NEARLY a quarter of businesses in the East of England would like to provide training for their staff but are not sure what they need, a survey by Business Link has found.

With workforce development playing such a vital role in business success, now is the time for local businesses to benefit from free support that will outline the wealth of training options on offer, the doomed free Government-sponsored support service for small companies says.

Pat Smith, chief executive of Business Link in the East of England said: "Developing a skilled workforce can help your business thrive - choosing the right employee training sets it apart from the competition, and can increase productivity, staff motivation and profits.

"Making sense of the various training methods and schemes available can be a challenge, but support is at hand. Experienced Business Link skills advisers are available to discuss the training needs of a workforce, and provide information on funding and provision, no matter what the industry."

The survey also discovered that 16 per cent of small businesses in the region do not provide any training opportunities for their staff.

With Apprenticeship Week coming up next week, local businesses are being urged to take note of the variety of training options available and make the most of them to help their business thrive. "Free and impartial advice from a Business Link skills adviser can help make these options clear - and customers are certainly seeing the benefit, with satisfaction levels of those working with skills advisers reaching 93.7 per cent," BLE said.

Business Link's skills advisers offer employers a training needs review to help them identify the training objectives of their workforce, the options and funding available, and help prioritise staff training needs.

"Taking on an apprentice is just one of the ways in which employers can increase productivity as a result of equipping them with the skills needed to build business success," a spokesman said. "In fact, research has found that 81 per cent of businesses that took on an apprentice agreed that it made their workplace more productive.

"Apprenticeships are a viable option for many businesses, with training up to three levels (Levels 2, 3, and Higher Level 4) currently available in more than 80 different industry sectors. Those wanting to take on an apprentice to fill a skills gap can discuss details of available support with a skills adviser - for example, apprenticeships are currently fully funded for 16- to 18-year-olds.

"Advisers can also help identify other training and skills support on offer to local businesses, including free Business Link workshops, Skills for Life funding towards basic numeracy and literacy training, and Response to Redundancy funding to help with retraining.

INFORMATION: Contact Business Link on 08457 17 16 15 or visit www.businesslink.gov.uk/east