Skills system should be kept simple now

21st November 2008 at 00:00

Ensuring that we work together to make the optimum evidence-based interventions to support a cooling economy is vital for regional development agencies and their partners in skills and training.

We have been arguing for the past year that the proposed dismemberment of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) will be disruptive, costly and will not lead to the fulfilment of the ambitions that we solidly supported in the Leitch report.

We need stability and simplification within the skills system. Employers cannot believe the number of new fuse boxes that seem to be in the proposed arrangements.

Do we believe that two new agencies, in two new departments of state, with unclear links to local and regional skills, employment and competitiveness agendas in these harsh economic conditions are the way forward?

The parallel initiatives, such as the reforming vocational qualifications and re-licensing of the Sector Skills Councils, will add to the problems. Why not go for a simple approach? Keep the LSC as it is and go for strategic reform. It could take on a more strategic role for the demand- led skills agenda.

It is now well equipped to deal with the adult skills demand-led agenda, which needs even greater focus given the risks and opportunities that exist to its implementation as a consequence of economic cooling.

Employers' commitment to apprenticeships and Train to Gain will need to be given greater support. Will this happen if these proposed structural changes take place? I hope it's not too late to ask the question: should the skills system face such change in these uncertain times?

The changes that were proposed for the LSC were done at a time of economic growth. It's all hands on deck to get through this difficult economic period. The Government has made the right decisions so far regarding its interventions in respect of the new global economic changes. I hope this abolition of the LSC is one it does not make.

Steven Broomhead, Chief executive of the Northwest Regional Development Agency.

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