Research finds small firms value their employees – but doubt the skills of their local workforce
Research carried out by the Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that an overwhelming 84% of small firms rate the skills of their employees as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.
However, the quarterly Referendum ballot of members found serious disaffection with training and skills among the general population. Only 1% of the small firms who responded rate the skills of their local workforce as ‘excellent’ and only 25% describe them as ‘good’.
Similarly, only 3% said the training and skills provision of their local schools and colleges were ‘excellent’ and only 29% described them as ‘good’.
Commenting on the findings, FPB chief executive Phil Orford said: “The clear message which has emerged from this is that small business owners are by no means inherently negative about employees’ abilities.
“Most of them highly rate the skills of their own workers, many of whom will have no doubt benefited from valuable on-the-job training.
“However, few small firms seem to place much faith in the ability of schools and colleges to properly prepare people for the workplace. Consequently, most of them doubt they can easily recruit people with the skills and abilities they are looking for among the local workforce.
“If there is going to be an economic recovery in 2010, it is vital that small businesses can find employees with the right attributes quickly and easily. As a result, we would urge the Government to think long and hard about how learning can be better tailored to meet the needs of industry.”
The FPB also discovered a strong perception that industry-specific skills are in serious shortage.
Over a quarter (26%) of respondents believe industry-specific skills are ‘poor’ – and 11% described them as ‘very poor’.
Mr Orford commented: “This further highlights the need for education and training to be geared around the requirements of the workplace.
“If Britain is going to move towards a knowledge-based, high-tech economy, as the Government has suggested, then this is something which needs to be addressed.”
Additionally, the FPB research found that almost half (44%) of business owners surveyed said their need for training had increased in 2009 and 40% had increased the amount of time they spent on internal training.
Red tape emerged as the single biggest reason for training employees, with 70% of those surveyed carrying out training in response to new regulations.