From education to employment

LSC defends Train to Gain after critical NAO report

The National Audit Office (NAO), the government spending watchdog, released a report earlier this week criticising the Train to Gain programme as "unrealistically ambitious".

The head of NAO, Amyas Morse, said: "In our view, over its full lifetime the programme has not provided good value for money. Unrealistically ambitious initial targets and ineffective implementation have reduced the efficiency of the programme while the rapid changes to the design of Train to Gain to generate employer demand have presented a considerable challenge for the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

"Inconsistent management and communication have led to confusion among employers, training providers and skills brokers, and have also increased programme risks."

The report reflected many provider’s concerns over the government’s flagship scheme to help employers train their staff.

"This is a well-balanced report identifying what’s gone right as well as wrong," a spokesman for the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) told FE News.

"The positive observations from employers on the impact that Train to Gain has made for their businesses are very encouraging and lend credence to the argument, proposed in the recent ALP paper on future procurement arrangements, that we should measure success in terms of more than just qualification attainment."

However, LSC said its own findings told a completely different story, and insisted taxpayers were receiving great value for money.

A spokeswoman for the LSC, which funds the FE system in England, said: "We would strongly disagree that Train to Gain has not delivered good value for money- the majority of employers report that Train to Gain has improved productivity. Over one million learners have benefited from training through Train to Gain and there is a 71 per cent success rate. Train to Gain is successful in achieving additionality- 70 per cent of employers already training have been able to access training for staff who they had not trained before, and 69 per cent trained more staff than they could have otherwise. Employers also reported that Train to Gain had increased the amount or quality of training.

"Train to Gain does provide a high quality service – 95 per cent of learners and 91 per cent of employers expressed satisfaction with the training and the provider who delivered it. The Government is committed to giving employers the help they need to invest in training for their staff, so that they can survive the economic downturn and emerge stronger in the upturn. Train to Gain funding will rise to over £1 billion by 2010-2011, helping ensure providers have capacity and incentive to offer high-quality training and achieve successful outcomes. Since national rollout began in April 2006, Train to Gain has engaged around 140,000 employers and has delivered almost one million people starting training.

"Train to Gain has been instrumental in making workplace training more responsive to the needs of employers, and flexibilities on offer have helped to increase learner numbers rapidly so more employees benefit. We are pleased that so many employers are training their staff and benefiting from Train to Gain. Recent increase in demand is very encouraging, especially at this time in the economic downturn. We are focusing support on those who need it most – 75 per cent of employers engaged by skills brokers are ‘hard to reach’ compared to a target of 51 per cent. Train to Gain does give real business benefits; two-thirds of employers have reported improved long-term competitiveness, and 61 per cent an increase in productivity.

"The new Skills Funding Agency is being custom-designed to work with employers, colleges, and providers to make sure that the system really delivers for learners and employers within a demand-led system."



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