From education to employment

Mixed reactions to new Skills Strategy

The Government’s new skills strategy has been drawing mixed reactions from across the sector, after its announcement at the Association of Colleges (AoC) conference.

Skills for Sustainable Growth and Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth were published after being introduced by Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Vince Cable.

The publications outline the Government’s planned reforms in the skills sector.

The reforms include increasing the number of Apprenticeships available to 75,000; replacing Train to Gain with a programme to help small employers train low skilled staff; and introducing Government-backed loans for learners.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has welcomed changes proposed by the Skills for Sustainable Growth paper.

The CIPD – which is one of Europe’s largest HR and development bodies – work to sustain organisational performance in business.

Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser at CIPD, praised the plans for a greater focus on leadership and management to boost capability in skills training and economic growth.

“With the economic challenges faced by this country over the next few years, boosting employment and productivity will be crucial – something that will only be achieved if the UK’s people management skills deficit is tackled,” said Mr Willmott.

“We are also extremely pleased the government has pledged to continue to support the development of these skills among small and medium sized organisations, through its Leadership and Management development grant, which the CIPD specifically called for.”

Elsewhere, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which exists to create and sustain conditions in which businesses in the UK can compete and prosper, also welcomed the creation of 75,000 apprenticeship places, and the continued investment in vocational qualifications.

Susan Anderson, CBI director for education & skills, said: “We welcome the ambitious targets that the Government has set for expanding the number of apprenticeships and its acknowledgement that co-funding will be necessary for SMEs that provide on-the-job training.

“It is right that those who have left school without basic literacy or numeracy will continue to have access to state-funded training. There is still an issue around basic skills. About half of companies are concerned about the literacy and numeracy of the current workforce, with a fifth of employers already providing remedial training for school leavers.”

However, the Northern Council for Further Education (NCFE), the national qualification awarding body, warned that a “one size fits all” approach is not the solution for vocational learning and skills training. The awarding body is urging the Government to ensure the new strategy meets the needs of the individual.

David Grailey, NCFE chief executive, said: “Whilst we welcome the Government’s intention to give vocational learning the rightful recognition it deserves in the education sector, it is important to uphold the fact that apprenticeships and vocational qualifications have long provided an alternative option to academia for many learners.

“What we are seeing from apprenticeships and those achieving vocational qualifications is that by developing the necessary and relevant skills for the workplace, learners and apprentices can actually be in a better position for gaining employment in their area of interest upon leaving education.”

Mark Astley

(Pictured: Vince Cable, Secretary of State for BIS)

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