Fashion skills council to meet with minister to decide its fate

The fate of fashion and textiles skills council Skillfast will be decided next week when its senior management team meets higher education minister Kevin Brennan to thrash out the body’s purpose.

The sector skills council (SSC) was threatened with closure earlier this year after the latest round of re-licensing reviews decided not to recommend the body for automatic renewal next spring.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), conducting the reviews, said the body did not meet the standards required for a new license, meaning it could be closed down or merged with other SSCs.

All 25 SSCs will have had their licences reviewed by the end of this year to check they are fully meeting employers’ demands.

A UKCES spokeswoman told Personnel Today: “Skillfast appealed against our recommendation that they should not be relicensed; this appeal was rejected. They are now awaiting a meeting with Kevin Brennan, which is happening next week, to discuss a way forward.”

The spokeswoman pointed out that the minister could overturn UKCES’ decision not to relicense Skillfast.

However, she added: “Their current licence expires at the end of March next year, and if they are not relicensed they will lose their SSC status and funding at this time – but that’s not to say that all their staff will necessarily be out of a job and all their projects will be terminated.”

Skillfast, which employs 31 staff, was “incensed” when it discovered it was not to be automatically relicensed, claiming that the review findings were “flawed”, and the UKCES was pressing ahead with plans to close the body before waiting for the minister’s final decision.

“We discovered the commission has been talking to other SSCs about which part they’d like to cherry pick from us. We have to wait for the minister’s final decision but the commission is already keenly pursuing arrangements for our wind-up,” a spokeswoman said.

The UKCES said the accusations were “unfair”.

So far, 10 SSCs have gone through the re-licensing process. The next five will learn of their fate next week, when the UKCES sends its recommendations to the government. These are: Skills for Health (health), SkillsActive (sport and recreation), Improve (food and drink manufacturing), Skills for Care and Development (social care), and Skills for Justice (policing and law enforcement).

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