The coalition government has unveiled a £50 million training pot in a bid to encourage employers to “take collective action” on tackling skills shortages that are acting as a brake on economic growth.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said that the new Growth and Innovation Fund, which will initially cover the years 2011/2012 and 2012/2013, was to be matched by investment from employers such as Sector Skills Councils, trade associations and professional bodies, potentially bringing the total fund to £100 million. The pot is expected to be extended until the end of the Spending Review period in 2015, however.
“This government understands that to rebalance and grow our economy, we need to tackle the skills shortages that hold companies back. Through this fund, we will support employers that take collective action to overcome blockages to expansion,” Cable said.
The aim is to use the money for targeted training purposes in an attempt to boost innovation, set higher professional standards and create new or develop existing National Skills Academies. The fund will be provided by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and be managed by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and the Skills Funding Agency.
Some £5 million has already been earmarked to finance a pilot Joint Investment Programme, led by the Skills Funding Agency, which was agreed in autumn 2010 with five Sector Skills Councils. The objective is to encourage the Councils to work with colleges and training organisations in order to provide sector-specific skills initiatives.
Another £25 million will be assigned to new JIP schemes, while the remaining £20 million is intended to support the Leadership and Management Grant initiative set up by the last government to subsidise small-to-medium enterprises with between five and 249 staff to develop suitable management skills.
But Paul Davies, the GMB union’s national secretary for engineering construction, called on employers and the Engineering Construction Industry Board not to delay in applying for funding as there had so far been “far too little action” in developing a highly skilled workforce in the area.
But it was crucial to train apprentices in the industry because of work in the pipeline to construct new power stations and other installations in the energy, chemicals, oil and gas sectors, he said.
“There is an urgent need to get more young unemployed workers into these apprenticeships. There’s little point in employers complaining in a year’s time of skills shortages if they fail to train the skilled labour force that we know we will need. Government has a responsibility to see that this happens,” Davies added.