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News - 4 August 2007
Is training an issue for the classroom or the workplace?

Training the workforce – a thorny issue

In spite of Train to Gain and other Government initiatives employers are still not getting the quality of staff they require for the jobs that are on offer. And people who have been long-term unemployed are still struglging to find positions. Is setting the strategy for training the workforce a job for the Government or is it one that could be better handled by the industries that need the recruits?

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) believes it could be a job for business and has challenged the Government to rethink its position on this. Peter Hain has suggested that the Government does not intend to follow the advice given in the Freud Reviews proposal to involve the private sector in moving people from welfare to work. The BCC thinks could be a big mistake.

BCC Head of Policy Natalie Evans said, “It is disappointing that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is backing away from proposals that were genuinely radical.

"The success of the Government’s proposals will be judged on claimants staying in employment and not returning to economically inactive status. This will mean creating a system that is not just focused on finding a claimant employment, but ensuring that they have the skills and the work ethic to keep them in that job. The private sector is far better placed to deliver outcome-based services of this kind, which are sensitive to the needs of local employers.

"The Government is right to make a start in tackling the dependency culture, but it needs to be bold and needs to involve business if we are to find a long term solution to a problem that is polarising our society”.

Meanwhile employers continue to struggle to find suitable candidates for the jobs that are available. According to the Recruitment Confidence Index RCI), which is compiled by the Cranfield School of Management, there is a significant shortage of skilled workers and staff and there is no evidence of any improvement in the near future.

One obvious solution to the problem would be for people in work to move up the ladder to create jobs at the bottom of the stack for those who are struggling to find a first foothold. Yet employers are continuing to compete for a small pool of qualified people rather than training and promoting from within.

Some 82% of the organisations contacted by Cranfield said that they expected to experience problems when trying to fill vacancies with suitably qualified people. That figure makes the current recruitment market the toughest it has been for employers in six years.

To combat the problems, almost four in ten employers intend to invest more in recruitment over the next six months. Could that money be better spent on training existing staff to take on more demanding roles?

Dr Emma Parry, who is research fellow at Cranfield School of Management, said, “Employment levels have increased in the eight years we’ve been doing the RCI. Organisations have been recruiting more and more, but fewer high quality people have been coming into the workforce, resulting in rising recruitment difficulties for employers.”

Dr Perry urged employers to do more to keep and develop existing staff rather than simply spend extra money on recruitment.

Read related items on:
Learning Opportunities
British Chamber of Commerce
Cranfield School of Management
Evans, Natalie
Parry, Dr Emma

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