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CBI challenges plans for statutory time off for training


The CBI has urged the government to build on "tried and tested" measures for raising low skills, in particular for the seven million adults who lack literacy and numeracy. It wants ministers to drop the idea of legislation giving workers statutory time off for training, arguing this could damage firms without delivering results.

The Treasury is currently running pilot schemes testing the concept of fixed time off for training for people with the equivalent of less than five GCSEs. The pilots, extended in the recent pre-Budget report, offer employees up to 70 hours (two weeks) of training with the government compensating employers for lost wages. However, the CBI reports that firms are registering alarm at this model, believing that "lack of motivation, not lack of opportunity" is the biggest barrier to raising basic skills. Companies have said legislation would be damaging, with small firms and manufacturers finding it hardest to replace staff, particularly where there are skill shortages.

Employers also say that financial compensation is inadequate as employees contribute much more to a business than the value of their wages. They add that monitoring the new training legislation and claiming compensation would add unnecessarily to red tape.

John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: "Tackling low skills is a priority for the UK. We can motivate more adults to learn and more employers to train by demonstrating the benefits of improving skills. We need to build on what business is already doing and find a way forward which we can all own, and one which will actually work."

The CBI proposals for "tried and tested" action include:
- Guiding low-skilled employees on how to get help via professional and financial support from the Learning and Skills Council
- Giving time off for basic skills training on a voluntary basis often with matched time by the employee
- Offering mentoring schemes by training some employees to provide encouragement and support to colleagues
- Sharing resources, such as opening training facilities to smaller companies in the locality.

The CBI has highlight some alternative models:
- Nissan helped 3,000 workers gain a level two GNVQ in manufacturing without having to leave the production line for long periods.
- Moy Park, a large employer in Northern Ireland, improved production when it engaged two on-site tutors to run numeracy and literacy training before, after and during shifts.
- Havant Signs, a small manufacturer in Hampshire provide work placements for adults undertaking literacy and numeracy training at a local day centre.

The CBI says the government must not underestimate the amount employers contribute to training. They put the annual investment at £23.5 billion in England alone, much of this effectively making up for deficiencies in the state education system.

Do we need a statutory right to time off for training? Post your comments below.


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