Champion idea for workplace skills

An attempt to boost work-based training and skills levels has been launched
by the DfES and NTO National Council.

The Employer Champions Group met for the first time last month. It will
advise Government, the Learning and Skills Council and the emerging Sector
Skills Development Agency on how to promote NVQs and the national occupational
standards on which they are based. Senior employers put forward by the NTO
network and champions nominated by the CBI and TUC make up the group. It is
chaired by Hugh Try CBE, deputy chairman of Galliford Try, chairman of the CITB
and member of the LSC’s Adult Committee.

"There’s not enough knowledge and use of national occupational
standards and the qualifications leading from them," said Try. "If we
could only make a wider group of employers aware of their existence and
potential, it would help to raise productivity and competitiveness."

According to Try, there is no shortage of champions who are enthusiastic
about national occupational standards. The aim is to reach the uninformed.
"There’s a real head of steam and enthusiasm among people who are in the
know. The problem is extending that to others," he said.

"It’s a matter of putting together a convincing case – with real
industry situations – to get through to employers. This is a job of sufficient
importance that the DfES has agreed it will continue under the new sector
skills arrangements."

Bert Clough, senior training adviser at the TUC, hopes the work of the group
will help boost the number of training programmes which are based on recognised
occupational standards leading to NVQs. "We’re particularly interested in
increasing the number of people going through to NVQ level 2 – that’s where the
problem is.

"About a third of the workforce are in jobs which have required
competences at that level, but the vast majority have no qualifications which
attest their skills and competence. This limits individuals’ career paths and
reduces labour mobility."

Clough said the time is right for an employer champions group. Its formation
coincides with proposals in the Chancellor’s pre-budget report for employer tax
credits to support training to level 2, and comes ahead of tighter regulations
expected in some areas of employment which will require qualification to level
2 as a minimum.

"The likelihood of tax incentives and regulation makes the job much
easier," said Clough. "Awareness of standards is of national
importance. If employers train not to national occupational standards but to
meet their own narrow needs, there will be a lack of transferable skills, more
skills gaps and skills shortages."

By Elaine Essery

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