The Forum of Private Business (FPB) believes that forcing young people to stay in education up to the age of 18 could leave many of them unprepared for the workplace. The FPB is also concerned that the Government’s Education and Skills Bill, which has been debated in Parliament, places the onus on small businesses to ensure that employees receive training, or face being fined by their local authorities.
Under the Bill’s proposals, employers in England would be compelled to allow their staff to take time off work in order to participate in education and training. The FPB believes that this inflexible approach could hinder smaller firms in England from competing with those elsewhere in the UK and Europe.
“Most employees are committed to training their staff – the skills they gain will help their businesses to grow,” said the FPB’s National Chairman, Len Collinson. “For those that need encouraging, more information about the options available to them, and better communication and support, would be far more effective than legislation such as this.”
The FPB is concerned that the inevitable administrative burden, along with the spectre of financial penalties for non-compliance, could deter many employers from hiring young people altogether. The UK’s current skills shortage is unlikely to be plugged by the proposals, and other options should be available to allow staff and employers to benefit from different forms of education, such as on-the-job training and improved apprenticeships.
“Skills and education training is all well and good, but not so many young people will want to hang around in schools or colleges because they would rather leave at 16 to get a trade,” said FPB member Elisabeth Wirrer, of Roy Truman Sound Services, London. “School is often quite an artificial environment and not at all like the real world of work. In many industries, you learn best from more experienced colleagues. A more positive step would be to improve apprenticeships instead.”
The FPB is calling for improved guidance and information about training and skills to be made available to businesses, young workers and their parents, rather than imposing compulsory education and training up to the age of 18.