Employers set agenda for new skills councils

Employers will dictate the direction of the learning and skills councils,
which will replace Tecs. The Government made the announcement as it
acknowledged a mismatch between skills and business needs.

The chair of the national learning council and most of the chairs of local
councils will have "substantial recent business or commercial
experience", the document detailing how the council will be run states.
Four out of 10 members at local level will be drawn from the business world.

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment, David Blunkett,
admitted that training activity and business needs are not closely aligned, and
announced a new loans scheme for employers (see below).

Ann Bailey, head of education and training at the Engineering Employers’
Federation, wel-comed the prominence given to employers but called for the
balance on the local councils to swing further towards them and away from
colleges.

"It should be 60 per cent but we would have been happy with 50, which
is what we asked for in our submission," she said. "If these councils
are driven by supply rather than demand they will not work. It is employers
which need to use skills so they need to be setting the agenda rather than
making do with what is on offer."

She added that council members need to be active in business, or if they are
recently retired have maintained strong links so they are not out of touch.

Keith Aldis, training director at the Construction Confederation, said
employer influence would be stronger than under the Tecs, which the learning
and skills councils replace from April 2001, but there was still a danger
national industries will lose out to industries with local prominence.

"Construction accounts for 10 per cent of GDP and we employ a million
and a half people. Local skills councils need to make provision for
construction training even if it is not high on the local agenda."

By Dominique Hammond

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