Tough measures to improve standards in the pound;11 billion market for training in the workplace were announced by the Government's training watchdog this week.
A framework for independent national inspection of all work-based training, Raising the Standard, published by the Training Standards Council, aims to ensure that lifelong learning is high quality.
David Sherlock, chief executive and chief inspector of the council, said:
"We will bring private training providers under tight independent quality control in line with schools and further education colleges. The concept of lifelong learning comes nearer with the valid choice a 16-year-old can now make between school, college or learning at work on say, a modern apprenticeship. The initiative will upgrade work-based learning, to attract a higher level of esteem, currently only enjoyed by colleges and universities.
"Work-based training represents a pound;11bn spend, by employers and government. A new five-grade system will be used by the council's inspectors to evaluate the trainers' self-assessment. The training industry, the largest sector in our education system will now compete with the others on performance. This offers a choice to potential trainees against the other sectors and amongst training providers themselves, of which there are some 2,000 in England."
The Green Paper on Lifelong Learning published earlier this year underlined the council's duty to provide greater choice to trainees. It said that more than 300,000 people of all ages start a training programme at work every year with the help of Government money.
Nick Reilly, chairman of the council and chief executive of Vauxhall Motors, said: "The work of our inspectors will be published so a choice of training will be better informed than ever before. In a lifetime's work, almost everybody takes part in training. Those of us whose businesses compete globally know the critical need for training. The council is here to raise the quality of this vital national asset."
No limit will be placed on the level of training which falls within the inspectors' scope, from work at or below national vocational qualification level 1, to advanced studies carried out in the workplace. To avoid unnecessary duplication of inspection, when the training takes place at a college the Training Standards Council and the Further Education Funding Council will accept each other's findings, where appropriate.
"Inspectors will be flexible and fair in their approach. The exercise of flexibility on the part of the inspectors will not mean that grades will be awarded less stringently at the beginning of the cycle than at the end," says the report.