Industry body calls for designated Small Business Sector Skills Council

Training is not reaching the smallest firms, industry body survey shows

Micro-firms, with fewer than five employees, are currently being excluded from Government-run training schemes, and are struggling to take advantage of the ‘Train to Gain' scheme, an FSB survey has found.

Train to Gain aims to help businesses develop the skills of their staff, but many small firms are not aware subsidised training is on offer and the majority of sole traders wrongly believe they do not qualify to apply for training, according to the new FSB survey.

Despite a £350m pot of money being announced in spring this year for the hardest to reach small businesses – which tend to be at the micro end – 88 per cent of respondents to the survey of FSB members said they had not taken up an offer of training through Train to Gain.

The majority (78 per cent) said the scheme needed to be more flexible, and identified the need for training on issues specific to the smallest firms, including leadership and management for businesses with fewer than five employees, and specialised technical and business skills areas that micro businesses operate in. There was also interest in areas such as IT, health and safety, responding to tenders and sales and marketing – crucial business management skills that the smallest firms may not have expertise in.

Only 18 per cent of respondents were even aware that training was available in smaller ‘bite-sized' chunks, which are so important for small businesses – the majority of which have less than four employees and 2.72million of which are self employed.

Colin Willman, Federation of Small Businesses Education and Skills Chairman, said: "The Government must start to recognise the needs of the country's smallest businesses, especially during this crucial time when firms need to be investing in skills and training so that they can emerge stronger as they pull the economy out of recession.”

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