Skills programme shake-up will close 30 skills bodies by 2012

The government has set out a new skills strategy which claims to “radically simplify” the way skills policy is delivered.

Skills for Growth – The National Skills Strategy, published on Wednesday (11 November), aims to wind up 30 public bodies involved in skills by 2012, create 35,000 ‘advanced’ apprenticeship places over the next two years, and give every adult a personal skills account where they can shop around for training.

About £100m will also be used to support businesses in providing 160,000 training places in areas such as life sciences, digital media and technology, advanced manufacturing, engineering, construction and low carbon energy.

The government plans to divert money from the £1bn Train to Gain budget to other skills projects, but did not propose to scrap the skills brokerage service altogether. The Conservatives told Personnel Today they would axe Train to Gain entirely if they came to power at the next general election.

Business secretary Lord Mandelson said: “The goal of this strategy is a skills system defined not simply by targets based on achieved qualifications, but by ‘real world’ outcomes. Relevant, quality skills, with real market value.”

The strategy said: “Employers have encouraged us to aim for the largest simplification of the skills landscape for many years, with a goal of removing over 30 publicly funded skills bodies over the next three years.”

Susan Anderson, director of education and skills at business group the CBI, said: “Business will welcome the attempts to simplify the overly-complex system of organisations delivering skills training and support. The real test for any new system will be whether it delivers the high-quality training and skills that firms and the economy need.”

However, the strategy said the government plans to stop the full funding of repeat qualifications within Train to Gain, a popular measure introduced earlier this year for smaller businesses to help them train staff during the recession.

It said: “During the recession, we have helped many businesses to manage difficulties through flexing the scheme to allow over a third of the employees it benefits to do repeat courses. But as business conditions improve, from next autumn, we will progressively shift resources to medium and long-term skills priorities for those who do not yet have qualifications at Levels 2 and 3.

“The flexibilities for small and medium sized enterprises to access fully funded unit and short qualifications will also be withdrawn.”

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