Small businesses look for new ways to provide their staff with skills training in a bid to avoid expensive courses

A new study has shown that many small businesses in the UK are looking for alternatives to costly staff training courses.

The research by the Forum of Private Business found that nearly half (48%) of companies make use of supplier training, and more than four in ten (41%) rely on public sector training provided by colleges or local authorities.

Just under four in ten (38%) said they use services from accountants or other trusted advisers, while around a third (34%) prefer personal coaching and mentoring.

Nearly three in ten small businesses (28%) use online training services, while one in four (24%) offer their staff DIY training including industry tips. More than one in five (22%) rely on guides and handbooks, one in seven (14%) analyse competitors, and 3% use self-help videos.

The majority of those polled (61%) admitted that financial factors are the main reasons why they are increasingly looking for alternative methods of training.

Four in ten (40%) said that the availability of training is also a problem, while around three in ten (28%) bemoaned the poor quality of employee courses. Just over one in five (22%) complained that training courses take up too much time.

The research suggests that these barriers to training could have a negative impact on recruitment and might affect economic growth in the long term.

The forum's chief executive, Phil Orford, said: "For the sake of small businesses and the economy, it is important that small businesses are able to access the right training for their staff at the right price.

"Unfortunately, while there have been some improvements recently, this is often not the case at present. But entrepreneurs are finding ways to provide the skills training their staff need that are more affordable than traditional routes such as expensive courses.

"This is particularly relevant given the training and guidance required in order to negotiate the minefield of red tape."

The study also found that around two-thirds (64%) of small firms include regulatory compliance in their training budget, while just under one in two (45%) put the main emphasis on replacing those skills lost when individual workers leave their businesses.

A total of 44% said they focus on continuing personal development and professional skills, and around four in ten (41%) offer their staff efficiency training to improve productivity.

Copyright Press Association 2012