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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Cloud ERP Solution Provide...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee Teacher - Maths

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific