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Government needs to do more for training in SMEs – CBI


According to a new CBI report, the government is failing to understand the training needs of small and medium-size companies.

The report, "Informality Works", seeks to dispel the myth that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) neglect employee development. The CBI says almost 90 per cent of SMEs with more than five staff provide informal, on-the-job training.

It says formal training costs are disproportionately higher for smaller companies. Courses are rarely sufficiently flexible for SMEs to take advantage and there is a lack of reliable advice on the relevant learning opportunities available.

The CBI says ministers must recognise SMEs' specific training requirements and offer the guidance, information and support smaller firms need to boost competitiveness.

The report says a comprehensive Michelin style UK training guide should be introduced by the Department for Education and Skills, the Department of Trade and Industry and local Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs), rating training quality and flexibility. Local LSCs should also assist smaller firms in their region by producing a training fact sheet highlighting how they can help and by funding independent brokers to offer SME training guidance.

The report also calls for vocational qualifications to be made more SME-friendly. It proposes breaking courses into units funded by the LSC, so firms can access only the elements relevant to their needs.

CBI Deputy Director-General John Cridland said: "SMEs account for over 55 per cent of total employment, but their employee development is not receiving the support it needs and deserves. Smaller firms want the government to listen and help learn."

The CBI says the training needs of smaller companies are different to those of larger ones. The structure of smaller businesses means staff are often required to multi-skill more than their larger counterparts.

The diversity of SMEs also poses a training challenge. For example, a micro firm employing nine staff will have different training requirements to a medium-sized company of 240 employees.

"The sheer variety of smaller firms means a one-size-fits-all approach to training does not meet specific requirements", said Mr Cridland. "Training providers need to offer tailored solutions, where and when employers require, and the government must actively support the development of SME employees."

You can access Informality Works (pdf download).

The CBI's report is the lates in a series of statements to government made by various interested groups in the run-up to the publication of the National Skills Strategy in June.


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