A step forward but still room for improvement

Posted on 12 Jan 2010 by The Manufacturer

Proskills chief Terry Watts responds to the Government’s ‘Skills for Growth’ strategy

Following the recent publication of the Government’s Skills Strategy , Terry Watts, Chief Executive of Proskills , the Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the process and manufacturing sector, welcomed the enhanced role for SSCs but is concerned that the new skills strategy is not doing enough for industry and the existing workforce.

The strategy recognises the need to simplify the skills system and I welcome the plans to reduce the number of regional bodies with overlapping responsibilities. However, I believe that in order to accurately represent the needs of employers, the skills strategy should have a sectoral rather than a regional lead. I am concerned the suggested moves to simplify the skills system will not have the desired benefits for employers, and will instead only serve to simplify the system for the Government and stakeholders. If changes are not made with employers in mind, they will not benefit the economy.

The new Skills Strategy – “Skills for Growth” – gives employers, through the Sector Skills Councils, a voice in the skills system that will help to develop the British economy for the future. It increases the amount of investment in Apprenticeships, which will help tackle youth unemployment and train people for real jobs. However, it also suggests that funding will be cut for other vocational qualifications.
It is hard to understand the decision to withdraw funding from units and smaller qualifications or the removal of support for additional “non-first” qualifications. Our research shows that these are precisely the qualifications that will be of most benefit to companies and people in our industries as we move out of the recession.

Multi-skilling the existing workforce will be as important as developing new skills in the quest to meet the stretching skills targets set in the Leitch report to keep the UK competitive. Whilst I agree that Apprenticeships will be an essential part of making the UK more productive, I hope that the increased funding for these qualifications will not result in a drop in funding for other training demanded by industry and individuals

It is worrying that there is little mention of
impact measurement or evaluation of the public investment in skills, and it is of concern that following the recent review of Train to Gain there will continue to be inefficiencies and wastage in the system. Proskills and other SSCs have achieved more efficient results through the Sector Compacts that helped to assign funding directly where it was needed, and I believe that this approach is the right one for the future.

We should be placing public money where it can generate best results. It seems incredible that there are 14 times as many publically-funded Apprenticeships awarded annually in hairdressing than manufacturing, and yet the turnover per head generated in manufacturing is more than seven times as high!

By Terry Watts, chief executive of sector skills council Proskills. See proskills.co.uk for more information. You can also follow Terry on Twitter