Labour proposes league tables of training data

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A future Labour Government would publish league tables of Britain's biggest companies to reveal their commitment to training their workforce.

The initiative, to be announced today by Stephen Byers, Labour's employment spokesman, takes the present Government's policy of league tables for schools and diverts it into the world of business.

Labour has already revealed its intention to introduce legislation stipulating that annual reports contain details about training. The league tables - which would cover the top 100 companies employing a total of 3.5 million people - will ensure the information attracts maximum publicity. Labour believes it might put "friendly public pressure" on businesses to spend more on improving employees' skills.

The tables would cover issues such as the amount spent per employee; the percentage of the workforce taking part in programmes; and the amount invested in individual training accounts and the number of employees taking advantage of them. There will also be a comparison between companies of the number and percentage of employees gaining a recognised qualification.

Speaking at the International Union of Socialist Teachers today in Birmingham, Mr Byers is set to say the policy will provide a "powerful incentive".

He will add that the establishment of a "training culture" is vital for the future of the economy and that companies' records on training should be exposed to public scrutiny.

Mr Byers believes the league tables would place no extra burden on individual businesses. It would, however, concentrate the minds of senior company executives.

"The establishment of such tables will send a clear message to businesses of the importance that a new Labour government attaches to training." He argues that Labour has already demonstrated its keenness not to overburden business by abandoning the idea of a training levy on companies.

The Confederation of British Industry yesterday would not comment on the issue, preferring to await more detail on the initiative.

The national council of the Training and Enterprise Council, which represents the 81 employer-led TECs in England and Wales, supported Labour's contention that companies should be encouraged to invest in their employees.

However, Nigel Chilcott, secretary to the council, said TECs would want to be sure the Labour Party's "interesting proposal" would improve companies' competitiveness and that industry would not face extra costs.

"We would also hope such league tables would take into account the complexity of the data and the difficulties involved in comparing companies," he said.