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Task force to monitor the skills market;FE Focus

The Government's new skills task force will help colleges to match their work to the needs of the labour market, Chris Humphries, its newly-announced chair, said this week.

Mr Humphries, chief executive of the TEC National Council, who becomes director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce in July, will advise on how to create a national skills agenda.

He said he was not thinking of going back to manpower planning days. In courses such as tourism and media studies, there was an over-supply of students. Better information about the labour market could prevent this happening, he said.

The task force was set up to provide advice on the nature, extent and geographical and industrial pattern of skills needs; practical measures to ease skills and recruitment difficulties; likely changes in longer term skill needs of the economy; and how best to ensure the education and training system responds effectively.

"Principals would like to know where likely employer growth is going to be because young people are interesting in getting jobs. Principals want to know where to put their investment so need to know the direction of the market.

"We do not have the mechanisms to enable us to match demand a bit more closely than a free market allows. No single college over-provides in any one area, but there is a totality of over-supply and under-supply," he said.

"The Further Education Funding Council does not do it, it would say it is not in their remit to do it. We need to shape our provision a lot better," he said.

Regional seminars will bring together colleges, universities, employers, training and enterprise councils and chambers of commerce to identify skills strategies.

"We do not intend to be another level of bureaucracy. Nor do I see the task force as only having a long-term programme which ends up with a nicely-crafted report at the end of two years. What we need are recommendations for practical change," said Mr Humphries."

Task force members include: Gary Allen, chairman of IMI; Llew Avis, personnel director, Siemens; Rita Britton, Pollyanna, Barnsley; Tony Dubbins, general secretary, GPMU; John Edmonds, general secretary, GMB; Denise Hall, general manager BT; Ken Jackson, general secretary, AEEU; Eddie MacIntyre, principal, Birmingham College of Food; John Palmer, chair, Training Steel Ltd; Peter Rainbird, chair, Essex TEC; Ian Roxburgh, chief executive, Coventry City Council; Julia Tinsley, Pitman Training Centre, Sheffield; Adair Turner, CBI director general, and Anne Weinstock, Rathbone CI.

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