engage magazine issue 007/\'08 - Page 20

20 OPINION Skills for Business Then there is the debate over who should shoulder this responsibility - for instance, businesses may be more interested in spending money on training deemed more relevant to their own needs. Thus, although the target to raise the level of employees with level 2 qualifications is seen as a national priority the onus still remains on employers to pay – something they may be reluctant to do. There is also the wider issue of how many skills bodies exist – the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), Business Links, and FE sector all play a part in working with employers to up-skill staff. But there is some sense that SMEs remain unclear about these bodies’ respective roles. In parallel there are other initiatives that cross-cut the work of the Train to Gain programme. For instance, the Investors in People (IiP) standard is a framework to ensure businesses improve the way they work. IiP recognises that organisations use different means to achieve success through their people and it does not prescribe any one method. Instead, it provides a framework to help businesses find the most suitable means for achieving success through people. However, this method is still premised on the need for workforce development practice and, by extension, continuous improvement and training. For the SME, what may be unclear is how IiP and Train to Gain work together. Finally, there are some gaps in Leitch’s report itself. For example, where does migration fit into the up-skilling of the UK workforce and are qualifications the only measure of a skill? Moreover, there is some assumption that all employees will fit into the model of support being offered. That noted, ultimately Leitch is correct in his analysis; namely, that we need to up-skill the workforce and a range of stakeholders – government, employers and individuals - must contribute to paying for increasing adult skills. Here, then, SMEs must realise that government will only partially support them in developing their workforce; put differently, companies need to think now about how to contribute to up-skilling their employees before they are compelled to do so. Dr Kemal Ahson is the Managing Consultant of Lifeworld Ltd. For further information about economic development, supplier diversity and procurement he can be contacted on 020 7937 0919 or kemal@lifeworld.info despite the national branding, there are different and diffuse providers offering information and advice, and there remains a danger of a lack of consistency in the quality of the information being provided. In fact, some critics of the programme suggest that the ‘one-stop shop’ idea has yet to materialise. Additionally, it is unclear how the programme impacts on different size businesses – in an obvious sense the needs of a micro business employing less than 5 people are going to be different to a company with 100 employees. The point here is that smaller businesses often have to be more flexible with their training and workforce development needs as they may be less able to allow employees to undertake ‘off the job training’. engage | uk ISSUE SEVEN 2008