Forum skills survey shows positive shift towards growth but money and time still an issue when it comes to training

The report highlights an increase in the amount of growth-related training businesses are undertaking, particularly in areas such as strategic management and business development. In comparison to the previous year 2013 saw a 5% increase in training to build capacity and a significant increase in strategic skills development, rising from 16% in 2012 to 28% in 2013. Alongside these growth skills, the report revealed that the number of businesses engaged in efficiency training and skill replacement fell by 9% and 13% respectively, indicating fewer redundancies and a more stable workforce.

As business confidence has grown over the past year, satisfaction with training has also improved. Small business owners highlighted to the national business group that 75% of businesses were happy with the focus of their training in 2013 up from 58% a year ago.

Despite these positive signs Forum members did report a number of barriers to training and skills development indicating that not all businesses were able to take advantage of the improving economic conditions. Nearly a quarter highlighted time as a major barrier to skills development and about 20% noted cost.

Time management skills topped the list of skills negatively impacted by the recession. 12% of businesses reported these skills had grown worse over the last five years with owner managers forced to take on additional responsibilities as redundancies were made. 39% of businesses also reported senior management skills had been neglected with time and cost being the major reasons why.

With lack of time to dedicate to skills development and difficulties funding courses, the Forum's research reveals that a fifth of small businesses do not know how to overcome the barriers they face to training.

This concerning statistic is timely given the government's Growth Voucher scheme launching today. The scheme, that will part fund up to £2,000 worth of business support for small firms, will provide every eligible business with a diagnostic to identify what strategic support would assist their business develop and grow. Whilst not all businesses will receive a voucher, the Forum hopes to see the diagnostic provide small businesses with a clear understanding of the types of training they need to maximise their growth potential.

Commenting on the report Chief Executive of the Forum, Phil Orford said:
"Getting the right skills for your businesses is imperative for any firm to grow. Small businesses have faced tough conditions over the past five years but this report suggests they are beginning to lay the foundations for renewed growth."

On Growth Vouchers:
"It is important now that we support our small businesses to use the tools available to develop and grow. Growth Vouchers will go part of the way to providing financial support for some businesses but it is essential we build awareness of the wide range of business support and advice currently available."

The vouchers will be available in five key areas including employing staff, leadership and management and utilising digital technology.

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John Walding

The latest research by the Forum of Private Business reveals that small businesses are shifting their training priorities from replacing lost skills and are concentrating on areas essential for future business growth.