Watchdog doubts Train to Gain value

By Alex Stevenson

The government’s Train to Gain scheme has not delivered value-for-money, its spending watchdog has found.

A report by the National Audit Office blamed “unrealistically ambitious initial targets” and “inconsistent implementation” for the lost efficiency of the programme, which by March this year had cost £1.47 billion.

Train to Gain was launched in April 2006 as a means of incentivising businesses to provide on-the-job training to improve skills of low-grade workers.

A skills brokerage service sat alongside funding for employee training, but initial low take-up resulted in a change in its eligibility criteria to increase learner numbers.

NAO chief Amyas Morse said taxpayers had a right to expect that over half its funding should result in training that would not otherwise have occurred.

“Inconsistent management contributed to a slow start to the programme, followed by rapid growth and now the risk of demand exceeding budgets,” he said.

“We also need to see evidence that money is directed more to areas of greatest need, with training providers who do the best job for their learners and on bringing the whole range of business benefits to employers.”

The recession is providing new risks for the initiative. The sudden wave of strong demand means it faces a grave danger of overspending.

This could be an opportunity, the NAO said. Its report called for resources to be “refocused” on areas of greatest need.

Since launching, 554,100 learners have achieved a qualification under Train to Gain. There were 143,000 engagements with employers providing advice on skills training.