New skills councils full of old faces

Steve Hook

A LARGE proportion of the chairs of the new learning and skills councils are already working in the training and enterprise Councils they are designed to replace.

LSCs, which are also to take over responsibility for FE colleges from the Further Education Funding Council, are being set up across England.

Chairs have been appointed for the councils for the West Midlands, East Midlands, the North-west, the North-east, East and South-east regions of England.

A surprise appointment is that of Derbyshire construction tycoon John Kirkland, who becomes the county's LSC chair.

Mr Kirkland provided the initial pound;5.5 million backing to set up Education Lecturing Services, the lecturers' agency.

He was close to Roger Ward, then head of the Colleges Employers Forum, now a restaurant owner. The forum was a forerunner of the Association of Colleges.

In 1994, the forum held a meeting with Bowmer and Kirkland, a Derbyshire-based construction company. Mr Kirkland was that firm's chairman. A draft organisational plan became ELS.

This was at a time when Labour MP John Cryer, in a Commons adjournment debate, said Mr Ward had been encouraging colleges to get rid of staff and employ agency lecturers,

Geoff Loades, a qualified accountant who retired as group personnel director of Norwich Union in August, becomes chairman of the Norfolk learning and skills council.

He said: "The new set-up will bring cohesion, which everyone working in this area should welcome.

"From my work with the TEC, I am keen thatbusiness should be able to identify its needs when it comes to post-16 education.

"For most people, it is important that learning is not just for pleasure but also to develop people's ability to obtain and retain employment, although it is important we strike the right balance."

Ashwin Mistry, who becomes chair of the Leicestershire council, said: "The new structure will be a lot simpler. As far as getting the right balance between learning and skills is concerned, the right way to achieve that is to make sure you have the right balance of people on the national board.

"The constitution of the board is very important. But, overall, this is a good development because we need to get the provision right and we need properly to involve business in doing that."

Other chairs include Olivia Grant, for Durham. She is chief executive of Tyneside training and enterprise council and represents the region on the TECs' national council's chief executive committee.

Sal Brinton, chair of Cambridgeshire LSC, is bursar of Selwyn College, Cambridge, and leader of the county council's Liberal Democrat group. She is on the board of the East Anglian Development Agency, with responsibility for skills and lifelong learning.

David Melville, chief executive of the FEFC, said: "I am pleased to see that the majority of the successful candidates have a proven track record in business, education or training.

"They will bring invaluable experience and expertise."

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Steve Hook

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