Missing billions

March 6, 1998

John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union, has said that leaving training to voluntary efforts by employers does not work: "some companies train, the vast majority poach". Education secretary David Blunkett has said: "Employers should not be forced to contribute to individual learning accounts since they already paid Pounds 10.5 billion towards training their employees." Can someone tell me where this money goes?

Eurostat's Social Portrait of Europe, 1997 shows that United Kingdom employers have, bar one, the lowest indirect labour costs, including social security and vocational training, of all 11 listed European countries. The Dearing report put employers' contribution to higher education as Pounds 292 million (2.7 per cent of the Pounds 7 billion total), three-quarters for research. But it said that the 2.7 per cent excluded sponsorships for full-time students and sandwich-course placements.

The Kennedy report said that employers' contribution to further education was "significant", but it was mostly for people already with education qualifications.

The total government budget for further education in 1996-97 was only Pounds 3.15 billion from the funding council with a further Pounds 1.19 billion from training and enterprise councils. The government is now adding Pounds 150 million for individual "learning accounts". Until employers are required to grant paid education leave, these will be of little value. Let us hear more about their Pounds 10.5 billion that exceeds all of government higher and further education spending together.

Michael Barratt Brown. Robin Hood Farm. Bakewell, Derbyshire

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