Skills councils deny failing to connect with employers

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) have hit back at claims that they are not engaging employers.

The annual CBI and Pertemps employment survey shows that only one third of employers who had contact with the LSC in 2005 received any useful information.

Susan Anderson, director of HR policy at the CBI, said that employers were being let down by the LSC and further education colleges.

“There are a lot of concerns over whether they are providing support for business needs,” she said.

David Way, director of skills at the LSC, said there was recognition by the LSC and college sectors that they needed to do more to raise their game to be become responsive to employers needs.

This meant engaging employers and offering them facilities “that they would recognise in their own businesses”.

Way said that it was wrong to apply a blanket statement about the state of further education as Anderson had done, and there were good colleges serving employers’ needs.

However, he said that the LSC needed to work on communication with employers to let them know about its projects.

“We are doing lots of things because we do believe learning needs to be demand-led,” he said.

The LSC was doing a lot behind the scenes, he said, and was supporting numerous business enterprises, such as employers training pilots, which 20,000 employers had signed up to.

Another success had been the increase in the number of people completing their apprenticeships, Way said.

The employer-led SSCs also fared badly, according to the CBI survey.

Just over half (56%) of businesses said they had contacted the employer-led Sector Skills Councils (SSCs), but only one in six of them (16%) reported they had received useful information.

Kieron Gavin, director of employer engagement at the SSC umbrella organisation, the Sector Skills Development Agency, admitted there was ‘not the level of engagement we would want with employers’.

However, he said that was to be expected as the SSCs were still in their relative infancy and he took heart from the fact more and more employers were engaging with them.

He said the SSCs made sure that the collective voice of employers would be heard and could provide a reliable and moderated articulation of the training that employers need to improve productivity.

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