Will the LSCs get the balance right?

The
muted launch of the LSCs may
not bode well, says Lucie Carrington. But she asks users and policymakers to
prove her wrong

There were no live
link-ups, not even a modest video, in fact the event was almost low key.
Nonetheless, Learning and Skills Councils went live last month with a pledge to
inspire us all to become learners – and £5.5bn to do it, rising to £6.5bn in
2003.

The politicians were there to make a
big show of their commitment. Three education and employment ministers –
including the Secretary of State – turned out at Southwark Cathedral to welcome
us to the world of synergy and co-operation. The LSC chairman and chief
executive were there too, along with other members of the council.

What employers want to know now is
when LSCs will deliver and what’s in it for them. Chairman Bryan Sanderson
claims that 40 per cent of LSC members – nationally and locally – are from
business. A closer study of the list of names suggests a rather generous view
of business, and employers may well feel swamped by educationalists. This could
be a problem if the LSC is to marry the needs of individual learners with those
of employers – there is no guarantee that they are the same.

David Blunkett

Secretary of State, DfEE

The LSC’s initial task
will be to change the culture, and the second to change reality. But it will
take two to three years before the full benefits of the synergy that learning
and skills councils bring will show through.

I expect the first year will be
spent sorting out the practical aspects of the change and then getting people
to start thinking differently about learning. Businesses will join in then, if
they can see it is something for them. It will be crucial to sell LSCs to
business and employers at a regional level.

The council has a huge agenda to
make a powerful and sustained effort to raise levels of skills and knowledge to
world-class standards.

Tony Longmire

Technical and training director, LGH
Group

Initially, I expect
LSCs will make some positive overtures to employers, but the sceptic in me
still fears that we are just getting more of the same. After all, many of the
previous incumbents in the old Tecs have simply transferred their regional LSC.
So why should we in industry have any faith that the system has changed?

However, it did need a radical
shake-up – some providers were not good enough and many Tecs had their own pet
themes. From my experience of recruiting apprentices up and down the UK, I know
there has been a huge variance in the rules. At times it would have been easier
to walk away.

Keith Lambert

Managing director, Walter Lilly

In my industry we have
to introduce more craftsmen, and we have to do it now. If we are to attract
people we need recognition for the skills and craftsmanship we need.

Learning and Skills Councils are
something we have to link into and I would like to see some of our senior
people play a role in LSCs.

Our training spend is quite low –
about 1 per cent of turnover – £50m. We sponsor graduates and have about eight
other trainees in various stages of training. Our input comes through our
industry body – the Construction Industry Training Board.

Bryan Sanderson

Chairman, Learning and Skills Council

I don’t see any conflict
between meeting the needs of individual learners and employers’ training
requirements. If we succeed in getting people up the education ladder it will
benefit the whole economy.

Forty per cent of all the people
involved in LSCs – locally and nationally – are from business. But we want to
make a plea to others who haven’t joined us yet – make yourselves known. If we
get it right it will push the UK higher up the productivity league tables.

There has to be a phasing-in period,
but we should see some significant initiatives beginning in the second year.
Then people will start to realise that the LSC is a big step forward.

Jane Drabble

National LSC member, Formerly
director of education at the BBC, now a consultant

Our brief is to promote
learning and do something for learners. It seems obvious to most of us that
learning is a wonderful thing. But for some, learning was never an enjoyable or
a powerful experience.

I am keen that within the first
couple of years we should get a much better sense that we are responding to the
needs of learners. And we should start to see some initiatives coming through
that address that. We can do it in a variety of ways. By getting to know what
learners want and planning provision accordingly.

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