Employers groups stunned by demise of Learning and Skills Council

Employer groups have expressed “utter amazement” at the government’s decision to close the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), its chief skills funding vehicle.

The government last week announced that the LSC, which has an annual budget exceeding £11bn and is responsible for the flagship Train to Gain initiative, will be closed down by 2010, as previously revealed by Personnel Today.

A new Skills Funding Agency for adults will get £4bn to distribute to workplace training providers as well as manage the performance of further education colleges.

Meanwhile, local authorities will get £7bn to help colleges and sixth forms deliver the reforms needed to improve skills and training when leaving age rises to 18.

David Frost, general director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said a constant change in agencies has held back the development of much-needed vocational qualifications.

“We have seen little progress in vocational qualifications because of a constant reshuffling of deck chairs,” he said.

“The LSC alone has been through three major changes since its inception in 2001, and the business community sits back in utter amazement, bemused by government’s latest announcement. It should be getting on with the job.”

The LSC also came in for a barrage of criticism as its fate was announced.

One industry insider told Personnel Today: “Its [closure] was inevitable. It’s always been difficult working with the LSC, we always found it a struggle.”

A Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey of about 1,000 of its members last year found that half wanted Train to Gain to operate with less bureaucracy.

Sarah van der Heyden, policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “We welcome and encourage any improvements to a system that serves the requirements of our members.

“Employers will only invest in training if there is a clear business case to do so. There was a mixed response from our members about the quality of training given by the government’s skills agencies.”

Secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills John Denham, said the smaller new Skills Funding Agency would ensure that government funding responded to employer and adult skills needs.

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