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World's largest employer skills survey reveals training winners and losers

22 May 2012

Parts of the UK economy have developed skills “potholes”, with deep and persistent skills gaps damaging business performance in key areas and sectors, a report released today reveals.

The Skills Survey 2011, produced by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, interviewed over 85,000 employers across the UK. It found wide variations in the provision of training by both sector and geography, with more than eight out of ten employers in Halton, Cheshire, providing training for their staff, compared with fewer than half of employers in some inner London boroughs.

The survey also found that:

  • Childminders, care assistants and nurses are amongst the professions most likely to receive training, with around 70 per cent of employees in so-called personal service industries receiving training in the past year
  • Factory workers and bar staff are amongst the least likely to be trained, with less than half (48 per cent) of people in semi-skilled roles having received training in the past year. Many of these are in parts of the economy that are competing with overseas business or are the first port of call for a customer
  • Managers are the surprise losers, with only 45 per cent of employers providing any management training
  • A substantial minority of employers (41 per cent) provided no training at all in the past 12 months
  • One in three vacancies for trades like electricians, plumbers and chefs are hard to fill because of skill shortages among applicants (double the average figure for the entire economy)
  • Most of the money employers spend on training goes outside the public system – to private training providers, not schools, colleges and universities.

Jeremy Anderson, Chairman of Global Financial Services Practice at KPMG, and a Commissioner at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills said:

“Some employers are outstanding at training their staff, but many are not. This has led to the development of so-called ‘skills potholes’ – areas, sectors or occupations which are suffering from deep, painful and persistent skills gaps. Like potholes they are often ignored, but risk making the road to economic recovery throughout the UK bumpier and slower than it needs to be.

“By encouraging employers to step up and take greater responsibility for the skills needs of their people we will help to align public and private investment in skills and fill in these potholes. But there are simple things that employers must do to help themselves, such as seeing training as an investment not a cost, being clear on what outcomes should be achieved from training and ensuring that employees have the opportunity not only to be trained but to put their training into practice. These simple steps can make a real difference.”

Skills minister John Hayes added:

“Businesses well equipped with the skills that training brings are most likely to succeed. We know that businesses that don’t train their staff are twice as likely to fail and there’s a very strong link between low skills, poverty and unemployment.

“My mission is to reshape the character of learning and workforce skills. That is why this government has helped 457,000 people start apprenticeships last year and we’re aiming for half a million. We're making the process less bureaucratic, providing better advice to businesses and introducing a £1,500 incentive for SMEs that take on their first young apprentice. We know that businesses that invest in skills improve their bottom line and the health of the nation.”

For more information : UK Commission's Employer Skills Survey 2011

Full Report

(PDF, 1.8 Mb)