Skills agenda under pressure?

first_img Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. The close of 2002 brought encouraging signals that the Government iscommitted to the skills agenda. Yet as we move into 2003 the ‘Skills forBusiness’ network still has a long way to go in boosting skills and the demandfor them. Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Charles Clarke has already hadto defend the skills agenda. Speaking at the first-ever UK Skills Convention,organised by the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) in November, healluded to criticisms that skills had taken second place to education in theDepartment. “I have absolutely no intention that skills should be seen asanything other than an absolutely major priority for this department and thisGovernment,” he said. He also promised closer ties between the DfES and the DTI. “PatriciaHewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and I have already metto decide how we can get our two departments working more closely together.Because the truth is we haven’t worked as closely together as we need to.”Various sector skills stakeholders – employers, Sector Skills Council (SSC)members, trade unionists, training providers and those from the former NTOnetwork – attended the two-day convention. The organisers will summarise keyissues emerging from their workshops and present them as a challenge to theGovernment. This is intended to feed into the National Skills Strategy andDelivery Plan, scheduled for publication in June. Ivan Lewis, Adult Learning and Skills Minister, spelt out his expectationsof the Skills for Business network. He wants the SSDA to make an impact onlevels of employer engagement and awareness and deliver measurable progress onspecific skills needs and issues within particular sectors. Employer engagementwas insufficient at present, he said, being pitched far too much at the levelof the old NTO network. “As part of the SSDA’s corporate planningconsultation process, I shall be looking for evidence that the new network ismoving significantly beyond the usual suspects and engaging fresh blood in thechallenge of implementing a more ambitious vision for sectors,” he said. The biggest concern to those attending the convention, however, was that itcould take five years for the network to be fully up and running. The following week the SSDA gave the go ahead to two more prospective SSCsto move into development. The Automotive Skills Council will take over fromformer NTO the Motor Industry Training Council to meet the skills, workforcedevelopment and business needs of the motor retail industry and SummitSkillswill represent the electrotechnical, heating, ventilating air conditioning,refrigeration and plumbing industries. Simon Bartley runs two companies in the latter sector and is chairman of theSummitSkills implementation group. He acknowledges the need to improve employerenthusiasm but believes his council has a solid foundation on which to developthe skills agenda. Bartley has clear views on the role of the SSDA. “There is so muchgoing on, with the work of the skills task force, review of ModernApprenticeships and 14-19 education and other initiatives. I think the SSDAneeds to be at the heart of that, drawing things together, working inpartnership with SSCs on the interpretation of these messages. It needs to bethe keystone of the arch,” he said. “The SSDA needs to keep talking to the DfES and DTI to try andstreamline many of the ideas that relate to the mechanisms of delivery. It hasto ensure the Government keeps those two departments talking to each other on aregular basis.” Bartley believes the SSDA must keep in touch with grassroots. “It hasto understand where employers are coming from. It’s got to answer back togovernment on behalf of SSCs – if it doesn’t it will just become an enforcingbureaucracy.” By Elaine Essery Skills agenda under pressure?On 1 Jan 2003 in Personnel Todaylast_img

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