Letters of the week
• On reading the article by Philip Whiteley, "Ministers grapple with
qualifications shortfall" (1 February) I wonder which planet the spokesman
for the DfEE claims as home.
The accreditation of a person’s ability to do work, an NVQ, rather than to
do exams has been one of the best qualifications to hit this country in a long
time. It is spoilt only by the funding methodology attached to it by the DfEE
and Tecs. The use of output related funding on complete NVQs only has seen the
quality of delivery of NVQs drop to alarming levels in some areas.
The argument of training providers is sound: how can they stand the cost of
registering a candidate, training and assessing, with little or no until the
whole NVQ is complete? Many candidates are not in jobs which provide the
experience necessary to complete a whole NVQ, but they will not be funded
(except through New Deal) to complete units. Yet a DfEE spokesman wants to see
further withholding of a grant until completion.
At least Mr Edwards of the ISM brings some sense back to the situation. He
states that it is extremely unlikely a modern apprentice is going to assume the
supervisory responsibilities necessary to achieve a Level 3. Let’s not forget
this modern apprenticeship is predominantly aimed at 17- to 18-year-olds.
Until that balance is addressed we can expect low achievement of NVQ Level 3
and persistent attempts to diminish the quality of a basically sound
Kevin Dowson Training, Derby
• Stimulated by your enquiries about modern apprenticeship and by the Times
Education Supplement article on Rover (28 January), I thought I would let you
have something on the experience of Corus (really of British Steel before the
We support MAs – we have over 500 and look forward to a new steel industry
framework. However, the resources involved to help young people reach the
finishing line with their NVQ3 are considerable, even for a company like ours,
investing £50m-60m per annum on education and training.
You need assessors in the workplace; you ought to allow day release for an
educational qualification; you have to devote manpower to the paperwork the
TECs require; and, when the rules change during the three or four years your
MAs are making progress, you have to be able to devote resources to arrange for
this. The TES article showed £50,000 is needed per apprentice and our
experience is the same.
J V EASON
Manager, training and education development
Corus, British Steel
The HR camp strikes back
• I can only assume this debate on what our function should be called is an
early April Fool. If not, many HR – whoops! – personnel people have once again
lost the plot.
I work with any number of professional people from a variety of functions.
None of them have to suffer from being part of a "profession" that
has so little confidence it embarks on pointless discussions about what it is
The average employee could not care less what HR/personnel people are
called. They are more interested in whether the service, advice and support we
give is useful, useable and able to help them manage change. Having said all
this I would rather be seen as a resource than an expense.
• For a professional body which has just gained chartered status, to hotly
debate the label by which we are known seems symptomatic of a lack of
self-confidence. The most defining and important aspects are how we conduct
ourselves and respond to what our "customers" need or want. To
comment that it is enough that we "practitioners know the extent, purpose
and value of our role" (Keith Fieldhouse, 15 February) is either irony,
arrogance or a lack of appreciation of this point. I would prefer to presume
• My vote goes to "human relationships", because in the end it is
the effectiveness in keeping relationships constructive, meaningful and
worthwhile. Go on, extend the phone-in to other suggestions to get a real
National HR manager
HLB Kidsons Chartered Accountants, London
• I am the HR manager for a robotics and automation company. Having had to
fight (with plenty of support) to establish the HR function within the company,
how I wish for the time that others such as Mike Judge can spend navel-gazing.
Who cares what the function is called? If you believe people make the
difference, then that is the way you work.
Don’t Mike Judge, and REJ Tucker (HR redolent of Oskar Schindlers’ factory)
realise the damage they do to our profession with such useless gibberish? This
storm in a teacup follows hard on the heels of another non-debate, namely the
advert for people without IPD qualifications. Get on with the job.
RTS Thurnall , Manchester
• It saddens me that this is the most burning issue we have to debate –
isn’t the underlying debate about whether we are there to defend staff or
managers or (as I interpret it) to find the best path to align the interest of
I suggest we compare notes on this, instead of arguing about what may or may
not be inferred from our letterheads.
Human resources manager
Redditch Borough Council
• Interestingly "human capital" – one of the three job title
options in Personnel Today’s readers’ poll (15 February) – gets rejected by
nine out of ten respondents to our latest Plain English Audit.
As the UK’s only personnel and management specialist PR agency we’ve just
surveyed business journalists to find out what top communicators use. Other
hated phrases include "corporate alliancing", "visioning",
"scoping", and "rightsizing".
We look forward to the personnel profession’s verdict, but meanwhile if
anyone wants to join our fight against "management-speak" do e-mail
examples to the address below.
Colette Hill Associates
Backing for our law campaign
• I would like to add my voice to the campaign. The plethora of recent
legislation, much of which has been known about for some time, is being hastily
introduced by people who appear to be drafting it in a vacuum. As a result we
have such issues as the conflict between the holiday requirements of the
Working Time directive, where you cannot pay in lieu of holiday, versus the new
maternity rights, when people accrue vacation entitlement but may be unable to
take it if their maternity leave goes over a holiday year-end, but they cannot
be paid for it.
The Working Time directive has cost us the installation of a time and
attendance system – but the vast majority of our employees opted out of it.
If the Government is serious about introducing employment legislation, it
should ensure it is workable, not just a field day for lawyers who will further
clog up the tribunal system as we try to get clarification of the ambiguities.
• It seems ridiculous to me for laws to be rushed through so quickly without
proper thought given to the potential consequences. The Working Time
regulations are a classic example. We are still trying to get to grips with the
interpretation of some of these regulations and it seems that we will have to
wait for the courts to clarify certain issues. Employers must be given more say
in the development of legislation. After all, who ends up footing the bill?
Divisional HR Manager
Agreement for IPD bias claim
• I am absolutely amazed at the comments of the writer Gavin Simmonds
(Personnel Today Letters, February 15). I strongly agree that the IPD is biased
towards the public sector.
Like Mr Simmonds, I too have the benefit of public sector and private sector
experience. In my view the private sector is years behind the public sector,
never having heard of job evaluation, contracts of employment or even a job
Has he not heard of best value, bench marking and modernising local
government? His comments would suggest not if he feels that local government is
not innovative enough. If it is that boring why has he stuck it for so long?
In any case being a personnel professional he should be steering them in the
right direction to ensure they remain ahead of the private sector.
Assistant personnel manager
Mid Beds District Council
• As an IPD (and formerly IPM) member of 25 years and Socpo member for 12
years I would wholeheartedly endorse the views expressed by Terry Gorman and
Rita Sammons. Things have altered very little in all this time – Tony Blair
talks of "the forces of conservatism" – he is right to do this, but
this criticism can equally be levelled at IPD and management in British
One gets the impression from IPD, simply from the balance of editorials in
its magazine and promotional literature, that the relationship between private
and public sectors is one of leader and lagger. We have a lot to learn from
each other, but one wonders why the IPD is not switched on to the needs of a
significant number of its membership. The information sources and flows within
local government are excellent and extensive – we do not have to rely on the
IPD for this service.
The IPD should be familiarising itself with the public sector as an industry
– is it aware of the modernising agenda and Best Value for local government and
what impact this is likely to have? It could even open up marketing
opportunities for it and produce an income stream, but I suspect it hasn’t
woken up to this.
• There are many examples of best practice in local government that go
ignored. Indeed when a manufacturer introduces an innovatory consultation
scheme for example no one seems to wish to comment on its long-standing
application in other places – that is, local government.