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UCU backs 'skills pledge', but says government must force employers to cough up

14 June 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU today signed up to promote the government drive to get employers to commit to a Skills Pledge for their employees. Improving workforce skills was vital, said UCU, but warned however that merely asking employers to commit would not be enough.

Committing itself to the Skills Pledge, launched by chancellor Gordon Brown and education secretary Alan Johnson, UCU called on further education colleges to become exemplars for their own staff. Colleges are absolutely central to improving workplace skills and enabling people to fulfil their potential it pointed out.

UCU's general secretary, Sally Hunt, pointed to the evidence that the vast majority of employers will not foot the bill for training unless they are forced to. The union said employer-focused training needs would not solve the real skills shortage in the economy and urged the Government not to hand over control to employers when it finally delivers its delayed response to the Leitch report.

A social cohesion report this morning recognised that employers benefit from migration and should therefore contribute towards the cost of teaching migrant workers English. UCU said it was disappointed the report did not go further and recommend that the government requires employers to meet that cost.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Training cannot just be based around short-term company-specific skill needs. It must interlink with other policy objectives such as active citizenship, eliminating child poverty, widening participation in our universities and ensuring everyone who needs to learn English can do.

'Knowledge economy jobs require workers to be both skilled and educated because the latter develops mind, enabling people to problem-solve, take independent decisions and cope with change. Employers have simply failed to meet the country's training requirements and cannot be trusted to be in charge. What they can start doing though is footing some of the bill to improve employees' skills, rather than just reaping the rewards.'