The post-16 skills White Paper due out this month is set to give industry control of most vocational training in colleges.
The Government's commitment to the creation of 12 industry-funded academies, to head networks of college centres of vocational excellence, is spelled out in the draft paper, seen by FE Focus.
Industry will be expected to pay at least half the costs of the 16-19 academies, based on the model of the Topshop retail fashion academy proposed last autumn by Philip Green, chief executive of Arcadia, which owns the high-street chain.
A senior government official told FE Focus this week there was a "huge row" behind the scenes over who would run the show. "If employers are putting money in, they will expect to run it," the source said. "There is a bitter feeling in industry that FE is not delivering and it sees these academies as a way of refreshing its estate. On the other side of the coin, Skills for Business networks will want to control them."
Colleges received a significant boost from David Bell, chief inspector of the Office for Standards in Education, who says in his annual report that employers are wrong to claim colleges are failing to tailor courses to their needs. This contention "is not entirely supported by the evidence," he says.
But, in the White Paper, ministers reiterate earlier warnings that any significant new cash for skills training beyond level 2 (GCSE grade A-C-equivalent) must come from employers and individuals.
The paper puts emphasis on measures to improve skills through FE-industry partnerships, including the new national employer training programme.
But there are concerns with the Sector Skills Development Agency that inadequate state support at this stage will hamper progress. Sector skills councils are charged with agreeing employer contributions.
One SSDA source said: "Is there going to be enough money following the White Paper to fulfil what is being proposed in sector skills agreements? A lot of training will need to be level 3 (A-level equivalent) and employers need resources to back this up."
Ofsted report 3