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Upbeat about downsizing

As job-losses loom at the country's biggest-spending quango, Mark Haysom, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council, sets out his vision for the future

Since I joined the Learning and Skills Council nearly two years ago, I have been talking about the need for the LSC to change in order to play a leadership role in the transformation of the post-16 education sector.

When we launched the Agenda for Change prospectus in August this year I said again that the LSC itself was not exempt from change. We know we have to move away from micro-management to support and from complex to simple funding. We also have to switch from focus on inputs and data to focus on quality outcomes and from adding overhead to the system to adding value.

I've talked about this on numerous public platforms and to staff at our local and national offices. Last week we started the process that will deliver our radical vision for the sector.

With its partners, the LSC has a fantastic opportunity to make a difference to learners, employers and communities up and down the land. Collectively, we have already made considerable progress, with record numbers of young people in learning, and in apprenticeships, and with above-target performance in basic skills.

We are proud of this success. But it's not enough. We are capable of achieving much more and, if we are to remain trusted by providers and partners, we need to be even more expert at all levels in order to develop a lighter touch and form strategic relationships.

To be truly ambitious on behalf of learners and employers, we need to move urgently to remove barriers to success. What we can do straight away is to simplify, to reduce bureaucracy and to focus on driving excellence across the sector. We must become easier to deal with as an organisation, and, importantly, we must make sure that every available penny goes to the front line. This is what the Agenda for Change is all about.

The LSC needs to be a different shape - we need to become a smaller, more dynamic, customer-centered organisation.

Where we make our biggest difference is locally, but our local activity must be focused on relationship management and partnerships. We must ensure that we are organised effectively to do this and that we have the expertise in place across the country. We must also make sure that we can respond rapidly to developing government and local agendas, for example, at the increasingly important city and city region level. We need to be stronger at regional level, and I believe there is an opportunity for us to work more efficiently by introducing regional service centres to provide support to local teams.

We need our national office to focus only on what it makes sense to do nationally and to devolve everything else to the regions. That means our national office should be smaller and have expertise that truly adds value to the whole of the LSC.

Throughout our organisation we need to have streamlined systems and processes to reflect the new kind of relationships and the new way of working. This amounts to an opportunity for us to become more effective as an organisation on behalf of learners and employers. This way, we believe it is possible to free up as much as pound;40 million a year in management and running costs and to transfer this to directly benefit learners. That money would allow us to help an additional 12,000 young learners or 80,000 adults.

This is a radical vision and one that will have a profound impact on staff across the organisation. I am acutely aware of the uncertainty this will cause and, while it is too early to talk real numbers, I would not wish to mislead our staff or partners about the possible scale of what I am describing. Some preliminary modelling carried out by the LSC's management group suggests that over the next year it is possible to create an organisation along the lines I have described with some 3,400 posts - compared with the current 4,700.

I will be listening to staff, the union and partner organisations in the weeks to come and will keep everyone informed of progress. Whilst the changes will be difficult for some, we will create an organisation, and ultimately a sector, that will be world-class.

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