It seems a real shame that just as the Sector Skills Councils and many employers were building up a bank of knowledge and experience on women's training that it could be lost, writes Baroness Prosser.
The Women and Work Commission, investigating the continuing gender pay and opportunities gap concluded in its February 2006 report that women's lack of or loss of skills was leading to a serious waste of their potential and to a loss to the Exchequer of billions of pounds annually through reduced earning and spending power.
Far too many women were, particularly post motherhood finding it impossible to develop a work life balance either because of the high cost of childcare and or the lack of time table flexibility. Moving from full time usually reasonably rewarded employment to part time and often lower skilled and certainly lower paid work resulted in lost knowledge and experience and usually also loss of confidence.
This combination meant that many women never got back onto the appropriate steps of the ladder, matching their abilities with their earning power.
The then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, in his March 2006 budget allocated money to be spent specifically on training and upskilling women particularly those employed in sectors where women are under represented.
From the start of the Women and Work Sector Pathways Initiative (WWSPI) in 2006 to its demise in March 2012, 24000 women have completed training on one or more courses; 5500 employers and 14 Sector Skills Councils have engaged with the programme; £28m has been invested by employers and £23.5m has been invested by the government. In cash and kind employers have invested 21 per cent more than the government.
The new Employers' Investment Fund (EIF) which is in part replacing the WWSPI will cater for both men and women.
The figures above show that employers found the WWSPI a very popular and useful scheme. Two research reports dated 2008 and 2010 by Leeds Metropolitan University found overwhelming satisfaction rates for both employers and participating women. Clearly the government doesn't accept the maxim "if it ain't broke don't fix it"
The future world of work calls for more people to be skilled and flexible. Many workers will change jobs several times over a life time. Most families need two decent incomes to cover the high cost of living and the cost of educating their children. All of this adds up to the need to ensure that we as a country do not waste the talents of any of our citizens.
I remain unconvinced that the new EIF will cater for women in the same way as the WWSPI has done. Will women get a fair shout when training resources are allocated? I doubt it.
It seems a real shame that just as the Sector Skills Councils and many employers were building up a bank of knowledge and experience on women's training that it could be lost.
The only answer would be for government to insist on targets or quotas for women's participation in the EIF and to monitor the figures.
I'm not holding my breath.
Note. Women and Work Commission Report. A report to the then Prime Minister Mr.Tony Blair "Shaping a Fairer Future". An investigation into the continuing pay and opportunities gap chaired by Margaret ProsserResponse: Skills for Justice
"As the sector skills council for justice, community safety, legal services, government and Armed Forces, Skills for Justice believes it is vital that women employed in these areas are able to access training and development and reach their full potential.
"Skills for Justice took part in three years of the Women and Work Sector Pathways Initiative, channelling around £1.25 million and facilitating training for more than 1,000 women. It was an incredibly powerful programme that achieved much and made valuable differences to the lives of women in our sector.
"Skills for Justice remain convinced that the development of women is vital to the UK's economic growth. Indeed, research has shown that the UK would be £15-23 billion per year better off if we fully used the skills and talents of women currently out of work (Home Office, 2012).
"There has been much progress in increasing representation by women at all levels across the sector, but we are confident that more can be done. We would particularly welcome support for women who need it the most, such as unemployed and self-employed women, and those seeking to enter our sectors."