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Leitch in jeopardy without new measures requiring employers to train

25 September 2006 | last updated: 15 December 2015

The imminent Leitch report on the nation's skills gap is in jeopardy without new measures requiring employers to train, joint general secretary of UCU, Paul Mackney, will tell delegates attending this week's Labour Party Conference.

The government claims that state funding for further and adult education has reached its limits and is calling on individuals or their employers to contribute more towards it. But UCU believes that the government is working on an assumption* that does not reflect reality. One in three employers refuses to train their workers**.

UCU believes that as adults are the key to solving the skills crisis*** employers must be required through legal and fiscal intervention to offer them training that meets their longer-term aspirations. Mr Mackney will call for a range of new measures that will place greater training responsibilities on employers including:

  • levies or training tax credits, or a training tax on employers;
  • a provision in the Companies Act which obliges companies to tell shareholders what they spend on training and workforce development;
  • a legal right to paid educational leave for employees;
  • the inclusion of education and training on the list of matters over which recognised unions can collectively bargain;
  • education and training committees in each workplace made up union learning representatives and management (built on the model of health and safety committees);
  • allocated places on all learning and skills bodies locally and regionally for two trade union learning representatives.

He will call on the government to lead the way by requiring public sector bodies to adopt such measures.

Paul Mackney, joint general secretary of UCU, will say: 'It is sad to predict that the forthcoming proposals from Leitch are unlikely to solve the UK's skills crisis because they are unlikely to include stronger new measures that will commit employers to provide adequate training for their workforces. Without this, many adults will continue to be denied the opportunity to reach their full potential.'

The Leitch Review of Skills was commissioned by the government to identify the UK's optimal skills mix in 2020 to maximise economic growth, productivity and social justice, and to consider the policy implications of achieving the level of change required.


* 'There has been no specific research into employer attitudes to payment of fees for adult education courses', Answer to parliamentary question, Bill Rammell, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, November 2005

** More than one in three employers refuses to train their workers, despite government incentives to help them, TUC vision for skills 2020.

*** Demographic change (the declining numbers of young people entering the workforce beyond 2010) will lead to a greater reliance on older workers, and will increase the need to look beyond the current employed workforce, for example, attracting new migrants, moving people from benefits into work and so on, Skills in England 2005, Learning and Skills Council.

Of the 2.6m economically inactive 50-65-year-olds in the UK, more than a third want a job, TUC, Ready, Willing and Able, August 2006