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Training and skills ‘central’ to economic recovery

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Help with skills training for small firms should be central to any government employment plans announced in the pre-Budget Report.

That is the view of the Forum of Private Business (FPB).

According to FPB research, over a fifth of small firms (22 per cent) claim that they are obliged to provide in-house basic skills training because of a lack of external providers.

Almost a third (28 per cent) reported that they have to provide internal training on ‘employability attributes’, while, in the case of vocational training, 21 per cent identified a lack of local providers and 18 per cent a lack of adequate courses.

In all, 38 per cent of the small businesses that responded to the FPB survey offer sales training in house because of the absence of external providers and suitable, local courses.

Some 27 per cent of respondents said there was a lack of training provision for strategy and management, with 23 per cent describing those courses that are available as not good enough.

Matt Goodman, the FPB’s policy representative, said: “As we come out of recession, small businesses will seek out new opportunities and begin to take on staff again.

Further support and better sign-posting will be needed so that they are able to access the skills and training necessary to compete.”

The FPB wants the government to build on its work on apprenticeships, Train to Gain, the Jobcentre Plus network and further education programmes so that employers have access to a greater pool of capable and motivated employees.

Changes should be made to the tax and regulatory environment to encourage smaller employers to take on more staff, the FPB continued.

In order to get valuable workers back into jobs and to help small businesses to control costs, the FPB is proposing a 12-month reduction in National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for micro-businesses – those with fewer than 10 staff – that recruit new employees.

In addition, the FPB is calling for the 0.5 per cent increase in employers’ NICs, scheduled for 2011, to be delayed to help employers plan ahead.

Mr Goodman added: “Helping to ease the cost of employment – including a VAT reduction for labour-intensive services, a temporary cut in NICs to help micro businesses grow and delaying the planned 2011 NIC rise – would be a real boost to employment and business growth at a time it will be needed most.”