From education to employment

FE News exclusive with Lawrence Miles, Chi

“Give Employers lots of Taxpayers” Money” is the answer to the long awaited question put to Lord Leitch all those years ago. Low marks there I”m afraid. However, high marks for: “Think of a ten-word fantasy skills sentence for a report title containing only upbeat words without repeating yourself” with “Prosperity for all in the global economy – world class skills”. Although try not to over-egg it by using “global” and “world” too close together. Try “planet-wide” or “bi-hemispherical” to increase gravitas.

The Government realised a few years ago that those over fifty could be shafted without anybody kicking up a fuss (cf. The Great Pensions Robbery). This has increased their confidence in applying the same strategy to Further Education by savagely cutting opportunities for adults. Strangely, even being just over nineteen, opportunities will be in short supply. If you are over sixty plans have been put in place to reduce your participation by a quarter. Fortunately, its disadvantaged vulnerable adults that have been targeted and I suppose focus groups reckon they won”t kick up much of a fuss.

The Leitch Report has shown scant regard for this attack on older learners, no doubt making the usual assumptions without a full appreciation of the really serious economic and social consequences of abandoning such an important age group that will cost more to support without access to educational attainment, practical skills and wider learning.

Leitch misses a trick here: remember with little or no pension, older workers and those forced off benefit will in future be active in the workplace for another ten to fifteen years. Their first port of call will be their local FE college where staff have an enviable track record, going back decades, of rapidly re-skilling older unemployed learners and those with rusty skills returning to work.

Employers don”t do that. Some compulsory health & safety training or manager development is the norm. More than half of employers don”t buy any external training for their staff. Sure you can name me a dozen Lord-led companies established a century ago that have a commitment to training but mostly employers want to acquire trained staff, not train. Most companies are too small, too busy; too lean. They look to local colleges, and why?

Because local colleges are the largest skills” suppliers to the Economy; ten times more vocational qualifications are delivered by colleges than through employers. The average local college will have anywhere between 500 and 750 active employer links. Sorry Lord Leitch, “Economically valuable skills” has already been bagged as FE’s mantra.

So what’s the problem? Further Education & Training needs a “Commission for Employment and Skills” like it needs avian influenza. Employers in the main do not want “a stronger voice”. Some employers, however, can see the advantage of being closer to the training budget purse strings. More subsidies for employers means a million less FE places for individuals.

I say, “Don”t give employers lots of taxpayers” money”. There’s no return on the investment.

Lawrence Miles, Chief Officer, Independent Organisation for Licensed Verifiers and Assessors (IVA).

Related FE News articles:

“It Is An Enormous Opportunity” – 06/12/06

Breaking News – Lord Leitchs Final Report Published – 05/12/06

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