College heads critical of workplace training

18-11-2004

Three quarters of the public believes that employers who fail to train their workforce properly should be fined by the government, according to a national survey commissioned by further education college heads.

As the education secretary, Charles Clarke, prepared to address the Association of Colleges annual conference in Birmingham today on the need for better education-business links, the college principals got their retaliation in first with a broadside against shortsighted employers.

Mr Clarke was expected to praise colleges for their efforts in recruiting more students, but urge them to adapt better to the demands of employers when it came to training.

But further education colleges are frustrated with the lack of funding for training and the unwillingness of many employers to put their money where their mouths are and finance training for their employees. Principals are particularly concerned by cuts in funding for basic adult skills.

An ICM survey released on the first day of the AoC conference found six people in 10 said they could not depend on employers to take responsibility for improving skills.

"People do not trust their employer to improve their skills," said John Brennan, the AoC's chief executive. "They feel so strongly about this that they believe government should fine those companies who fail to train their workforce properly." The survey also showed that 63% of people, including half of those over the age of 55, believe they will need to upgrade their skills in the next few years to protect their income and job prospects.

"These figures show that the public has got the message about the importance of improving their skill set," said Dr Brennan. "For us it is a matter of great concern that at the same time expectations are rising, the government's funding policy is failing to meet that demand."

Key national findings of the survey include:

  • 74% of total respondents agree that the government should fine companies who fail to train their workforce properly
  • 75% of respondents aged 65 and over agree that the government should fine companies who fail to train their workforce properly
  • 79% of respondents in full-time education agree that the government should fine companies who fail to train their workforce properly
  • 59% of total respondents agree that people cannot depend on their employers to take responsibility for adequately upgrading and improving their skills
  • 62.5% of respondents aged 35 to 54 agree that people cannot depend on their employers to take responsibility for adequately upgrading and improving their skills
  • 70% of respondents in full-time education agree that people cannot depend on their employers to take responsibility for adequately upgrading and improving their skills
  • 63% of total respondents believe they need to upgrade their personal skills in the next few years if they are to protect their income levels and prospects
  • 49.5% of respondents aged 55 and over believe they need to upgrade their personal skills in the next few years if they are to protect their income levels and prospects
  • 74% of respondents aged 18 to 44 believe they need to upgrade their personal skills in the next few years if they are to protect their income levels and prospects
  • 77% respondents in full-time education believe they need to upgrade their personal skills in the next few years if they are to protect their income levels and prospects.
The survey was conducted by ICM Research on behalf of the AoC, with 2,045 respondents in England, Wales and Scotland. A full version of the survey can be found at www.aoc.co.uk.

Donald MacLeod

The Guardian

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