Skills ‘really not terribly important’ says UK government…

… no, of course the UK government didn’t say that. But it might as well after this week’s news.

You see, it turns out that Donald Clark is clairvoyant.

That was the thought that ran through my mind when I read this headline recently in the UK’s leading HR weekly, Personnel Today:

Employer relief as mandatory Level 2 training threat is put back five years

Donald predicted exactly this almost exactly a year ago…

I had written a blog entry entitled: The Leitch Review and Skills Pledges – a nightmare scenario in which I foretold horror if mandatory training for the low-skilled was introduced.

Donald Clark coolly tapped out these lines in response:

No one is taking the Sword of Dasmocles (threat of compulsion in 2011) very seriosuly. They know that this thereat will diseappear with a new government, be ignored by the present government, be watered down so that some sort of ‘government pays-employers train’ scheme is in place.

Compulsion is NOT the answer. It will result in a lot of ‘tick-box’ training that may end up reducing the productivity of companies.

[Spelling as per the original.]

Well, perhaps he isn’t so clairvoyant, and perhaps my original post was a little melodramatic. Employer pressure and the possible legislative and political fall out of a complex mandatory system were always going to prove too much strain on obligatory training. The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (CES) will now report on the possible need for statutory training in 2014-15, instead of 2010, as planned.

Report in 2014? In anyone’s book that spells ‘kicked into the long grass’.

But it’s not the end of the issue. We still have skills problems, and most employers still don’t want to take a hand in solving them. Only 13% of UK employers have apparently signed the skills pledge with the threat of mandatory training in the distance. What’s to make them do that now, or to take skills any more seriously? This failed initiative of the skills pledge coupled to the possibility of mandatory training may have done more harm than good by persuading employers that it’s enough to stick in their heels.

While the establishment of the CES under BT chairman Sir Michael Rake is one ray of light, the whole UK skills issue runs the risk of becoming like our weather: something everyone like to moan about, something we can perhaps even predict. But not something we believe we can change.

If that’s too depressing, and you need cheering up this Friday, you may want to check out a recent joke of Donald’s, and certainly his recommended piece of spoof sensitivity training from You Tube.