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The ConstructionSkills guide to the Skills Pledge for construction employers

The Government’s Skills Pledge was launched on 14 June by Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson. Costain and ConstructionSkills were among the first organisations to make public their commitment to training, alongside major employers from other sectors including BAE Systems, Nissan and Sainsbury’s.

But there has been criticism of the lack of information available from the Government and some employers are sceptical about whether it meets their needs. Here ConstructionSkills explains what it is, the impact for construction and why employers should get on-board.

So what is it?

The Skills Pledge is a voluntary commitment made by employers to support all their employees to develop basic literacy and numeracy skills, and work towards relevant, valuable qualifications to at least Level 2 (equivalent to five good GCSEs). The objective of the Pledge is to ensure that all staff are skilled, competent and able to make a full contribution to the success of the organisation.

Why do we need it?

The Lord Leitch’s Review of UK Skills, published in December 2006, said that if the UK economy is to compete with other advanced countries and the new emerging economies, we will have to invest more in skills. One of the UK’s biggest skills problems is the number of adults in the workforce who do not have basic literacy and numeracy skills and who do not have the platform of qualifications (known as Level 2) that a modern economy needs.

But why does construction need it?

The Skills Pledge is very much in line with what the industry is trying to achieve through the Qualifying the Workforce initiative; indeed, the construction sector has been leading the way in respect of public commitments to skills.

The Qualifying the Workforce initiative has seen the construction industry demonstrate a clear commitment to training and carding the construction workforce. This was strengthened in the Sector Skills Agreement for Construction in 2003 which saw all the federations in the Qualifying the Workforce Steering Group reinforcing their commitment to driving the initiative forward. Further momentum was gained with the Major Contractors Group’s (MCG) commitment to ‘Full Compliance’ from the start of 2007 and the Major Home Builders Group’s (MHBG) drive for ‘Zero Tolerance’ by the end of 2007.

What support is available for investing in training?

ConstructionSkills has a network of Company Development Advisors across the UK who can help registered employers to identify their training needs and provide ongoing support with the delivery. CITB-ConstructionSkills Grant can also be claimed to help with the cost of training.

When an organisation registers its intention to make the Skills Pledge, it will be able to access the support and advice of a Skills Broker, one of a national network across England, with funding provided by the Train to Gain service. More information on this service can be found at: traintogain.gov.uk.

Where employees do not already have a full Level 2 qualification, the Government will provide funding to help them gain basic literacy and numeracy skills, as well as their first full Level 2 qualification. This is dependent on individual circumstances and Skills Brokers will be able to advise employers on the exact types of funding available.

So what’s in it for me?

Research clearly shows that one of the keys to a productive, successful business is having a skilled and competent workforce. Companies have seen improvements in financial savings, productivity, efficiency and motivation, reduced sickness and absenteeism, better customer service, and better safety leading to fewer accidents.

Furthermore, by committing to the future development of staff and improving business through training, organisations develop their reputation for providing excellence in the workplace, which in turn helps the recruitment process.

Many employers will already be training to this minimum level and often doing even more, so the Pledge offers employers the opportunity to demonstrate publicly to their staff, customers, suppliers, investors and other stakeholders that they understand the benefits and importance of having of having a fully qualified workforce.

For employers who aren’t already investing in training, the Pledge provides an extra incentive along with access to Government funding to help companies with the cost. The Leitch Review recommends that if companies do not voluntarily commit to training, the Government should make it compulsory in the near future. While it has not been made clear how this would work in practice, or when, it is likely that this policy would add more red tape for employers.

How can employers get involved with the Skills Pledge?

To register interest in making the Skills Pledge, employers should phone the Skills Pledge Helpline on 0800 015 5545 or complete the web form at: traintogain.gov.uk.

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