Learning chiefs in pub brawl

Landlords are furious that their bid for training funds has been thrown out. Martin Whittaker reports

Training for staff in pubs and clubs is under threat after the Learning and Skills Council refused to recognise or fund the trade's new qualifications.

Although such training is seen as key to the Government's bid to cut alcohol-related crime a local LSC turned down a bid for funding to train licensees and door staff. It claimed the qualifications, launched this week, "have little value", as they are not equivalent to national vocational qualifications and have no link to mainstream courses.

But the British Institute of Innkeeping - the professional body which developed the qualifications - is furious. It says they are part of the national qualifications framework and that the local council "failed to do its homework".

The BII took its case to the national Learning and Skills Council, to be told that it would only get funding for NVQ-based training.

In its action plan on tackling alcohol-related crime and disorder, the Home Office says training for bar staff and door supervisors is key to helping to reduce nightlife violence.

Since 1999, the BII has been developing its Social Responsibilities Initiative, working with the Home Office to involve licensees in local partnerships aimed at reducing alcohol-related crime.

Pilot schemes were launched in Leeds, Knowsley, Brent, North Warwickshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and West Sussex. Accredited training is central to the pilots.

The BII has rejected NVQs. It says the long courses required are unsuitable for a trade with such high staff mobility.

Instead, it has developed its own tailor-made short courses, including the Licensee's National Drugs Certificate, the National Certificate for Entertainment Licensees and the National Certificate for Door Supervisors.

All three are accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, while a newer qualification for bar staff is awaiting accreditation.

Cathie Smith, the institute's director of qualifications, described the LSC's refusal to fund their training as "a scandal". She points to a report from inspectors in June which showed a deterioration in work-based learning. "It was heartening to see that finally somebody has recognised NVQs don't work. They certainly don't work for our industry - which is exactly why we developed these qualifications."

The bid for European Social Fund money was submitted to Norfolk learning and skills council by Norfolk Constabulary on behalf of a local crime-reduction partnership, including magistrates police and local authorities.

Its aim was to train 500 staff, including door supervisors, bar workers and licensees, but the LSC rejected the bid in March this year.

The institute is now loooking at alternative sources of funding for its training in Norwich.

But it warns that, if the LSC's response is uniform throughout the country, some of its work, such as much-publicised courses for door staff, will no longer be viable.

Not everyone is sympathetic to the innkeepers' plight. John Hyde of the Association of Learning Providers, said publicly-funding courses for bar staff and door staff is not part of the LSC's remit.

He said: "BII went off on its own to do these qualifications. They've put themselves into competition with the NVQs for the sector. They can't expect Government funding if they're acting outside government policy."

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