From education to employment

Unions Talk of Strike Action as 1,300 Jobs Come Under Threat

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is facing the grim prospect of axing 1,300 jobs in offices across the country, including hundreds at their national headquarters in Coventry.

It appears that the cuts will take place in both Management and front ““ line positions within the LSC, which is sure to come as a blow to the organisation and seems set to cause strong protests from unions, industry and the FE sector. The LSC, set up in 2001, said it had to be “less bureaucratic” and provide better value to the taxpayer.

Saving for Value?

The LSC have argued that this drive, part of a £40 million cost ““ cutting project, will help them to provide the most effective service possible in their mission to make England better skilled and more competitive. The proposed reorganisation would see staffing levels reduce from the present 4,700 to 3,400. Savings of £40 million would be the result, which the LSC claim would benefit 80,000 adults or alternatively 12,000 young learners.

Speaking about the proposed changes, the Chief Executive of the LSC Mark Haysom said: “If we are to develop a world-class workforce, able to compete in a complex global market, the further education sector in this country needs to be well-placed to respond to this challenge. We are working with them on a programme of change that will help to transform the delivery of vocational training in this country.”

All Change for the Agenda for Change

The LSC has recently launched the Agenda for Change, a new initiative for post 16 education provision, and Mark Haysom sees this as part of this agenda. “Our Agenda for Change will help the Further Education sector contribute significantly to the economic prospects of this country nationally, regionally and locally,” he said. “Part of the Agenda for Change is about the LSC changing too. We have a fantastic opportunity to make a real difference for learners, employers and communities up and down the land.” This echoes the statement from Rob Wye, the Director of Strategy and Communications at the LSC, who described this move as a more “strategic approach” and claimed that there would be benefits from the “lighter touch” approach.

Bill Rammell Responds

Bill Rammell, Minister of State for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning said:”Todays announcement by the Learning and Skills Council is an essential part of its Agenda for Change programme to deliver post -16 education more effectively on the ground for colleges, learning providers and students. It is also about ensuring that savings in running costs can be redirected to provide extra frontline services.

Speaking about driving standards, Bill Rammell continued: “This Government will continue to drive up participation and standards through the LSC. Delivery of teaching and learning can be enhanced by concentrating activities regionally where they can be done better at that level. A stronger local focus too on the relationships with providers themselves is crucial for the best allocation of funds for learners.”

It remains to be seen whether this will benefit the sector, and if the funds saved will be delivered to frontline services. What seems clear is that, having timed the announcement of the axing of a third of their workforce to fall on the Friday lunchtime after the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Annual Congress, they will face a storm of protest from unions.

Jethro Marsh

Should the axe fall? Elated or berating, tell us in the FE Blog

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