THE Government is playing down fears of planning blight as it starts to implement its education and training reforms. Staff at training and enterprise councils and the Further Education Funding Council face an uncertain future as the organisations that are due to replace them start recruiting.
Advertisements for chairs and chief executives of the national and local learning and skills councils appeared last week. Successful applicants will be appointed by July - some nine months before the LSC begins work. Around 800 of the eventual staff of nearly 5,000 are expected to be appointed by Christmas.
Many of the jobs are likely to be taken by current TEC and FEFC staff, leading to an exodus from the two major post-16 education and training bodies several months before they are wound up.
The worries have not been eased by a delay in the launch of the LSC planning website, scheduled for late March, and now due to appear next week. The draft transition plan, published last November, said that staff in existing organisations would be made fully aware of their position by October.
Meanwhile, the cief executive of one TEC in a Midlands town which will not be a base for a local learning and skills council, admitted that it was becoming hard to hold on to staff.
He said: "We are looking at ways of making retention payments to key staff to make sure they don't disappear. We have a very low unemployment level here, it's not difficult to find other work and the sort of skills that TEC staff have tend to be in big demand."
A chief executive of a north-western TEC, one of four to be abolished in favour of a single council, said: "We have got 200 people looking at a very uncertain and unstable period over the next year." He added: "The danger is that in the time between now and then staff will make their own minds up and move somewhere else."
A Government spokesman said local task groups were working to make sure that redundancies or disruption were kept to a minimum. "It's going to be difficult but we have got these transitional arrangements to manage the change. We want to attract expertise that's already been built up there so there will be a role for most people in the new body."