Small businesses are shifting their training priorities to concentrate on areas essential for future business growth, according to the Forum of Private Business' latest research.

The report highlights an increase in the amount of growth-related training businesses are undertaking, particularly in areas such as strategic management and business development. Compared to 2012, 2013 saw a 5% increase in training to build capacity and a significant increase in strategic skills development, rising from 16% to 28%.

Alongside these growth skills, the report revealed that the number of businesses engaged in efficiency training and skill replacement fell by 9% and 13% respectively, indicating fewer redundancies and a more stable workforce.

As business confidence has grown over the past year, satisfaction with training has also improved. Small business owners highlighted to the national business group that 75% of businesses were happy with the focus of their training in 2013, up from 58% a year ago.

Despite these positive signs, Forum members did report a number of barriers to training and skills development, such as time and cost. Time management skills topped the list of skills negatively impacted by the recession; 12% of businesses reported that these skills had grown worse over the last five years, with owner managers forced to take on additional responsibilities as redundancies were made. Thirty-nine percent of businesses also reported senior management skills had been neglected, citing time and cost as the major reasons.

The Forum’s research reveals that a fifth of small businesses do not know how to overcome the training barriers they face.

This concerning statistic is timely, given the government’s Growth Voucher scheme launching today. The scheme will part-fund up to £2,000 worth of business support for small firms, and provide every eligible business with a diagnostic to identify what strategic support would assist their business in developing and growing. While not all businesses will receive a voucher, the Forum hopes to see the diagnostic provide small businesses with a clear understanding of the types of training they need to maximise their growth potential.

Chief executive Phil Orford said: “Getting the right skills for your businesses is imperative for any firm to grow. Small businesses have faced tough conditions over the past five years, but this report suggests they are beginning to lay the foundations for renewed growth.”

He continued: “It is important now that we support our small businesses to use the tools available to develop and grow. Growth Vouchers will go part of the way to providing financial support for some businesses, but it is essential we build awareness of the wide range of business support and advice currently available.”