By politics.co.uk staff
The government's Train to Gain, which improves the skill level of employees, has been mismanaged, an influential committee of MPs said today.
The scheme, which was launched in 2006, suffered from underspending in its first two years, followed by an overspend in its third year, and held "unrealistically ambitious" targets, the MPs found.
MPs admitted the programme had helped 1.4 million learners by 2009, but insisted the mismanagement of the scheme raised serious concerns about its effectiveness.
The first two years of its life saw an under-spend of £150 million out of a budget of £747 million, the public accounts committee calculated, while the following year saw a £50 million overspend, due to an underestimated increase in demand in the face of recession.
Committee chairman Edward Leigh said: "Despite providing work-based training for around five per cent of the workforce, the Train to Gain programme has been mismanaged from the outset.
"In the face of evidence of what was achievable, targets for the first two years were unrealistically ambitious. The number of learners, the level of demand from employers and the capacity of training providers were at first all overestimated.
"By the third year, demand for training, fuelled by substantially widened eligibility for the programme and by the recession, had increased to the point where the programme could no longer be afforded."
The scheme is managed by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), part of Peter Mandelson's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
MPs also criticised the success rates the scheme achieved, particularly in relation to the £112 million spent on skills advisers.
They also suggested half of the people who have undertaken the scheme would have received similar training from their employers without a need for public subsidy.
Ministers said the scheme allowed employees to develop and improve their skill sets and increased the productivity of businesses.