Welsh post-16 plan doubts

24th September 1999 at 01:00
ECONOMISTS have criticised the action plan for post-16 education in Wales which proposes to replace training and enterprise councils with community consortia.

Cardiff-based policy consultants Newidiem echo criticisms already made by the Council of Welsh Training and Enterprise Councils and the Confederation for British Industry in Wales

One of its authors Kevin Morgan, professor of City and Regional Planning, chaired the Yes campaign in the 1997 referendum which created the assembly. Another of its authors, Brian Morgan, director of Cardiff Business School's Small Firms Research Unit, was a member of Labour's panel of candidates for the assembly elections. The other authors are Newidiem's managing director Adam Price and consultant Robert Huggins.

The proposals are currently under consideration by the assembly's post-16 education and training committee, which aims to produce its own report by late next month and implementation plans by early November, and the Economic Development Committee, which started its own review last week.

The Newidiem criticisms focus on ETAP's proposed community consortia for education and training , which would replace training and enterprise councils. Newidiem say there should be no more than four regional training bodies.

Brian Morgan says: "The report says there will be 10 to 12 consortia. In practice we will end up with 22, because every local authority will want its own training officer. Wales has been bedevilled by boundary mismatches in the past and just when we have achieved a logical unitary structure with four TECs, four Welsh Development Agency regions and four regional economic forums, a new mismatch will be thrown into the structure."

The ETAP plans would, he says, hand training and enterprise back to colleges and local authorities: "What makes us think that partnership will deliver any more effectively than in the past?" He fears that business input will be lost.

He believes that the Welsh TECs have been more effective than their English counterparts: "In part because having only four allowed them to reach a critical mass that made them effective." He points to innovations such as the former Gwent TEC's pioneering of skill assessment needs, and survey work showing the shortage of technician skills in Wales.

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