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Civil servant to fix the 'jigsaw'

The new man in charge of lecturers' training standards expects employers to set the pace. James Harrison reports

THE Government has appointed a senior civil servant to oversee the creation of the new body which will set the training standards of lecturers.

Jonathan Mackey, a senior manager at the Department for Education and Skills, will be the lifelong learning sector skills council's head of special projects.

He sees the role as assembling a "jigsaw" by bringing the activities of the three organisations which make up the SSC together, so they can form a common strategy on the training of lecturers and other professionals in all post-16 education.

Mr Mackey, based in the DfES lifelong learning directorate, said: "It is clear what the pieces are and where the boundaries are, but it is not yet clear how big the jigsaw is. Some parts are clearer than others. The SSC will be far more strategic, and will be explicitly employer-led."

The lifelong learning sector skills council will cover further and higher education as well as work-based training. SSCs are being created to replace the 72 national training organisations which advise the DfES on the needs of the various employment sectors.

It is intended that there will be 25 SSCs, covering a broader range of industries than the NTOs. Ministers hope this will give businesses a stronger voice in shaping the way the workforce is trained.

The lifelong learning SSC is being formed by the Further Education National Training Organisation, the Higher Education Staff Development Agency and the Association of Learning Providers.

The process of bringing everything together is expected to take until next year, when the fledgling SSC will apply to Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, for a licence to operate.

Mr Mackey said: "It will be based not so much on the occupational as on the business sector, as defined by employers who want to be sure that the right occupation standards are in place for a particular element of their workforce.

"The lifelong learning SSC is viewed by the department as the lynchpin within the network, because its business is training the workforce that trains all the other workforces. If you cannot get the teaching and training workforce up to speed we will find it increasingly difficult to meet the training needs of the other workforces that depend on it.

"This SSC is a critical part of the overall jigsaw. A key point is that this initiative has to be led by employers. They have to take leadership and ownership of it."

He stressed that the SSC's remit is "in the gift of the sector's employers" but said the DfES would like to see adult and community learning brought.

He added: "It is also a UK-wide initiative, and policy will have to take into account the positions of the devolved administrations.

"My role is to support the employers and former NTOs, and enable them to meet the deadline and co-ordinate the views of the devolved administrations."

David Hunter, chief executive of Fento, hopes the new SSC can meet for the first time as a shadow organisation on June 1, with a view to an official launch 10 months later.

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