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Employers cry for help on NVQs

Employers want more detailed practical information on how to implement National Vocational Qualifications, according to an Institute for Employment Studies report.

They overwhelmingly endorse NVQs as the central framework for training Britain's workforce but say they need much more help to go beyond the awareness-raising stage if they are to get the wider workforce behind the qualifications.

Despite assurances from the National Council for Vocational Qualifications that the bureaucracy would be simplified and costs cut, these two issues continue to dog efforts to attract more employers to them.

The structure of the qualifications, designed for workplace-based skills training, need explanation and more work should be done on tailoring them to specific industrial sectors, the report's author, Mark Spilsbury, found.

"The term 'NVQs' has become part of the accepted backcloth of the training and development world. More practical information is now needed - and it needs to be in the employers' own language."

More than 130 employers known to have some knowledge and usage of NVQs were surveyed in the Employment Department sponsored research which interviewed 31 of the sample in depth.

The researchers found that employers wanted information on the precise process of implementing NVQs, with clear explanation of what they should be doing at each stage; More guidance on assessment and how to avoid too much paperwork was called for as well as details on costs and benefits.

NVQs specific to a particular sector of industry should be written by experts from those fields to improve their accessibility.

"A common finding has been the need for a delivery mechanism which reflects the particular needs of an industry sector or that of an individual employer, " said Mr Spilsbury.

Employers would also prefer their particular industrial training organisations (ITOs) to be given a more mainstream role in the delivery of NVQs - currently largely monopolised by Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs). "All the signs are that employers want someone who speaks their language, and can give industry specific examples. The most favoured option is to speak with an employer in the same sector," the report says.

One option could be for TECs and ITOs to work together on the delivery of NVQs, it suggests.

Commenting on the report, Lindsay Millington, chair of the National Council of Industrial Training Organisations, said: "My own experience is that employers hear better when they have a message from people who understand their industry and the pressure they are currently working under, and speak their language. "

The ITOs had played a leading role in the development of the qualifications and employers felt more at home with them.

"TECs are no longer Government bodies, but will continue to be perceived as quangos; ITOs are run and driven by employers. Industrialists employ us to do what they want - there is a relationship of trust."

Employers' Needs for Information, Advice and Guidance When Implementing NVQs, M Spilsbury, C Simkin, J Toye. Institute for Employment Studies Report 276. Pounds 30. The Institute for Employment Studies changed its name from the Institute for Manpower Studies last month to better reflect the full range of the non-profit independent body's activities.

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