From education to employment

Chris Humphries, director general of City & Guilds, speaks to FE News about his future role as chie

Chris Humphries has seen City & Guilds, the awarding body grow significantly during his seven years as director general. The organisation has doubled in size and arguably played a part in moving vocational education up the political agenda. But now Chris Humphries is moving on, taking up a new post in the New Year at the newly established UK Commission for Employment and Skills(CES).

He told FE News: “I will miss City & Guilds phenomenally, it is the best job I”ve had but this next one is a huge challenge that I couldn”t pass up. It will involve making the skills system more responsive and employment driven. In order to do that we have to try and simplify the system and make it more understandable for both individuals and employers.”

The establishment of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills was a key recommendation of the Leitch report. It will take over the remit of the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) and the National Employment Panel (NEP) and work closely with DIUS and DWP as well as other Government departments in an attempt to draw together the skills and training programme and employment.

Chris Humphries explains: “We have a four nation agenda to provide a joined up service for employers and learners whilst recognising the differences that devolution brings. We need greater transparency in the skills system to get employers to trust in it. That is where the commissioners will come in ““ working across the public, private and voluntary sectors and with trade unions as well as employers”

The commissioners are currently being appointed. So far, aside from Chris Humphries, the only other appointment to be made to the CES is its chair, Sir Michael Rake of BT. The Commission’s official launch date is April 2008 with two major reviews planned for 2010.

The first of these is to review whether there should be a statutory commitment within the skills/employment system. The second report will look at ideas or proposals for better integration of skills and employment.

In the meantime the CES will have an advisory role, researching and evaluating the employment and skills system and providing advice and ideas to Government.

The Commission will also have responsibility for the oft-maligned Sector Skills Councils (SSCs). Chris Humphries defends the organisations, unsurprisingly as he chaired the Skills Taskforce which recommended the creation of a skills council network.

He admits that some SSCs have been more effective than others but says this is because “they have been built on a range of different foundations. Some councils were built on organisations that had been around for 25 years and were already well-grouped with clear objectives whereas other SSCs represent new sectors that don”t have that history.

“Sandy Leitch reinforced the view that SSCs are a sound idea. His report recommended they present themselves around a clear and simplified agenda and that they re-license in order to get them to reform and possibly regroup. Our aim is to strengthen the SSC network and make it more coherent, ensuring employers are informed and their needs are being met.”

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