From education to employment

“Now is the time to consider a single funding agency for employment and skills”, say vocational

Ministers from both DIUS and DWP will be at the Association of Learning Providers” autumn conference this week to hear calls to look seriously at merging the Learning and Skills Council and Jobcentre Plus training budgets into one national funding agency for employment and skills.

For five years, ALP has been pressing for closer working between the LSC and JCP because its members, who deliver contracts for both agencies, firmly believe that arming the non-employed with skills results in more sustainable employment. This argument attracted the support of Lord Leitch when he published his wide-ranging report on skills last December.

In the light of the recent DWP green paper on welfare reform and the DIUS considering the positioning of adult skills funding from 2010, ALP feels that now is the right time for ministers to set aside Whitehall “turf issues” and look seriously at the possibility of merging the JCP employability and LSC skills budgets into one national agency. This will not only contribute to more effective delivery of public services, but will benefit individual clients and employers with a more holistic approach.

ALP chief executive, Graham Hoyle, comments, “The activity since July has been intriguing. ALP has argued hard for the transfer of JCP training monies to the LSC in order to coherently tackle the adult training needs of the country. There seems a real possibility that the combining of these funds could happen in a couple of year’s time, but it might be, of course, that the “direction of travel” is reversed and it is the LSC funds that are moved into either the DWP or some new joint funding body.

“Whilst ALP members will undoubtedly have thoughts and opinions about the ultimate positioning of the funding responsibility, the important thing is that these complementary funding blocks are brought together in a flexible yet coherent way. It is interesting to note that the widespread dissatisfaction over many years with JCP procurement activities has been replaced with a still cautious, but much more positive, reaction to the new procurement strategies and approach being explored by DWP, who have taken over these responsibilities. There are clearly some big issues here but any move to bring these funding blocks together would be seen by ALP as a very positive move in the right direction.”

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