Training providers’ call for better use of government funding
The training providers responsible for the training of more than 700,000 apprentices have called for a better targeting of resources in the government's skills programmes when budgets are being squeezed.
The call follows the Business Secretary's recent appeal to the Treasury for the forthcoming government spending review to invest more in training "if we are going to get the economy going".
In a summary 'manifesto' document launched today at the annual conference of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), the providers' representative body has set out 10 key points for action for adoption by the main political parties in the run-up to the next general election. These cover:
? making young people 'work ready' by the time they leave school
? targeting more resources at apprenticeships and the new traineeships programme
? tackling the NEET issue by focusing on real work experience with employers
? more coherent procurement of skills and employment programmes across the Business, Education and Work departments to correct a fragmented and inconsistent approach.
With its eye firmly on maximising efficiencies from the outcome of the spending review, AELP is also recommending further progress in funding skills programmes that reward good quality providers who successfully engage with local employers. This includes introducing a level-playing field on funding for independent training organisations and further education colleges.
AELP chairman, Martin Dunford OBE, said: "The level playing field necessary for this to happen is undoubtedly better balanced than in the past but we are still not there yet. We cannot continue to have providers of any type underperforming - yet retaining funding - while others are unable to obtain the resources they need to meet the immediate demand from employers, potential apprentices and those needing a traineeship to avoid joining the unacceptably high cohort of 'NEETs'."
AELP recommends in the manifesto that high quality apprenticeships should be the preferred route for improving people's skills and that we should be increasing the number of people on the programme substantially - presently estimated to be around 750,000. It believes that the number of SMEs offering apprenticeships can also be increased through the existing network of providers and colleges, provided that the funding system is further reformed to respond better to evidenced demand. However, providers remain very concerned that the introduction of learner loans for adults in August will have an adverse impact on efforts to grow the programme.
Despite the debate around its effectiveness, AELP remains supportive of the fundamental principles behind the Work Programme, especially its emphasis on allowing providers flexibility in personalising learners' routes into work. But it recommends: sufficient funding to meet the needs of all types of unemployed learners; more encouragement to involve smaller, specialist and third sector providers by reviewing the procurement and referral system; and greater integration of skills provision with closer links between employability and skills programmes.
The skills minister, Matthew Hancock, and his shadow, Gordon Marsden, will both be speaking tomorrow at the AELP national conference where the issues covered in the manifesto will be debated. The voices of employers, apprentices and training providers will all be heard and delegates will see a presentation by former Dragons' Den presenter Doug Richard on his School for Startups before having the chance to ask him questions about his review of apprenticeships for the government.
The conference will also be the last for Graham Hoyle OBE, AELP's chief executive, before his retirement in August, after building up the organisation from scratch when it was formed in 2002 to a body now renowned for being proactive in putting forward programme and policy proposals in the skills and employment arena, such as the need for a traineeship programme.
Graham Hoyle said: "I am pleased that my final national conference with AELP reinforces the perception that we are an organisation that is always looking ahead. The publication of our summary manifesto shows that our members are passionate about delivering skills and employment programmes which not only support economic development but also contribute to social cohesion in communities all over the country."