Why training is good for business

A government scheme to help employees gain new skills is making a difference, says Neil Merrick

Five years ago, textiles manufacturer Ashfield embarked on a training drive to boost business - starting with classes to improve communication among staff.

Most shop-floor workers at the small Leicester-based company are of Indian origin and speak Hindi, Gujarati or Punjabi. So the company, which specialises in making corporate clothing and at the time traded as Animm Textiles, introduced English classes that employees could attend after work.

As language skills improved, managing director Ayub Mahomed decided that the firm should go further by encouraging staff to undertake more training. Since 2004, 16 out of Ashfield's 26 employees have gained NVQs in performing manufacturing, with all tuition provided free under the Government's employer training pilot (ETP) scheme.

Efficiency rose by one third and staff became far more confident and willing to share ideas, according to Mahomed. "People are more aware of the environment they work in," he says. "We make sure that machines are looked after and that the information we use is correct."

When the ETPs were phased out last year to make way for Train to Gain - a new government scheme - Ashfield jumped at the opportunity to train more employees. Staff now work towards IT qualifications, while supervisors receive management training.

Like ETPs, Train to Gain is primarily aimed at small firms that are unlikely to offer training to employees. Ashfield received the kick-start it needed so that, in future, it is more likely to train staff - regardless of whether the Government foots the bill, Mahomed says . "If the platform hadn't been given to them, I don't think we would have embarked on this journey."

Figures published this week by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) show that about one in five of the 25,000 firms that took part in employer training pilots have gone on to use Train to Gain. But the majority of the 21,000 companies currently participating in Train to Gain are new to government-funded training.

The programme was launched in April and rolled out nationally in August. At present, 75,000 to 80,000 employees are undertaking training. By 2010, the LSC hopes that 500,000 learners will achieve a first full-level 2 qualification through the scheme.

Critics claimed that the ETPs were wasteful because, in some cases, the LSC funded training that employers were willing to pay for themselves. Under Train to Gain, companies receive a contribution towards level 3 qualifications and are likely to fully fund higher level courses, while the LSC continues to pay for level 2 training that ties in with government targets.

The scheme also includes a skills brokerage service that helps firms assess the skills needs of employees. David Greer, LSC director for business support, says brokers are targeted at hard-to-reach firms that have not provided substantial vocational training for staff in the past 12 months. "We are not interested in them engaging with employers that already have a good relationship with colleges or private training providers," he says.

In addition to free training, Train to Gain also gives employers the opportunity to claim wage compensation for the time staff spend away from work. The LSC hopes that firms use this to invest in further training.

Grange Interiors, based in Tyne and Wear, used some of the money it received through an ETP to set up its own training arm and open an assessment centre. A new NVQ in fitted interiors is being delivered to staff from other companies as well as its own.

Business is booming at firms such as Grange, which manufactures and installs kitchen and bathroom furniture, because of the large sums being spent by local authorities and housing associations to bring their properties up to the decent homes standard.

Chris Raffo, its social housing and training manager, says the ETP helped it to draw "a line in the sand" and establish the skills its staff already possessed and where it needed to improve. About two thirds of its 91 employees gained NVQs, ranging from performing manufacturing to driving goods vehicles.

The new NVQ means that Grange employees can fit equipment that the company supplies instead of relying on sub-contractors. "A lot of major construction companies are looking to multi-skill their kitchen fitters, so there has been a massive interest in the training we offer," says Raffo.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Leeds November start...

EBD LSA required - Vale of Glamorgan

£60 - £65 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

EBD Teacher - Food Technology Specialist

£100 - £181 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The JobTo plan and deliver all ...

Learning Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker