Opportunity Denied

Campaign

For over two years I have campaigned for reform of occupational licensing and worker certification schemes. I have lobbied my MP, my local Welsh Assembly Ministers and I even presented a petition to the Welsh Assembly. My efforts have so far fallen on very deaf ears.

Ever since the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, there has been a sharp increase in the number of occupations that now require some sort of qualification/certification. In many cases qualification/certification requirements do little to improve quality, standards or health and safety.

However these requirements do put a cost burden on entry to an occupation, and if grants or funding for these requirements are not available, the poorest in society are effectively locked out of that occupation. This traps people in poverty and reduces their chances of upward social mobility.

This in turn means fewer people can practice an occupation, driving up costs for consumers, while the tax payer must fund social security benefits for those locked out of meaningful employment.

The social problems and hidden costs of denying people the opportunity to work, mean that our legislators should be very careful before giving their support to occupational licensing and worker certification schemes.

Last week the Social Mobility Commission published a report called the Adult Skills Gap.

As you can imagine I was very keen to read the content of this report.

Surely given that our Labour Welsh government supports worker certification schemes, funding for training and qualifications must have increased. Given the embarrassing amount of poverty in Wales, the Welsh government would surely not wish to risk increasing poverty in Wales, would they?

According to the Adult Skills Gap report, funding for training has fallen in Wales not increased. Quote:

The picture across UK countries varies significantly. In Scotland, total employer spend on training increased by 24 per cent and the amount per employee rose by 20 per cent. In England, total employer skills training expenditure fell by 2 per cent whilst spend by employee remained static. In Wales and Northern Ireland, however, both these amounts fell, and by larger amounts than in England.

The conclusions of the report need no explanation from me:

Conclusions

A key conclusion from this study is that there is a ‘virtuous’ and a ‘vicious’ circle of learning. Adults with low or no qualifications, in low social groups and occupations are much less likely to have been, or to become involved in, training. In contrast, those with high levels of qualifications, in higher level occupations and higher socio-economic groups receive the highest levels of training and, as a result, are also more likely to take up training in the future.

Another main conclusion is that the level of investment in skills by employers and the government is relatively low by international standards, and diminishing in both quantity and quality. For government expenditure on adult skills training, a key concern over reduced adult education and skills budgets is that this cut will disproportionately affect adults on lower social groups and other disadvantaged groups. Already in receipt of the lowest levels of skills investment, this is likely to be reduced further.

There is a great deal of evidence to show that social group impacts on adult training. Both directly, through an individual’s current social group, and indirectly, through their parents’ social group.

I have been well aware of these findings for along time. Last year I asked the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) for data on CITB levies paid by employment agency workers and the training grants they received back from CITB. This was their reply:

Between Spring 2015 and Spring 2016

  • paid £11,878,420.50 in Levy; and
  • claimed £667,594.03 in grant.

I calculated that to be a levy return of 5.6%. Large construction companies get a CITB levy return of 92%. (See source data here).

The Assembly ministers on the petitions committee were aware of this data, it was in my correspondence to them!

In January this year I received more data from CITB through the use of a freedom of information request.

Spring 2016 to Spring 2017

  • CITB levies paid by agency workers £12,798,258.50
  • Grants received £702,548.00

I calculate that to be a return of 5.4%

Summary

In summary, the Welsh government enforce by policy the use of the non legislative CSCS worker certification on public contacts, without checking to make sure funding for training is available for both workers and Small and Medium sized construction companies. What is even more concerning, is that not one political party is challenging the use of these worker certification schemes or the lack of funding available.

The next time a Welsh politician starts preaching about how terrible poverty is in Wales, confront them, ask them why they have allowed cost burdens to be put on entry to employment when no funding for worker training is available. Access to funding for training is a legislative problem that politicians can fix!

If you are an agency worker or work in the gig economy in Wales and want to help me raise awareness of these issues then please contact me. Remember Trade Unions won’t help you!

You can follow me on Twitter: @worknotpoverty

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