All aboard the Train to Gain

5th October 2007 at 01:00

If everyone involved climbs aboard, then we'll go places, says David Way, national skills director of the Learning and Skills Council

A FIRST ANNIVERSARY is a milestone in anyone's book and Train to Gain is no exception. The scheme has developed, grown and deserves a bit of a celebration.

With more than a quarter of a million workers already benefiting from new skills and qualifications, there can be no question that the service has made a big impact.

Feedback is extremely positive, with nearly nine out of 10 learners and employers expressing satisfaction with the service and a substantial proportion of the students amply demonstrating one of the key aims to instil and sharpen an appetite for continuous personal development throughout life.

The substantial investment of public funds in the Train to Gain service must be seen to be delivering best value for money and making a difference for all learners and employers, regardless of the level of skill or nature of their business.

However, at the moment, many of the businesses which have had discussions with Train to Gain skills brokers have not yet signed up to any training. We need to increase the take-up of Train to Gain sharply.

Everyone in the learning and skills "family" will need to help with this, especially colleges and training providers. Skills brokers will continue to play their part too.

Rest assured, the Learning and Skills Council is working to push learner numbers up. There are no alarm bells ringing at this time, but we are aware that we need to make sure that we get more colleges and training providers continuing to work closely with more employers and increase demand for skills through initiatives such as the Skills Pledge.

Engaging employers represents the beginning of a journey of skills needs assessment and advice determining how investing in the skills of their workforce will help to achieve their business objectives and probably the most important stage of the Train to Gain service.

Equally, the LSC is aware that many colleges and other training providers are questioning the effectiveness of the skills brokerage service when some have forged ahead independently and successfully brought in their own Train to Gain business. Well, it was always anticipated that colleges would draw in business by other means.

Skills brokerage is a key element of the Train to Gain service, and the LSC continues to believe it provides an important link between employers and training providers. We must not forget that the skills brokers are bringing in hard- to-reach employers and this is really important when we know that many small to medium-sized companies either do not train their staff or do very little training.

Looking ahead, the LSC will continue to invest in the Train to Gain service. We are working with business organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry, to push skills investment ever higher up employers' agendas using the Skills Pledge, for example, to motivate employers to invest in their whole workforce, reforming qualifications so that they are better matched to their business needs.

The success of Train to Gain depends on delivering skills at all levels. This is the service that is offered to employers. However, we should not apologise for the fact that Train to Gain includes a strong focus on level 2 (GSCE equivalent) skills and qualifications. Lord Leitch says level 2 should be the government priority as it provides a platform on which to build higher-level skills and qualifications. But that is not all that Train to Gain is about. The service has the flexibility to respond to any skills issue at any level, including delivering higher-level skills, engaging in higher as well as further education.

As Train to Gain moves into its second year, we are encouraging employers to access its services, confident in the knowledge that they are effectively making a double investment in their own business and the long-term competitiveness of our nation's economy. The success of Train to Gain is of vital economic and social importance. But its development depends on the support, encouragement and nurturing of the learning and skills "family". If a shared commitment to the successful growth of Train to Gain can forge a greater bond between business and government, the service will continue to develop in responsiveness, quality and adaptability.

We need everyone to get behind Train to Gain, which is already working well for employers and learners. It simply needs to grow more quickly, with everyone's energies behind it.

World-class skills, greater social justice and the future competitiveness of our country are too valuable a prize to risk missing out on.

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