Funds risk to colleges

21st September 2007 at 01:00

Employers given go-ahead to develop skills qualifications and vie for cash to pay for them

THE COMPETITION colleges face from private industry is destined to get hotter as employers win new freedoms under reforms of the qualifications system.

New proposals announced by John Denham, the Skills Secretary, will mean that many of industry's in-house training programs could be accredited.

As well as enabling thousands more staff to earn Government-recognised qualifications, the development will lead to employers being able to get funding for staff development currently provided at their own expense.

If successful, the policy will bring the training and qualifications of thousands of workers under the umbrella of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's national qualifications framework.

With firms already claiming they spend pound;23 billion a year on staff training, it could mean stiff competition for colleges and Learning and Skills Council funds.

The Association of Colleges says the development taken alongside other proposals to allow colleges and employers the power to award their own qualifications is an opportunity as much as a threat.

Julian Gravatt the association's director of funding and development, said: "Clearly there is a risk in this for colleges but there is an opportunity as well."

He says colleges' familiarity with the accreditation requirements of the QCA, combined with their existing capacity to deal with the red tape, will put them in a stronger position to set up their own awards.

The new accreditation for workbased training forms one of four policy drives by the new minister as he attempts to improve the performance of the workforce alongside Train to Gain, the expansion of apprenticeships and increased levels of training towards higher level skills.

Mr Denham said he wants to see a narrowing of the distinction between training which takes place in the workplace outside the current funding and accreditation system, and courses run in colleges or under the scope of the LSC.

While the industry's figure of pound;23 billion may be disputed, Mr Denham says a significant amount of good quality training is taking place in industry. And he is determined it should count towards Government targets and the crusade for "world class skills". Mr Denham said: "The training that many organisations offer is of a very high standard. We want to end the outdated distinction between employers' training and public qualifications."

The Department for Innovation Universities and Skills is having discussions with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority about the practicalities of accrediting training previously outside the scope of Government regulation.

A number of employers have already been selected for "fast-track" access to accreditation for their staff training including Vodafone, McDonald's and Sainsbury's.

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