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Government asks employers for views on skills training

The government has launched a review examining how best to raise skills levels among the UK workforce.

The consultation document is entitled Skills for Sustainable Growth and outlines the Department of Business' vision for skills development and ways in which the strategy can be delivered.

The range of issues covered by the consultation includes, among others, where more limited public investment should be focused; how the skills system can be made simpler and more effective; how support for individuals and employers can be improved to develop skills and learning; and how businesses can be encouraged to engage in supporting local community learning.

Announcing the consultation, John Hayes, minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, said: "Skills are vital for our economy but they also help to build stronger communities and empower individuals. Only by seeing learning as a single whole, not a series of separate compartments, can we ensure that it takes its place at heart of both business strategy and community life.

"Delivering future priorities will involve making difficult choices about the use of public funds. I believe that we can deliver more and save money. But we will only achieve cost effectiveness by challenging the orthodox assumptions about what skills are for, how they are funded and what role government should play.

"I am determined to ensure our decisions are the result of proper consultation so that policy reflects real priorities. I therefore welcome responses to the questions in this paper."

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, commented: "Employers want the public sector to focus limited resources on basic employability skills, focused apprenticeships and the leadership and management skills needed to help grow small businesses.

"While we are pleased to see an emphasis on the apprenticeship programme, the economy is still fragile, and expectations that businesses will be taking on a high number of apprentices may be premature.

"Employers have long complained that there is a mismatch between the skills on offer and their business needs. These simplification plans must root out this mismatch - because getting the right skills to businesses means growth in productivity, jobs and tax revenue."

Susan Anderson, the CBI's director for public services and skills, added: "We believe the government is asking the right questions in order to achieve a demand-led skills system and is prepared to make the difficult choices about the use of public money.

"We need a more simplified and effective skills system and funding support that is better focused on supporting economic growth and helping individuals develop the skills they need to enter or progress in the labour market."

The skills consultation can be found at www.bis.gov.uk/skills-consultation