a growing consensus that the employer-dominated voluntary system, even with state funding, has not delivered the skills requirements of the economy and the learning needs of the adult workforce."
Although there had been an apparent increase in training over the past decade, large numbers of employees had never received any training from their employers, says the TUC.
In its White Paper Learning to Succeed the Government said there had to be a significant increase in the proportion of employees undertaking training, especially in the workplace.