The government has admitted it may – like the Conservatives – review the provision of vocational qualifications such as NVQs.
At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, skills minister Pat McFadden told Personnel Today that the department for business would release a skills strategy document “in a month or two’s time”, to help individuals acquire new skills.
McFadden said NVQs had some value, but he believed the funding of courses to accredit skills already obtained through work was “a legitimate area for debate”.
His comments come just days after Personnel Today revealed that the Conservatives’ shadow secretary of state for skills David Willetts believed some NVQ qualifications were having a “negative value on the labour market”.
McFadden told the magazine: “NVQs are not valueless, as they give portability of skills to people. There needs to be a balance between accrediting existing skills and creating new skills.
“It’s not entirely wrong [to accredit existing skills] because that certificate is portable and can move from one company to another and has got recognition.
“But there is an argument that you should put more of the budget not into accrediting that which is already capable of being done, but actually teaching new skills, and that’s something to think about.”
In the forthcoming skills report McFadden said he would call for “greater empowerment of individuals in the skills system” about their choice of further education courses – like the choice afforded university students.
But he refused to give further details on how this empowerment could be achieved.
He said the report would look at how the skills system could be made less complex and more user-friendly, and how it could be better aligned with employers’ needs.
McFadden said: “Gordon Brown has said our priority is to protect frontline services and we see that the skills agenda is very important.”