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Brokers can fix it for employers

Following your article "Outcry over pound;70m brokers" (FE Focus, October 28), I am writing to put the record straight. It failed to show how the skills brokerage element of Train to Gain will be rolled out nationally from April 2006.

The white paper Skills: Getting on in business, getting on at work clearly states that "at the heart of (Train to Gain) is a brokerage service that will work on behalf of the employer." It is the effectiveness of this service that is the real issue here.

It is nonsense to suggest that the Learning and Skills Council wants "a highly bureaucratic system of brokerage". The service will act for employers independently and impartially to the degree necessary to support them. Wherever possible this will be "light touch". It will advise on which local training providers best meet employers' needs.

Brokers will help employers find their way through the often complex world of skills training and help them develop relationships which give them the best return on their investment.

It is misleading to relate the cost of brokerage - pound;35m per year - to the size of Train to Gain. The influence of the broker will be on the total investment made by the employer as well as on public funds. They are an essential part of our efforts to convince employers of the bottom-line benefits of investing in training and making more use of the best colleges and providers.

Every broker will need to show that they are adding value for employers and employees. To do this job well, they will need significant knowledge about an employer's business, skills requirements and, critically, the learning available that best fits the employer's needs.

Brokers are there to make the employer's search for suitable training simpler and cost-effective. They should also be a catalyst for extra investment in skills.

True, there are already relationships between employers and providers.

Skills brokerage is not about fixing what isn't broken. However, brokers will target those all-important "hard to reach" employers, most likely to be small and medium-sized businesses. The white paper clearly states that raising the skill levels of this group is a fundamental aim.

David Way. Director of Skills Learning and Skills Council.

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