The National Audit Office issued a report highlighting the shortcomings of the programme. The programme, which came at a cost of £1.47 billion by March 2009, has achieved benefits for employers, but victim of ‘unrealistically ambitious’ targets and ‘inconsistent implementation’ affected its efficiency, it was claimed.

Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office said that better the programme should deliver better results for taxpayers.

“Train to Gain is achieving growth in training that employers value, but taxpayers have a right to expect that much more than half of the public funding should result in training that would not otherwise have occurred. Inconsistent management contributed to a slow start to the programme, followed by rapid growth and now the risk of demand exceeding budgets”, he said.

“We also need to see evidence that money is directed more to areas of greatest need, with training providers who do the best job for their learners and on bringing the whole range of business benefits to employers.”

Learners’ success rates however were variable between training providers. While most training providers were above the ‘minimum standard’, over a quarter of providers were performing below the minimum level which is now being introduced.

For many learners who achieved a qualification, it was their first qualification, with the scheme reaching businesses which had not previously provided training to staff.

The Learning and Skills Council, which plans and funds the delivery of the Train to Gain programme, is now taking steps to improve both management and communication of the programme, which was previously considered confusing for employers and providers.

In lights of the strong demand for training, the report concludes that this should be used as an opportunity to focus resources on the areas most needed, while selecting the best providers.