Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Skills straitjacket

I've written a piece for a new Learndirect publication on skills, called Vision 2020, arguing for a more inclusive approach to skills policy that meets employers' and learners' real needs. You can read the article here. This is an extract:

Employers should more readily be able to help design programmes that meet their needs, and this won't always be done through sector skills councils. Many providers, including learndirect and some colleges, run centres in larger company premises. And they need to have greater flexibility both in funding and qualification recognition to design the courses that will benefit local employers and employees most, even if that doesn't immediately fit into the level 2 - or level 3 - straitjacket. Bite-size qualifications should not just be encouraged; they should be better supported financially.

That's where the new skills accounts are so important. The first individual learning accounts suffered from fraud, a problem of lax regulation, rather than the concept of an account that people can use to help support their own training. Well-regulated accounts work successfully in Scotland and Sweden, with trials under way in other European countries. Hopefully, we can move quickly from pilots to a universal system.

Politically, the level 2 pledge cannot be watered down. But there is no reason why the individual employer should not have a proper skills account for training that is not free as well as the employee. Their Train to Gain account, if you like. They could then see a full menu of available training - with government subsidising 50% of its cost - and use that account to buy what they really need from local providers. It would be more appealing and potentially more effective than any levy, and could also be linked to university courses.

1 comment:

Duncan O'Leary said...

Hi Conor,

i agree with the thrust of your argument - that the system is still too prescriptive about what it will fund, which damages its chances of being truly 'demand-led'. Isn't there another implication of this: that the idea that government can/should decide which qualifications are 'economically valuable' (and therefore publicly fundable) is also part of the problem?