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Train to Gain faces “massive reduction” in delivery, says ALP

Training providers are predicting an underspend for the government’s Train to Gain and apprenticeship programmes next year, despite the large growth in employer demand for the programmes over recent months.

The Association of Learning Providers says a lack of management control over the £2 billion budget for both programmes is the root cause of the problem. Frustration among its members has been heightened by a belief that the required cash is available but it is not being released by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) across the English regions.

Skills secretary John Denham has confirmed that training providers and colleges will receive payment for all trainees in learning before 1 April this year, but providers have been told that they were facing big cuts in their indicative contract values for 2009-10. Yet despite promises at senior levels that these values were being reviewed, providers have been unable to get locally the specific assurances they need to maintain capacity and financial viability. Providers have therefore begun cutting back on provision and issuing redundancy notices to staff.

ALP chief executive Graham Hoyle told FE News: "We are still, sadly, currently moving towards a massive reduction in volumes for the rest of 2009 – a reduction of course that has already started."

ALP points out that if the LSC manages to sort out the finances for Train to Gain, and providers see reductions in the proposed cuts for their contracts, the current release of staff will impact on capacity to deliver the programme next year.

Training providers have also voiced frustration at an ‘over-simplistic’ analysis by officials over why things have gone wrong. Providers have been congratulated for stimulating unprecedented demand from employers for Train to Gain after ALP’s recommendations for making the programme more flexible were accepted before the start of the year, but at the same time they appear to have been blamed for being too successful. ALP argues that providers have always been aware that the programme had an overall finite budget and this is why it had submitted proposals two years ago on how the LSC could manage successfully the demand-led core of programme, by for example switching funding allocations from poor to good performing providers within a 12-month contract period.

Providers complain that they have seen little evidence of this ‘real-time management’ in the regions despite the well-publicised £100 million underspend last year.

(Pictured: ALP chief executive Graham Hoyle)

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