Pilots critique must be heard

17th March 2006 at 00:00
David Way's letter "Plugging the skills gap", (FE Focus, February 17), which suggests employer training pilots are meeting skill development needs, reads like an attempt to defend the Learning and Skills Council by one of its own employees.

Sure, people have used the pilots to train staff. However, an evaluation published in December 2005 and conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said that 85-90 per cent of training through this route would have happened anyway. Only 14 per cent of employers were regarded as "hard to reach". So, employees in firms reluctant to engage in training benefited least from the pilots.

Certainly, there are different views on satisfaction. The Adult Learning Inspectorate report published in December 2005 says: "There are too many cases where national vocational qualification accreditation is gained without significant development of job-related skills.

"In some cases, this leads to dissatisfaction with the training. Some learners feel that they gain little by compiling portfolios that set out what they already know."

The letter also stresses there has been an important emphasis on assessment. The idea that individuals are tested before they start, so that their skills levels are known, has merit. Indeed the Adult Learning Inspectorate report welcomes the assess-train-assess approach, which allows for training between assessments. However, it states that this too frequently becomes assess-assess-assess - simply re-testing in order to accredit skills.

There are major criticisms of the pilots that must be taken seriously, and not simply dismissed or avoided in a jobsworth way.

Graham Fowler Melbourne, Derbyshire

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