From education to employment

ALP wants better management of skills provision

The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) has called on government to organise skills-provision under one agency.

Speaking on yesterday’s release of the Local Government White Paper, Graham Hoyle, ALP Chief Executive, said: “The Association of Learning Providers welcomes the white paper’s proposals to bring skills provision under the Learning and Skills Council and Jobcentre Plus closer together under the proposed new Employment and Skills Boards and we look forward to seeing what else Lord Leitch proposes”.

However, he did stress the need for clearer structures in government-funded provision, citing: “But ultimately if the Government is serious about achieving its 80% employment rate aspiration, we believe that all government-funded skills provision should be brought together under one agency. Leitch needs to seize the opportunity to get the framework for skills right once and for all”.

The White Paper, unveiled yesterday by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly, states: “A number of core cities have proposed “Skills and Employment Boards” to assess the current and future skills needs of the local labour market to enable partners to plan more effectively to meet them”.

“There is no standard model for a Skills and Employment Board. Some boards being proposed are employer-led, others led by local authorities; some would operate at the local authority level within a well-bounded urban area; others might cover a city-region to reflect travel to work areas and wider market interactions”.

“Different arrangements will suit different areas and we are not seeking a “one size fits all” approach. It will be important to maintain this flexible approach so that local arrangements can respond to wider recommendations on skills and employment emerging from the Leitch Review”.

Ruth Kelly said on the launch of the White Paper: “We expect to see more accountability to local citizens, stronger local leadership, better and more efficient services and a readiness to support tougher intervention when things go wrong. The White Paper sets out how we intend to achieve this re-balancing between central government, local government and local people”.

However, Andrew Stunell, Liberal Democrat Shadow Local Government Secretary, commented on the proposals: “This is an unimpressive rehash of tired and failed policies, rather than the radical devolution the Government promised”.

“This White Paper is a completely wasted opportunity. There’s no transfer of powers or money from Whitehall to town halls”.

On the issue of globalisation, the White Paper outlines private sector support: “If we are to compete as a nation we must have cities that can hold their own on the global stage. Much of this will come down to the dynamism of the private sector. But research shows that the quality of government ““ national, regional and local ““ also matters a lot. It determines the economic policies, the public services, the skills base and the infrastructure that allows cities to maximise their potential and make the most of their assets”.

Focusing on the progress Labour has made so far, the report continues: “Since 1998, skills levels have risen and the proportion of those with no qualifications has fallen in all regions. The percentage of the economically active England population with Level 2 skills or above increased from 63% in 1996 to 73% in 2005″.

Regional Development Agency One NorthEast commented on the release of the White Paper. Chief Executive Alan Clarke said: “Whilst the proposed new local authority overview and scrutiny committees have the potential to strengthen further the democratic accountability of public bodies, we are keen to work with Government on how this can be streamlined to make it as efficient and effective as possible”.

He added: “We recognise that responsibility for economic development at the regional and local authority levels needs to be simplified and clearly defined and we will continue to work with Government through the current sub-national review as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007″.

Vijay Pattni.

Related Articles