Enjoy the lull while it lasts

20th July 2007 at 01:00

This week, the Government made clear that progress towards a "demand led" system for adult skills will be more a matter of evolution than revolution.

Private training outfits, in competition with colleges for a bigger slice of the pie, will no doubt be disappointed, insisting that they are ready to provide the kind of responsive service that businesses need.

Instead of radical change by 2010 as the Association of Learning Providers would like they will have to wait longer to get a look-in.

Over the coming months and years, there will be considerable lobbying from private providers, who will want to impress on ministers what they see as an urgent need for liberalisation of the adult training market.

Despite the response to the Leitch review of skills reported to Parliament on Wednesday the long-standing issue of creating a level playing field for competition between the public and private sectors is far from being resolved.

But this breathing space is good news for colleges. Despite the current mantra of skills, skills, skills, the remit of colleges remains far wider.

The world of business should accept better than most that organisations cannot be expected to bend to the will of Government at the click of a minister's fingers.

After all, Leitch is the current name on everyone's lips. But who will be next? The tablets of stone inscribed with the wisdom of a demand-led system may be clear for all to see but every dog has its day.

For all the talk of a demand-led system, the real marketplace is the one that connects colleges with their students. It is inevitable that, in the fullness of time, the balance between the demands of employers and the real needs of students will have to be addressed.

When the world has moved on from Leitch's vision, colleges will still be here doing the business in the real market place where students vote with their feet.

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