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Understanding the costs and rules behind staff training

Training is not cheap but help is available. We look at the options.

How much will it cost?

For many small businesses, the key issue in all this is cost. The good news is that you can get lots of help from the Government who are particularly keen to help small businesses. Again, your local Tec should be your first port of call to find out what is available.

Many people ask how much they should be spending on training. There is no easy answer, of course. It depends on what you are trying to achieve, how skilled your employees are, and what your priorities are.

But if you want to know what other people spend, then according to The Industrial Society – www.indsoc.co.uk - which conducts regular research on this topic, organisations with less than 100 employers spend an average of £372 per employee per year, Training Trends No 33, Nov-Dec 1998. Interestingly, the figure has fallen over the last three years, perhaps a reflection of the more cost-effective learning channels that have opened up.

The rules

One word of warning to those who think they can get away without providing any training. As of September 1st 1999, employers are obliged to give certain young employees time off work on full pay to study. Both 16 and 17 year olds who do not hold a Level 2 equivalent qualification, educational jargon for 5 GCSEs at grades A-C, an NVQ Level 2 or an Intermediate GNVQ, are entitled to reasonable paid time off during normal working hours. If you think this could affect you, visit the government’s website www.dfee.gov.uk/tfst.htm for more information.

If these regulations seem rather draconian, bear in mind what the Government is up against in its drive to up-skill the country’s workforce. Recent research by the London Tec Council revealed that more than half of small companies in London provided no training at all to their employees in 1998 – that is 400,000 people. That is scary enough, but on a national scale, it’s terrifying. According to the Federation of Small Businesses over 94.4 per cent of all businesses employ fewer than 10 people and 99.6 per cent of all business employ fewer than 100. In fact, only 0.2 per cent of UK businesses are not small.

Advocates of training and development will tell you that in the light of these figures, the high proportion of small businesses that fail in their early years is not surprising.

Training should not be viewed as a cost, but as an investment that will generate returns. Do it properly and enthusiastically and you will see the rewards.

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