Government revamps post-16 education to make it more relevant to employers

Secretary of State for Education and Skills Charles Clarke has promised more
joined-up thinking for the post-16 years education and training sector, and
less bureaucracy.

His plans were announced as details were released to make the Modern
Apprentice (MA) scheme more attractive to employers by making skills more
relevant and flexible.

Addressing the Association of Learning Providers’ Partners in Learning 2003
conference, Clarke said: "A diverse and strong provider base is vital to
our plans in the post-16 sector to allow all our young people to reach their
potential, to give those whose main-stream education has failed, a vital second
chance and lay firm foundations for lifelong learning."

He drew attention to the employers’ agenda. "A high-quality, credible
network of work-based learning providers is essential to ensure employers’
skills needs are understood and training is in place to meet them," he
told delegates at the conference in Birmingham last month.

The DfES is pressing on with its promotion of Modern Apprenticeships and has
set targets of 28 per cent of 16-21 year olds entering the scheme by 2004/05.
Latest estimates show it will have achieved 99 per cent of its interim targets
for 2002/03 with 149,000 young people being part of the system.

It has promised to work with the new employer-led MA Taskforce to promote
the scheme and steer their future development.

Speaking after the conference, deputy chairman of the new taskforce Ian
Ferguson said employers still perceived MAs as being too bureaucratic and
inflexible ."

Ferguson, chairman of software company Data Connection, wants to see
employers take their own initiative to develop MA models which would then be approved
by Sector Skills Councils "But the first thing to do is improve
awareness," he said. "And we need to do more work to make them more
flexible."

Ferguson said it is recognised that many young people need extra support.
"In August the new Entry to Employment programme will be rolled out
nationally, " he said. "This is for disadvantaged and disaffected
young people to gain the skills needed to progress to Foundation MAs,
employment or further vocational learning."

Clarke had outlined the need for bureaucracy to be pruned – a challenge
handed to the chairman of the Bureaucracy Taskforce, Sir George Sweeney, who
will draw up recommendation for work-based learning providers following similar
work last year on Further Education colleges.

"The aim is to try to identify those things the system generates which
are not serving the interests of young people," Sweeney told Training
Magazine. "The more pounds we can push down to the frontline, the
better," he said.

Sweeney’s department will set up a ‘star chamber’ of regulations, publish
its conclusions and produce a final report in March 2004.

By Stephanie Sparrow

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