From education to employment

Mixed reaction to Governments skills plan

The Government’s Leith implementation plan has received a mixed response from across the industry. There is disagreement across the sector on whether the needs of the individual learner have been given enough consideration or if too much focus has gone on employers needs. There is welcome of the initiatives for employers such as the new Commission for Employers and Skills but others feel they have not gone far enough.

The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) has expressed disappointment that the Government is not implementing the recommendation that course-led funding is in place by 2010. Although the Government endorsed a move towards demand-led training it said that the time constraint of 2010 would be “de-stabilising ” for colleges and training providers.

The ALP disagrees. Chief Executive Graham Hoyle said: “If some providers are not ready to respond to Leitch’s blueprint for adult skills, then there are plenty of others who are. My members have become increasingly frustrated by a system which means, for example, that they have sometimes had to turn away employers and young people wanting Train to Gain places or Apprenticeships because funding has been ring-fenced elsewhere.”

Graham Hoyle added: “I can assure ALP’s members that we will not let the matter rest and we hope that the employer organisations will also voice their displeasure at these developments.”

The TUC Union believes that the skills plan recognises the importance of the individuals needs, and is broadly welcoming of it. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “The UKs previous focus on skills only ever seemed concerned with what a lack of education and training meant for employers and their productivity. Todays announcement is a real departure in that it recognises that individuals who improve their skills through workplace learning can look forward to rewarding careers and an enhanced earning potential.”

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) sees it differently. Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: “We fully support the need to improve skills in the UK. But the Government’s proposals reinforce the current over-emphasis for all education in the UK to be focussed on what employers say they want.

“The needs of adult learners should not be lost in the current obsession with employers” needs. Adult learners have family and job responsibilities which might dictate how and where they can learn, and these need to be taken into account.”

The University and College Union (UCU)agrees that there has been too much focus on employers needs: “The government is currently confusing the learning needs of the public with the short term skills needs of employers,” said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt. “Funding is increasingly being concentrated on qualifications for employers to the exclusion of broader skills for peoples development. Of course we need a highly trained adult workforce for the future, but skills are not just for work – people need roses with their bread”.

Dr John Brennan, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges(AoC), said: “Colleges look forward to playing a major role in the delivery of the plan, and welcome in particular the commitment to pilot opportunities to develop their own qualifications, to extend the brokerage role of providers and the creation of a universal careers service.

“However, colleges would like to see stronger mechanisms to unleash employer investment in training. Further debate on the use of levies and licence to practice as additional instruments are welcome, as is the new Commission for Employers and Skills.

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