From education to employment

Training providers had hoped for demand-led system by 2010

Training leaders have expressed major concern at the Government’s decision not to follow Lord Leitch’s recommendation that a fully demand-led system for adult skills should be introduced by 2010.

The Leitch implementation plan, published by the DIUS today, says that this timeline would create “unacceptable risks to the performance and stability of colleges and providers”. Instead the Government will review on an annual basis the structure of publicly funded provision, while accepting Leitch’s direction of travel towards a demand-led system.

The Association of Learning Providers (ALP), the leading voice of independent vocational learning providers, believes that the Leitch recommendation placed customers” needs first, i.e. the needs of employers and individual learners, and was vital for delivering the skills that employers require if Britain is to respond strongly to the global economic challenge. Its independent members have serious difficulty understanding why they have been included in the document’s argument about risk and the need for protection, when as independent businesses, risk is all that they have ever known.

ALP chief executive Graham Hoyle said today: “Our members are happy to place their faith in their ability to meet the demands of their employer and individual learner customers. We have the capacity to meet expanded demand, so why not let us get on with delivering it?”

Last year, the Labour-dominated education select committee in its report on Further Education addressed the issue of “protectionism” and commented: “Like the Association of Learning Providers, we welcome moves by the Learning and Skills Council to make public funding more accessible to quality, established independent providers who are able to demonstrate the capacity to expand.” The MPs went on to describe a diversified base of providers as a “laudable aim”.

Graham Hoyle said: “If some providers are not ready to respond to Leitch’s blueprint for adult skills, then there are plenty of others who are. My members have become increasingly frustrated by a system which means, for example, that they have sometimes had to turn away employers and young people wanting Train to Gain places or Apprenticeships because funding has been ring-fenced elsewhere. Many sub-contracting arrangements between providers have often provided poor value for the taxpayer as well. We are therefore very concerned that many employers and individual learners may not be able to exercise genuine choice over the provider they want for a very long time.”

ALP has pointed out previously that a single funding system open to all quality providers under the Learning and Skills Council was in fact a goal of the 1999 “Learning to Succeed” white paper.

Graham Hoyle added: “I can assure ALP’s members that we will not let the matter rest and we hope that the employer organisations will also voice their displeasure at these developments.”

On other aspects of the Leitch Implementation Plan, ALP is extremely positive. The Association says that introducing the new Skills Accounts is entirely consistent with a demand-led framework.

ALP is also very pleased with the restated intention that the UK will have 500,000 people a year in Apprenticeships by 2020.

ALP Chief Executive, Graham Hoyle, commented, Overall, this has to be seen as a welcome andpositive response to Leitch and reconfirms the direction of travel that ALP ahs long called for, andthat has been under way for the last couple of years. We believe they could have been bolder, andwould have preferred them to put our claims to the test. This is not to be yet. I have no doubtpeople will look back in 2010 realising we could have done all this quicker .

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