From education to employment

Stansted Conference Welcomes ALP for Partners in Learning Conference

The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) are gathering today for the organisation’s Annual Conference, entitled “Partners in Learning 2006” to discuss the issues facing FE.

The venue for the gathering is Stansted Airport, and neither the rushing sound of jet engines overhead nor the grey drizzle of the morning dampened the spirits or curbed the commitment of the hundreds of delegates gathered from across the United Kingdom. The Conference has been the scene for a great deal of discussion and sought to focus on the road ahead for the new skills agenda for the years ahead.

Employer Training Pilots

In the past few weeks, FE has seen the publication of yet another FE White Paper; however, on this occasion, this did not mark a sudden sea ““ change in Government thinking. Instead, the White Paper confirmed what many in FE had been saying for a long time; that the key and central role for FE in the UK was to tackle the skills deficits in the workplace and in the workforce, and that the sector as such should be made more “demand ““ led” to guarantee that employers are benefiting from better trained and motivated workers.

The conference has today witnessed a number of clear messages, and not least a call for government proposals aimed at making publicly funded learning more responsive to the demands of employers and individual learners to be enacted swiftly. After the successful implementation of the Employer Training Pilots, these proposals indicate that employers and learners should be able to select the type of provider they wish to work with as a part of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) programme’s team. A four year plan has been set out to achieve this.

Messages from Conference

The conference has also received the attention of Bill Rammell MP, the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, and the ALP Chairman sought to gain assurances from the busy minister as to the implementation of these measures. Martin Dunford, the ALP Chairman, also took the opportunity to comment on the lack of progress made towards clarifying the mess surrounding the New Deal at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), echoing the earlier calls for the training functions and budgets of Jobcentre Plus to be transferred to the remit of the LSC.

Speaking of the issues facing the smorgasbord of a “contestability marketplace”, Mr. Dunford said: “It is imperative that all of the Government’s intentions regarding a contested market, focused on using only the best providers rather than a historically preferred type of provider, are fully implemented quickly. This will ensure that a key objective of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 is finally, and belatedly, fulfilled.”

Mr. Dunford also mentioned the leading position occupied by the ALP in terms of e ““ learning delivery, particularly in the case of a programme benefiting from direct funding from the LSC. The importance of e ““ learning in the modern educational environment is apparent, and the delegates learnt more of the success of this scheme to build on the awareness of the potential for e-learning to drive up the quality and effectiveness of training programmes. On the issue of extending this provision for a second year, Mr. Dunford said: “This will further position ALP in the forefront of quality developments to the benefit of both the learners and employers we serve.”

Quality in FE has bee praised by many sides of the multi ““ faceted geometry that represents the sector. Acknowledging the importance of the ALP’s work, Bill Rammell said: “The role of work-based learning providers is vitally important and we will fail to achieve our skills objectives if we do not accelerate the pace of change in the Further Education system. We need the colleges and providers that make up the FE system to achieve their full potential as the power house of a high skills economy.”

Jethro Marsh

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