For nearly forty years most IT employers have declined to take on trainees or retrain older staff but have queued up to employ those with two years of more of supposed experience. Only the skills in demand have changed. There is no shortage of talent, only of employers who will work with local schools, colleges and universities to identify and train that which is not being properly harnessed – including that in their own work force!
I have regularly talked of the need for Tax Free Training since exempting trainees from National Insurance and PAYE was identified by the National Computing Centre members (“The IT Skills Crisis: A Prescription for Action – 1987, based on 215 responses from 1420 IT employers) as the only Government skills initiative that would make a real difference.
I was therefore delighted with the news in the Autumn Statement that apprentices aged under 25 will be exempted from National Insurance, thus effectively cut their employment cost by around 20%. The other great advantage of putting trainees (whether school leavers, graduates or post graduates) onto formal training contracts is that costs (as per the test case of Sthraclyde Regional Council v. Neal) can be recovered if they leave prematurely – thus giving a “guaranteed” return to the employer.
But what about all those older staff whose skills need updating, or those who being cross-trained from other disciplines for all those roles that need hybrids?
The 50% aid (up to £500) from the Tech Partnership (new name of e-Skills) is per module, per person and is not age-related. Thus an organisation running a programme of half a dozen modules to train a couple of users in those information security tasks which should never be contracted out could claim £6,000 towards the cost
I would like to think that this is the start of a progress towards a level playing field for employers seeking to give world-class skills to their UK workforces to compete against those who import skills or off-shore jobs. My full evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee is now available on-line and I would also like to think that it (and perhaps more importantly the reaction to it) helped secure the announcement in the Autumn Statement.