The Training Standards Council does a thorough job of checking up on publicly-funded training. But many employers and providers feel that it is treading an increasingly fine line between onerous bureaucracy and helpful intervention. Elaine Essery looks at what happens when the TSC inspector calls
In its relatively short lifespan, the Training Standards Council has come to pride itself on taking a tough stance. Its recently published second annual report illustrates that the TSC plays a crucial role in driving up standards in work-based training funded by the Government.
In the report chief inspector David Sherlock notes that employers training their own staff achieve the highest standards of provision, whereas many of the worst providers are small private training companies.
Few would deny the need for a national inspectorate to curb unscrupulous providers, but does the TSC have the right focus or do its requirements place an undue burden on employers?
"They do a thorough job, but my only reservation is the amount of time and resources it took for the small number of trainees we have," said David Lee, senior engineering training officer at Corus (Construction and Industrial), formerly British Steel. A team of three inspectors spent four days looking at the training provision for 39 trainees.
Gradings were satisfactory except for quality assurance, the generic area most often subject to reinspection. Corus learnt from the inspection, Lee said, and he has no argument with the standards providers are expected to reach.
But he is mindful of the need to strike a balance between training excellence and commercial reality. "You sometimes wonder whether it’s worth it for the amount of money you’re being given to support your training.
"We’re looking more and more at the bottom line and talking about value-added activity and you have to ask yourself whether it’s good for the business to be spending a lot of time on that."
He acknowledges the room for improvement. "In terms of quality assurance there are things we can do and will do to get to an acceptable level, but we aren’t going to the ends of the earth to satisfy them."
There is a similar view at Perkins Engines. It too fell down on quality assurance, appealed unsuccessfully then achieved a grade 3 on reinspection.
Being awarded a grade 4 was a surprise. Perkins believes it was doing everything possi