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Skills training needs improvement

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Despite the best efforts of governments over the past decade, the UK is still suffering from a skills shortage.

The assessment comes from a new report published by the Institute of Directors (IoD).

In the study, some 47 per cent of company directors reported that some of their employees have gaps in their skills.

The report set out to offer an ’employer’s eye view’ of the skills system.

It analysed the latest skills strategy and concluded that, while the new government’s approach to promoting training should be broadly welcomed, there are some worrying signs that it may repeat policy mistakes of the past.

According to the survey, 58 per cent of company directors claimed that skills gaps were holding back the growth of their firms.

The latest Government strategy, Skills for Sustainable Growth, offers a positive prospectus for the future, the IoD study argued, but there are disappointing aspects. The IoD said that the simplification of the skills infrastructure is too timid and the encouragement of collective measures such as training levies is unwelcome.

The IoD proposed measuring the effectiveness of the skills system rather than counting aggregate numbers of qualifications; giving true purchasing power to customers of training; and freeing up training providers to respond to businesses’ needs.

Commenting on the report, Miles Templeman, the IoD’s director general, said: “There is much good in current skills policy, but from the employer perspective it can look too much like situation normal. And situation normal doesn’t work.

“It is vital that the Government concentrates on supporting the majority of employers that do invest in training, rather than being preoccupied about the minority that do not.

“Good intentions can easily result in unhelpful and unnecessary interventions. Employers will always be best placed to know what training they need: it is better to let competition decide what works in business, not government policy.”