Tailored to meet the needs of low-skilled

The system is too eager to categorise work-based courses as having failed when trainees move on. Sue Jones reports

Ian Ferguson wants a world-class system of vocational education and training for all young people who choose that route.

As a Clydesider, he grew up in a community where the apprenticeship system was valued. Now, as chair of the Learning and Skills Council's Modern Apprenticeship board, his task is to promote a commitment to training where "the absolute focus is work, becoming an expert practitioner".

He believes the LSC is well placed to work with trainers "on the ground, day to day, month by month - that's where you get the judgment added because people know what's happening". Where providers are having problems, he wants the improvement to be quick, robust, but sympathetic.

An extra pound;25m has recently been allocated to improve provider quality by helping to train staff, develop courses and expand capacity. Whatever targets may be set for achievement levels, he thinks they will only be achieved by focusing on all young people.

As part of the MA, the LSC is developing the Entry to Employment programme for the 10 to 15 per cent of youngsters who leave school with little.

He knows he will also have to work on the employers who don't yet "buy into the complete vision" of the Modern Apprenticeship. The attitude of the big companies is crucial, but many prefer their own "branded" training schemes to the national one.

Small companies face different issues, but Mr Ferguson thinks more employers will come on board if their needs are properly addressed. Ways of measuring completion, for instance, should be looked at "very closely".

As director of Data Connections Ltd and an employer, he believes that there are very few genuinely low-skill jobs. His philosophy is: "There's a huge job to be done with employers, but if they can't get people to do low-skill jobs, they'll change their attitude."

north news and pictures will walker FE FOCUS september 20 2002 TES 39 www.tesfefocus.co.uk Work in progress:Shape boss John Redhead says the company is still in a vulnerable position because no credit is given for getting trainees part of the way - trainees who get jobs or switch courses are 'failures'

World-class aims: Ian Ferguson 'It's got to be a positive attempt to jack-up quality, not a heavy-handed attempt to close providers down'

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