From education to employment

Exclusive Responses from LSC National Director of Skills to CBI FE Report

The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI’s) report on the attitude of employers towards FE and the future of the sector has brought forth many responses. Some of these have been positive, and some more critical.

One of the agencies to be called upon by the report to do more was the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the body responsible for distributing the FE budget of more than £9 billion. The CBI report, whilst recognising the progress made by the LSC in reforming and changing the procedures that govern the sector, calls for further change. In response, David Way, the National Director of Skills at the LSC, kindly consented to expand on his initial response and answer our questions on the LSC’s position after the CBI report.

Small Firms

One area that the CBI report found to be of concern was the level of satisfaction from their responding members with the LSC advice and guidance. In particular, the report highlighted the problems facing small firms, from which sample group only 24% of respondents expressed satisfaction with their experiences of working with the LSC. Mr. Way responded, saying: “While the LSC would want all of its contact with small employers to be helpful, we do not promote ourselves as providing a direct delivery service to small employers.

“We encourage employers to establish direct contact relations with colleges and other providers who are able to address their skills needs,” he continued. “The introduction of skills brokers will also be a major conduit for employers who will provide high quality advice to employers. The extremely high satisfaction rates for NETP/Train to Gain and the narrowing skills gaps show that the LSC and the FE sector as a whole are certainly being helpful to employers.”

The CBI’s report also states: “CBI members working with colleges report that the role of local LSCs in quality monitoring has not grown – by contrast it has diminished.” Mr. Way was asked whether this was a picture that he recognised, and he firmly refuted this image. He responded: “This is not so ““ the LSC is responsible for quality assurance of the provision it funds, and taking action where provision is of poor quality. Where we identify provision of poor quality we can now direct the college to the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA).”

Coasting Provision

It would seem that this would be an area to ask the QIA more on. Similarly on quality, the CBI report includes a call for the LSC to tackle “poor and coasting provision.” Whilst many in FE are well aware of the penalties for failure, coasting is another matter, and potentially that much harder to assess. The questions that spring to mind are: how do you assess “coasting? And further, once you locate it, how will it be penalised?

In response to this, Mr. Way said that measures were in place to tackle what he termed “underperforming” provision in FE. He stated: “We are shortly to consult on the Framework for Excellence which will help us identify underperforming provision. We will be taking action from the planning review in 2007 onwards to identify, improve and eliminate such provision.”

Finally, the CBI state in their report: “No part of the funding available for workforce development should be ring-fenced so that some providers are in a privileged and protected position. Funding should be opened up to all providers, giving employers and learners real choice.” As funding touches directly upon the responsibilities of the LSC, Mr. Way commented on this at some length.

He stated: “The LSC agrees that funding should go to those providers who are best able to meet employer and learners needs and that they should have real choice. That is why we have been through a tendering exercise to identify those providers who can best deliver workforce development. Skills brokers will help employers to exercise that choice through an informed and impartial brokerage service.”

All of us at FE News would like to thank Mr. Way for his time and trouble.

Jethro Marsh

Stay right here for From the FE Trenches!

Related Articles