Stephen Williams MP - working hard for Bristol West

Stephen Williams MP calls on employers to rise to the training challenge

5.39.58pm GMT Fri 9th Feb 2007

University Students

Stephen Williams, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, has called on small and medium sized employers to invest more in the training of their employees. He made the remarks in a speech on World Class Skills during a Parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall.

Stephen Williams said "If someone is lucky enough to work for a large consulting firm or a large quoted company, the chances are that their employer will have a positive attitude to investment in human resources. We know that that is not always the case throughout the economy. Small and medium enterprises need to make a cultural shift if the step change in the skills of our work force is to take place.

"Employers often say that they are afraid to invest in training because, if they invest, someone will poach their well trained staff, and those staff will go to a firm that perhaps has not invested in training. If we achieve the culture shift that I am describing, however-such that every small and medium enterprise in the country invests in training, along with larger enterprises too-the fear of poaching will disappear. If employers invest in their human resources, the fact that there is turnover between firms and that people move around in the natural order of things can be a good thing, because people can bring with them the practical experience that they have gained with other employers.

"We need a more positive attitude from employers before too much power is handed to them. There is a risk in certain localised economies that, if employers are the main arbiters of the training provided in a community, there will not be flexibility in relation to individual needs and local economic development."

The debate came after the publication of the government's Leitch Report on future education and skills which estimates that, in order to compete globally, 40% of the workforce will need to be educated to degree level by 2020 compared to just 29% now. Since 70% of the workforce that will exist in 2020 are already in employment, much of that improvement will need to come through various forms of adult education.

Stephen Williams also drew attention to concerns over the government's new vocational diplomas that are shortly to be introduced to provide more variety in sixth form education.

Stephen Williams said "Important work still needs to be done to ensure that the diplomas are a success by the time that we come to their early implementation in 2008. I worry that the diplomas will be delivered in the colleges, and in the schools that are collaborating with colleges, where a great deal of vocational education goes on already, and that vocational opportunities might not be widened to the whole family of schools. We said that it was a missed opportunity not to bring together GCSE, A-level, and vocational courses in one diploma, so that everyone takes the same named qualification, delivered in every state school and college in the country. There is a danger that we will continue the current divide where some people do vocational education and other children, depending on where they are in the country, struggle with the only academic offer that is available to them in their schools and do not have the opportunity to access the vocational training that the diploma should open up to them. None the less, we desperately want the diplomas to succeed."

The full text of Stephen Williams' speech can be read here:

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2007-02-08a.337.1&s=speaker%3A11458#g351.0

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