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Overhaul the Learning & Skills arrangements

Comment 10th July 2010

Scrap the large number of quangos operating in the 'education and skills' area, in particular there is no justification for Sector Skills Councils.

Stop writing blank cheques from the taxpayer to one hundred plus Awarding Bodies who are all competing with each other for 'business'.

Abandon the Qualificiations Credit Framework which is wrecking many perfectly sound vocational qualifications, adding complexity where none is needed, and is apparently driven by an unwanted and unjustifed plan by Brussels for a European Qualifications Framework.

Why does this matter?

The education and skills sector in the UK has operated in much the same way for at least twenty years since the Industry Training Boards were almost all scrapped and compulsory levies on employers (employment) were done away with.  What we have now is a huge state enterprise, almost entirely publicly funded, involving bureaucrats creating qualifications, accrediting training providers, commissioning 'provision', paying assessors and training co-ordinators to visit 'learners' in company.  It is the UK's version of the Soviet Unions centrally planned economy and 'tractor production' targets.  Inevitably, it has cost a fortune and achieved little.

There have been incarnations in the last twenty years, starting with ITOs, then NTOs, then SSCs – all doing the same things under a different name – and funded by variously the FEFC, then the LSC, and now the SFA. Little has changed in the big picture, except for the constant reorganisation, babies going out with bathwater, wheels being continually reinvented, and still we are no nearer having a fit-for-purpose arrangement that can compete with the likes of Germany.

The real problem is the public sector stranglehold on skills and training and funding for the same.  Companies pay taxes which are recycled to training providers which then come supposedly provide training for companies.  It is an absurd arrangement that only benefits the supply side at the expense of the employers. 

The Sector Skills Councils, most of which are exempt from Freedom of Information requests, are not in any way employer-led. They are hugely ineffective and have cost vastly more than the NTOs did before them.

Employers are more than capable of making their own arrangements for training staff; they know that without good people they will not succeed in business.  So why exactly are SSCs being given lots of taxpayers' money in order to preach platitudes at successful businesses?

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