Questions over skills coffers

Posted on 9 Jun 2009 by The Manufacturer

Manufacturers are seeking clarification from government on skills funding to ensure they are ready to take advantage of an upturn in world business conditions when one should begin.

There has been strong take up of apprenticeships and Train to Gain programmes over the last year but the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the body with overall funding control and which delegates the responsibility of overseeing the schemes, is yet to provide education institutions with budgets for next year. There is a strong anticipation that cuts will be suffered.

Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Learning Providers, said: “We are still, sadly, currently moving towards a massive reduction in volumes for the rest of 2009.”

The ALP said these anticipated reductions have already led to redundancy procedures beginning at further education institutions. And it voiced its exasperation that the £2bn required to upkeep apprenticeships and Train to Gain – the same budget from the last school year – is in fact thought to be available, yet the LSC is unforthcoming with a commitment.

A recent EEF survey found more than half of manufacturers (55 per cent) do not feel they are in a position to attract and retain skilled employees when they will need them.

“The current position is untenable and companies need a clear commitment to maintain funding in future years,” said Peter O’Grady, a spokesperson for EEF.

“Manufacturers are taking a long term view of their skills and training needs, but these efforts are being stymied by the lack of clarity on funding for key programmes after this year, such as apprenticeships.”

The Learning and Skills Council was forced to make major cutbacks to its capital funding programme for new college building initiatives in April, after finding its budget for redevelopment programmes was to be cut to £750m. The organisation had given over £5.5bn worth of projects at 144 colleges the go ahead, with half of those already begun and in various stages of completion. All have been halted until further reviews are completed.