SEVERE weaknesses in Northern Ireland's Jobskills training system have been highlighted in a report by the Education and Training Inspectorate.
However the programme, which is receiving pound;61 million from the Training and Employment Agency, is still described as being better than the one it replaced in April 1995.
The inspectors note that there is no effective central system for recording the number of trainees entering construction training programmes.
With a few exceptions, retention rates in Jobskills are poor. In about three-quarters of training organisations, at least half the trainees leave early without gaining significant numbers of national vocational qualification units.
The criticism will be a severe blow for the Tamp;EA which claimed last year that Jobskills was exceeding expectations. In 90 per cent of the training bodies, the quality of leadership by senior management is at least satisfactory. Yet "in almost all there were aspects of training which were poor and which had not been identified by the management".
Further criticism of management and Tamp;EA itself is implicit in the claim that employers in most vocational areas have a poor understanding of the NVQ programmes and assessment arrangements.
"Quality assurance arrangements need to place more emphasis on ensuring that employers are involved in effective partnerships in drawing up training plans," the report says.
Criticism of work at NVQ level 3 (A-level equivalent) is particularly fierce. The report said:
* directed training in most vocational areas was poor;
* the quality of work placements for a significant number of the trainees is poor;
* the number of trainees gaining a full NVQ level 3 in many vocational areas is low and standards are poor.
A few of the vocational areas receive a clean bill of health, such as electrical and electronic engineering. Motor vehicle training is generally well-organised, but success rates run from over 80 per cent to a mere 28 per cent of those who complete.