Labour urges wider support for firms to train staff amid skills warning

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds outlined Labour’s proposals to address the shortage of workers.

Businesses struggling to train staff or recruit skilled workers should be given more help to get the workforce they need, Labour has said.

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said Labour would address the shortage of workers with the skills businesses need by widening funding for a greater range of apprenticeships if it comes to power.

The pledge comes as analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data by the party suggests a growing number of businesses are reporting staffing challenges, with 500,000 companies having to pause some activity because of a shortage of workers with the right skills.

Mr Reynolds said: “All good businesses know that their workforce is their greatest asset. Labour will give firms the flexibility they need to train staff and make sure our businesses can grow.

“Labour’s plan to unlock the skills and talents of British workers in partnership with business will help workers improve their skills and ensure businesses can develop. It’s clear only Labour has a plan to address the skills shortages we face and get our economy back on track.”

ONS survey figures suggest 9.1% of businesses have had to pause some of their activities over the last 12 months because of a lack of workers.

Labour estimates this could have affected approximately 500,000 businesses, based on the total number of firms operating in the UK.

It also estimates that 47.7% of businesses surveyed by the ONS are in need of workers trained in skills they are currently unable to get, with manual skills, advanced digital skills, and customer service skills among those in demand.

Labour has promised to give businesses more flexibility to address the skills and workforce shortages.

The opposition party plans to widen access to funding from the Government’s apprenticeship levy, which businesses can use to invest in training for their workers.

Labour would transform the levy into what it calls a growth and skills levy, which could allow workers access to a wider variety of training courses, including digital skills, in order to help businesses meet their needs.

Education minister Robert Halfon, whose brief includes apprenticeships, said: “Labour’s policy will halve the amount of funding going to apprenticeships, stripping young people of new skills and stopping them from reaching their full potential.

“The Resolution Foundation confirmed Labour’s policy is ‘not a good idea’, with small and medium-sized businesses set to be hammered most by their cuts to skills funding.

“Meanwhile, we have delivered almost 5.5 million apprenticeships since 2010, introduced our lifetime skills guarantee, and are investing an extra £3.8 billion in skills training. Over 90% of apprenticeships who complete go on to good jobs or additional education.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.