From education to employment

Minister for Lifelong Learning, Higher and Further Education Sees CBI Echoing “Sweeping C

Responding to the report released on the FE sector by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Higher and Further Education Bill Rammell MP welcomed the recommendations for a more competitive approach to training for the workplace and workforce.

The CBI report called for an end to ring fenced funding and the further opening of the FE provision market to competitive tendering. The CBI believes that this will drive up the quality of the provision on offer through a competitive ethos. They further feel that the opening of the FE sector will encourage tailoring courses to suit the demands of employers, which is in keeping with the policy expressed by the Government and by Sir Andrew Foster in his review of the FE sector.

In this review of the sector, Sir Andrew Foster called for FE to become the engine room for the economy. With the often expressed fear of “globalisation” and the challenge posed by the growing skills levels of competitor nations, the complaints from the employers of the skills gaps in their present workforce are areas of concern. The CBI’s findings of employer participation and satisfaction are at odds with the National Employer Skills Survey (NESS) from 2005, and have come in for criticism from the Association of Colleges (AoC) for calling for more commitments from colleges towards employers.

A Welcome for the Report

However, the broad sweep of the CBI report would appear to be in keeping with the trends of today. Reacting to the CBI report, Mr. Rammell welcomed the proposals and pointed out that they are in keeping with the current thrust of Government policy. He said: “The proposals in the CBI report will be helpful as we deliver a more responsive and innovative Further Education system.

Mr. Rammell continued, saying: “The sweeping changes in the Governments FE White Paper are already transforming the system to help it achieve its potential as the powerhouse of a high skills economy, and the CBI is a key partner in this. And the CBI very much welcomed the White Paper. The new employer led Sector Skills Councils will ensure skills priorities are met.”

Skills Academies

Mr. Rammell also discussed the National Skills Academies programme and said he believes they will form an important part of meeting skills demands. He said: “The National Skills Academies will enable more employers to deliver the specific skills needed to improve productivity of their sector. The Train to Gain (T2G) service will deliver the training employers say they need. The amount of adult funding which is demand led is set to rise to 40% by 2010-11 with the bulk being demand led by 2015-16.

“Where needed, we will open up provision to competition to improve quality,” he concluded. “There should be no unsatisfactory provision in the sector by 2008, and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) will tackle coasting provision too. Success rates have increased to75% from 59% in 2000/01 showing that performance is improving. We are accelerating the pace of change but the reforms cannot be achieved unless employers become fully engaged.”

Jethro Marsh

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