Smaller firms are to be pushed to get employees better trained with a possible £500 bonus from the Department for Education and Employment as a carrot. According to government figures only a quarter of small companies give staff training.

Employment Secretary David Blunkett this week revealed a great disparity between the training offered and taken up by small firms compared to large ones, with large firms giving the lion’s share of training opportunities.

“It is the small firms that do not have the human resources or personnel departments. Research has shown that 91 percent of large firms provide training for their employees, but only 25 percent of the smallest do,” said Blunkett.

One of the plans Blunkett mooted at an employment conference this week was to give firms a £500 bonus if they got three quarters of their employees signed up for Individual Learning Accounts.

The government is also trying to encourage owner-managers to use the tax reliefs available for employers who contribute to the cost of learning purchased by their employee through an ILA. A third of a million people have opened Accounts and the government’s target is for a million by 2002.