From education to employment

FE News speaks to Steven Tilsley

I think the vision and ambition of Leitch is absolutely spot on. In terms of what they are trying to achieve, I cannot argue with that. The principles they are looking for; shared responsibility, focus on valuable skills, demand-led skills, keep it simple and not to change existing structures, are fair enough.

I think its whether what they”re recommending and proposing is what they will deliver. The main recommendation of increasing adult skills across all levels; again, we would all like to do that, but actually delivering an extra £3 to £4 billion a year of employer investment is substantial. We are already investing about £26 billion a year, so I don”t know where that is expected to come from employers or whether some from government.

But the objective is admirable; it’s just a question of how we get there. The routing of adult skills through Train to Gain and Learner Accounts is probably a good idea, and it will streamline and simplify things. I think the plan to streamline the Learning and Skills Council is a good and sensible move.

Obviously as an employer, I agree with strengthening the employer voice. But the new “Commission for Employment and Skills” body feels like an unnecessary addition to the 30-odd bodies we have in learning and skills at the moment. On the other hand, I think they are trying to rationalise the existing ones, so hopefully, if there is a net reduction in the number of bodies involved in training and skills, and there is a strengthening of the employer voice, then we would welcome that.

In the main, the report is relatively well balanced. I think the “reforming, re-licensing and reforming” the SSC’s ““ well I agree with that; there does need a strengthening there. But I think the problem is that it cannot all be achieved with employers” money. And to get us to double the number of apprenticeships, which again in itself is admirable, will only happen by a lot of marketing, investment, persuasion and support from employers. They”re not going to do that without some support from government.

I think the SSCs are not well funded ““ they need more funding to help deliver these ambitious targets.

I think one of the good things is moving from Level 2 to Level 3 and a recognition that we need to move up which is really very good. Also on top of that, a willingness to fund Level 4 because up until now, Level 4 has not really been funded by government. At the end of the day, if we trained managers better, then we have a better chance of them upskilling their workforce, because they”ll see the benefits of it.

If we compare management processes and practices over here, we”re way behind the USA, Germany, Japan and France. If we can get that level of expertise up, that will filter through.

We”ve got some world-class businesses over here, but they will not be impacted. Toyota, Nissan, BMW and British Aerospace for example ““ they all invest heavily in training. The target areas are those companies that don”t invest.

We want to strengthen the employer voice ““ we feel we are more effective in sectors to drive through, and part of the problem we have at the moment is that our voice gets diluted. When you apply action to the regions, all of a sudden your sector drives becomes more diluted. That is still an area this report does not address.

If it does strengthen the SSCs into fewer, better SSCs, then that will help. What is probably being said between the lines is that we need to rationalise the 25 or so SSCs further.

One of the concerns I have is with this “Commission for Employment and Skills” being accountable to government, and responsible for managing the employer voice – but why does the employer voice need managing? Are we not saying the right things?

As an overview, the report will take us a further step down the journey. But I think we”ve got a way to go before we are in a position to challenge America and Germany.

Steven Tilsley, Managing Director and Chair of MetSec.

Related FE News articles:

“It Is An Enormous Opportunity” – 06/12/06

“Dont Give Employers Taxpayers Money” – 06/12/06

Concerns Over Leitch Report – 06/12/06

Breaking News – Lord Leitchs Final Report Published – 05/12/06

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