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    The latest in the series of employer comments on the state of play in skills in the UK has been published by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and has begun to generate a response from affected agencies.

    Amongst those highlighted in the report was the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). The report highlighted the need for further reform from the point of view of employers, whilst recognising the work already undertaken to change the way in which the sector runs. The LSC have responded by largely agreeing with the CBI's findings in improving employer engagement.

    CBI

    The report addresses the LSC's performance, stating that, in spite of the freedoms that are given the body to innovate progress has "remained slow." The report also states that satisfaction rates with the LSC amongst the employers surveyed is not as high as it could be. From the 61% of firms that have been in contact with their local LSC, only 31% found the information received to be of any help for their particular needs.

    The report also stated that the smaller firms were feeling even more ignored in terms of advice and guidance; only 24% of smaller firms found the information to be relevant and useful to them. However, the CBI acknowledges that the LSC is fully seized of the need to change, quoting from Mark Haysom, the Chief Executive, who said: "We have to play an active role, and more importantly we know that role has to be rebalanced." The CBI go on to state, however: "The LSC must begin to manage the market by creating a level playing field "“ funding the best value provision, regardless of provider, and giving clear signals to the market by rewarding success and penalising failure."

    The Response from the LSC

    David Way, the National Director of Skills at the LSC, responded to the report, stating: "We agree with the CBI that we should commission the best provision regardless of who is providing it. We"ve been working with the CBI for some time on our very successful Employer Training Programme (ETP) and recently, Train to Gain (T2G), a service which provides employers with training experts who have access to high quality training providers. We are in the middle of a nationwide tendering exercise to decide who the best providers are to meet the needs of employers and young people."

    Mr. Way continued: "This service achieves excellent results and very high satisfaction rates. It has been designed with employers who say it is what they need. Our agenda for change, another programme that the CBI has been working with us on for a little while now, focuses on transforming the Further Education sector to deliver better for the taxpayer.

    "We"re moving forward swiftly with these reforms which will benefit employers and individuals across the country," Mr. Way said. "It is worth reminding people that the achievement rates in FE and Apprenticeships have been increasing rapidly in recent years, only 3% of colleges are now considered to be inadequate compared with 20% at the birth of the LSC. We will also be reporting a significant decrease in the skills gap later on this week when the results of our annual National Employer Skills Survey are announced."

    Jethro Marsh

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