Better to encourage, not legislate training

Governments should provide perks to persuade companies to provide employee training instead of forcing them to do so through legislation, say experts.

Government incentives rather than legislation are a better means to ensure employees receive skills training from their company, say human resource experts.

Last month, the U.K. government unveiled a proposal to give employees a legal right to request training. The country's Skills Minister John Denham said the "Right to Train" proposal could make it possible for people, who would otherwise not get any skills training, to receive it.

E. Balaji, CEO of India-based recruitment agency Ma Foi Management Consultants, does not see a need to use the law in Asia or any country to force employers to augment employee skills.

"In a competitive world, organizations have to continually build their human capital through training and developmental initiatives. Or else, they may find the talent moving elsewhere," Balaji told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

"The empowerment capacity of a competitive world cannot be matched through the legal route," he said.

Roger Olofsson, Singapore-based IT associate director at recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, said such a law will force employers to provide training only for the sake of "compliance [where] you must do this or suffer a penalty".

"A more positive thing than legislation is for government's to provide incentives," Olofsson said in a phone interview.

Peter Fischbach, president of Bangkok-based ISM Technology Recruitment, added that legislation would be unnecessary in countries which have low unemployment, such as Thailand.

"And given that there is often a shortage of skilled workers, employers often have no choice but to provide training if they want their staff to become conversant on the latest technology," Fischbach told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

"In the IT field, anyway, employer-provided training is relatively common," he said.

Echoing Olofsson's views, Fischbach also called for governments instead to create incentives to promote training.

"Currently, for example, if a company in Thailand pays to provide qualified training for an employee, that expense can, in many cases, be eligible for a 200 percent tax deduction," he noted.

Introduce apprenticeship scheme
According to Balaji, governments could facilitate education at affordable fees and initiate curricula that meet the industry's requirements. For example, under India's Apprentices Act, the government regulates and controls the training of apprentices, he said.

"The Act also seeks to supplement the availability of trained technical employees for the industry," Balaji explained. "It requires employers to hire apprentices in certain designated trades. Its provisions apply to areas or industries specified by the central government."

"However, this is not a law that legally empowers employees to request skills training," he said. The training provided under the Act is typically provided by technical training institutes of a candidate's choice and own expense.

"Usually, students who graduate from such technical training institutes and complete the industry-led practical experience training [are hired by] the same company. But, there are also plenty of opportunities for such candidates to choose to join other companies," Balaji said.

The local government in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu recently announced a new training program, targeted specifically at the software market.

Balaji said: "The state government will pay software companies for the pre-employment training expenses incurred by them to train graduates in 'special finishing schools' being planned in every district.

"This 'you train them, we will foot the bill' approach by the state government is an innovative initiative to bring skills training to the public, and enhance workers' employability in a lucrative sector," he said.

A National Infocomm Competency Framework (NICF) in Singapore also aims to enhance the capabilities of infocomm professionals and guide their career development in the country.

The island-state aims to add 55,000 new infocomm jobs and bring the total ICT jobs to about 170,000 by 2015. Singapore is also hoping this will generate 25,000 new non-infocomm jobs in the infocomm industry, or a total of about 70,000 by 2015.

To this end, the NICF defines relevant certifications and competency requirements of the infocomm professional's career path. At the same time, the Singapore government aims for the framework to also benefit employers by enhancing staff training and development programs based on industry standards.

Balaji noted that in a well-run economy, there will be plenty of opportunities for training and for candidates to choose different options, without the need for legislation to enforce it.

According to Olofsson, there is little likelihood of an employer denying a competent worker's request for training. "A company must motivate you if you're a valued worker. Or else, you can [easily find] work somewhere else," he said.