Successful corporations understand that investing in their employees’ skill development is one of the most effective ways to drive their business ahead. As we move out of the economic recession and focus on future growth, the success of British industry will depend on the ability of our highly skilled workforce to exploit the global market’s business prospects.
As a government, we are aware that our role is crucial in supporting businesses to achieve this objective. In recent times, I had the pleasure of meeting the Train to Gain program’s one-millionth trainee, Chris Scott, a process operator at William Blythe (a chemical manufacturer in Accrington). Chris completed level 2 NVQ training in business improvement techniques. At his company, 62 people completed a qualification through Train to Gain. Through their investment in staff training and focus on improving skills, the company is taking on new projects and demonstrating improved teamwork and performance.
Train to Gain is a government-funded scheme that empowers employees to acquire the skills they need to succeed in their work. Training encompasses vocational qualifications up to level 3, literacy and numeracy skills, as well as leadership and management training. Depending on the course of the learner’s choice, it may entail college-based study and work-based training to embrace new work circumstances.
This financial year, funding for Skill Training, including Train to Gain and other programs like apprenticeships, is increasing to £3.5bn. In the country, there has been a drastic transformation in business productivity since the scheme’s launch in April 2006. Tens of thousands of businesses have become more efficient, and millions of people are now on the path to achieving their career goals. Employers are getting personalised training in the workplace, assisting their businesses in thriving and growing. Entities that had not invested in staff training before are now doing so. After training, staff members are receiving pay rises and career advancement, as well as demonstrating outstanding performance in their roles.
Financial support is available to businesses to relieve the effects of employees taking time out for training. Financial contributions towards employee salary for training costs are available to English businesses with fewer than 50 workers. Besides, businesses with 50 to 249 employees can access support to enhance their leadership and management capabilities.
There is no doubt that Train to Gain has significantly benefited businesses. The take-up has been impressive, and provisional data indicate that within the first six months of the current academic year, 250,600 courses were initiated while 218,000 qualifications were attained through this program. Since its inception, learners have started over 1.6 million courses and achieved over one million qualifications.
The recent surveys of the program have been promising, showing that both employees and employers are remarkably pleased with the service. Over 90% of trainees expressed satisfaction, and 80% expected to perform their current roles better now. They felt appreciated as they attained recognised qualifications. At the same time, over 77% of employers felt that Train to Gain equipped their employees with valuable job-related skills resulting in improved performance. 70% of these employers also responded that the program had improved day-to-day business operations, and 70% felt confident that it would contribute to longer-term competitiveness.
The primary criticism directed towards Train to Gain is that it merely caters for training that would have occurred regardless of government funding. There is clear evidence that this is not the case, and instead, it is driving up provision of training that leads to qualifications. Skills are a crucial element in this government’s economic growth strategy. Investing in skills is a worthy expenditure. The rationale behind this strategy is straightforward; trained individuals are more productive, more innovative, and more prosperous, leading to increased business strength. A talented and skilled workforce is vital to the country’s future success, and Train to Gain is an essential cornerstone of this government’s skills policy.