Mr Byers spoke out as new figures revealed huge cutbacks in the time spent on training despite the growing demand for skilled employees.
The research reveals that fewer than four in ten employees receive off- the-job training, while one-third have never been offered any training and the average number of training days per employee has fallen from five in 1996 to three last year. The decline in training has been most marked among big companies with more than 500 employees.
"These statistics should worry us all," Mr Byers told delegates to the Confederation of British Industry conference. "To cut back in these vital areas at this particular time is short-termism at its worst."
Mr Byers's comments came as a government advisory body called for the creation of a dedicated skills council for information technology, electronics and communications. The Information Age Partnership, chaired by Alan Stevens of the computer group EDS, also recommended a sustained campaign to raise awareness among children and women about careers in IT and better dialogue between business and education to address Britain's skills needs.
Mr Byers also urged more large companies to establish corporate universities to improve the skills base.Reuse content