Implementing the Leitch Review of Skills in England
Organisation & Services Dept, August 2007
On 18 July the Government published its detailed response to the recommendations of the Leitch Review of Skills in the document, World Class Skills: implementing the Leitch Review of Skills in England. The TUC welcomed the implementation plan and in particular the noticeable change in tone as regards the importance of meeting the skill needs of individual employees as well as giving employers a bigger say on skills.
The implementation plan is available on the website of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (www.dius.gov.uk/publications/publications-leitchreview.htm). At the same time the Government also published an update on progress with implementing the changes set out in the FE White Paper published last year and this document (Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances - Update, 2007) is available on the same website.
On the same day the Government also published its Welfare Reform Green Paper - In Work, Better Off: next steps to full employment. Many of the proposals in this Green Paper have close links with the skills implementation plan as a result of the central recommendation by Lord Leitch that Government should create a joined-up employment and skills system. A full copy of the Green Paper is available at: www.dwp.gov.uk/welfarereform/in-work-better-off.
The final report of the Leitch Review of Skills published in December 2006 is available at: www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/leitch_review. A TUC briefing on the final report is available at: www.tuc.org.uk/skills.
The TUC's initial response  to the Leitch implementation plan said that it would 'do much to tackle the problems that low skills create for both employers and individuals'. It also identified a welcome nuanced change in tone with the skill needs of individuals and employees being more centre stage than in recent policy statements. In particular, the TUC welcomes the vision of a demand-led skills system highlighted in the introduction of the document, as follows: 'What all our reforms have in common is that they are trying to put the customer - in this case, adult learners and employers - first. We call this our 'demand-led' approach' (paragraph 10).
The TUC also welcomes the decision to 'bring forward new legislation to strengthen the current funding entitlement for adults to free training in basic literacy and numeracy skills, and to achieve their first full level 2 qualifications' (paragraph 15). While this entitlement will not immediately create any new obligations on employers, it does go beyond the proposal by Lord Leitch to review the need for a new statutory right in 2010. In principle it prepares the ground for the introduction of a full legal right to training in three years time if employers fail to support enough employees to access training up to level 2 by supporting the Skills Pledge.
The Government has announced that the above entitlement will be included in an Education and Skills Bill, which will be introduced sometime during the next Parliamentary session. This Bill will also raise to 18 the minimum age at which young people can leave education or training and will bring in other legislative changes needed to implement key elements of the implementation plan (e.g. changing the arrangements for implementing compulsory training levies at the sector level).
The TUC's learning arm, unionlearn, will now begin work on a strategy to help trade unions and union learning representatives (ULRs) make the most of the new initiatives set out in the implementation plan. The unionlearn website already contains a new section (www.unionlearn.org.uk/policy/index.cfm?mins=150) covering the Skills Pledge and further guidance on this and other aspects of the implementation plan will be made available shortly. Further policy briefings on the implementation of particular aspects of the plan will be made available on the TUC website at: www.tuc.org.uk/skills/index.
The key measures set out in the implementation plan are as follows:
Chapter 1. Our world class ambition
Chapter 2. Supporting individuals to improve their skills and progress in work
Chapter 3. Employers leading the way on skills
Chapter 4. A new partnership for the workplace
5. Equipping young people with the skills they need for work and life
The excerpts below from the introduction highlight the main thrust of the overall vision set out in the implementation plan. This vision represents a more balanced view of the skill needs of employers and employees than has been evident in recent policy statements by Government and the TUC has welcomed this change.
Excerpts from Introduction: 'For adults, better skills and economically valuable qualifications are a route to achieving better jobs, career progression and higher incomes to support their families. Better skills are the key to greater social mobility, ensuring that individuals can get on because of their talent and hard work, and not just because of their background. For employers, a more highly-skilled workforce is a route to achieving higher productivity and, in the private sector, greater competitiveness and profitability (paragraphs 3-4) ... What all our reforms have in common is that they are trying to put the customer - in this case, adult learners and employers - first. We call this our 'demand-led' approach' (paragraph 11).
However, the TUC continues to have some concerns about the extent to which the employer-led approach on skills is being strengthened and will continue to press the Government to give employees and trade unions a significant voice in the new institutional skills framework, in particular via the new Commission for Employment and Skills. It is also particularly important that the workforce, through trade union representation, is able to have a significant influence on the new powers that Sector Skills Councils are to be given around the design and approval of vocational qualifications.
On the balance of responsibility between individuals and employers, the introduction says the following: '.. individuals need to feel it is their responsibility to improve their skills throughout their lives, because of the benefits that will bring for them and their families. We need employers to take responsibility for the skills of their employees, because of the increased productivity and profitability that investing in skills will deliver. And when they do take that responsibility, they need to know that Government accepts its responsibility to support them' (paragraph 9). As regards employer responsibility, the TUC is currently supporting the Skills Pledge but only on the basis that the Government remains clearly committed to introducing a statutory right to training if the pledge does not lead to a sufficient rate of improvement in investment in training by employers by 2010.
This section of the report reviews the skills targets for 2020 set out in the final report of the Leitch Review and identifies interim targets for 2011 (although these are subject to the final outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review due in the autumn and the amount of public spending allocated to skills). Current thinking though is that the following interim targets  , challenging though they are, could be achieved by 2011:
Skills for Life
The above targets are also for the entire working age population and not just adults in the workforce, which is the baseline for the existing PSA target for increasing the proportion of adults with a Level 2 qualification. The implementation plan also sets out a longer-term interim target for Level 4, i.e., that 36% of adults should be qualified to this level by 2014 compared to 29% in 2005 (2020 target is to exceed 40%). The implementation plan also says that participation in full-time education amongst 16-18 year-olds should rise to 84% by 2011.
The implementation plan stresses that delivering on this scale of ambition 'will require increased action and investment in skills from Government, employers, Trade Unions and individuals' and this will also require a 'balance of responsibility between Government, employers and individuals' along the following lines:
Lord Leitch had originally recommended that virtually all adult vocational skills funding in England should flow through two demand-led routes by 2010, Train to Gain (for employers and most work-based training) and via Learner Accounts for individuals attending FE colleges and other provision. However, whilst it is clear that much more funding will be directed through Train to Gain by 2010, the Government has concluded that fully implementing Lord Leitch's recommendation 'would create unacceptable risks to the performance and stability of colleges and providers, which in turn would damage the quality of education and training offered to learners.'
The Government is still committed to taking forward the concept of Learner Accounts (re-badged as Skills Accounts) and will review on an annual basis the extent to which these will dictate funding for colleges and providers. See below for more detail on the key role that the new Skills Accounts will play in supporting individuals to access tailored education and training programmes.
The implementation plan emphasises that 'the skills deficits in England are heavily differentiated by age, disability, ethnicity, and gender, but also by geography and socio-economic group' and that the strategy on skills and employment is explicitly designed to 'improve outcomes of equality and diversity'. Earlier this year the DfES and LSC consulted on a draft equality impact assessment (EQIA) for all existing adult skills policies (the TUC response to this is available at: www.tuc.org.uk/skills). The outcome of the assessment has now been published and is available on the DIUS website, and according to the implementation plan the overall outcome was positive. There is also a commitment to 'publish a consolidated action plan encompassing adult skills policies by the end of 2007, with a further full review of equality and diversity across adult skills policies by autumn 2010'.
This section of the plan highlights 'the link between getting economically valuable skills and getting good jobs and progressing in [your] chosen career' and it also argues that 'skills are a powerful lever for social mobility, both for individuals and between the generations'. It also sets out how the Government will be taking forward a number of recommendations by Lord Leitch, in particular the development of a joined-up employment and skills system for both jobless people and employees and the establishment of a new adult careers service.
The implementation plan also highlights that individual Skills Accounts will play a central role in steering individuals through this new system and also that the Government will legislate to strengthen the existing entitlements to free provision for individuals eligible for training leading to Skills for Life and first Level 2 qualifications.
The overriding aim of the joined-up employment and skills system will be to develop 'a single customer journey, from poor skills or worklessness to sustainable employment and the skills to progress'. There will be much closer integration of programmes for the unemployed and workplace training programmes in order to support this approach (e.g. benefit claimants moving into work will ultimately be able to access Train to Gain provision to support them in achieving sustainable employment). The new employment and skills system will involve much closer working between Jobcentre Plus and the LSC and the Government has also asked the Commission for Employment and Skills to report in 2010 on 'whether further institutional change is required to deliver a better integrated employment and skills service.'
An early joint initiative by Jobcentre Plus and the LSC will be the new Employability Skills Programme that will be launched in August 2007 with a focus on equipping jobless people with Skills for Life qualifications and an employability certificate. This approach will be developed over the longer-term to develop a new 'skills for jobs' offer that will see greater integration between out-of-work support and the role played by Train to Gain in the workplace. A pilot will be developed to test out this 'skills for jobs' approach.
There will also be a high profile role for the new adult careers service, which will merge the information and advice services of learndirect and nextstep providers. The implementation plan states that in order to promote the new careers service and to help it reach hard to reach groups, the Government will 'utilise Union Learning Representatives and continue to foster networks of learning champions or learning ambassadors, particularly in deprived areas.' The new service will be universal and the aim is to 'ensure that everyone is able to access the help they need to take stock of where they are in achieving their goals and ambitions, and to get the support they need to advance themselves and achieve their full potential.'
The adult careers service will also increasingly provide advice on financial support, such as the Adult Learning Grant and Career Development Loans, and it will ensure access to a new Skills Development Fund (which will replace existing Learner Support Funds). It will also provide a skills health check for jobseekers who have been referred by Jobcentre Plus as needing further skills support. For Skills Account holders (see below), the careers service will facilitate access to a wide choice of providers to enable them to exercise their entitlements.
The new Skills Accounts that will be piloted are designed to 'give individuals greater ownership and choice over their learning, motivating them to gain skills and achieve qualifications, enter work and progress in employment.' An account number and account card will help individuals to be aware of the amount of investment in their training whether from the Government, their employer or themselves. However, learning from the lessons of the Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs), the implementation plan stresses that 'at no time will there be any flow of public funding out of the system' and this suggests a virtual account rather than any of the financial flexibilities of the ILA model. Skills Account holders will also have access to their own learner record and will be able to make this available (e.g. to prospective employers).
There is a strong suggestion in the implementation plan that Skills Accounts are going to be largely focused on helping jobless people and employees whose employers are not providing them with training, as well as FE students aged over 19. The plan says that 'for those who are not being supported to train in the workplace, Skills Accounts will become the way into learning for all those aged 19 or over, other than in relation to HE'.
This implies that employees accessing Train to Gain or related provision (e.g. Apprenticeships, Skills for Life programmes etc.) in the workplace may not be eligible for Skills Accounts on the basis that they are accessing their entitlements via these workplace routes. The TUC will be following up on this issue and in particular what the potential is for linking the Skills Accounts concept with the Collective Learning Funds model currently being jointly trialled by TUC and DIUS in the North West (see below for more detail on the CLF trial).
A related question is whether access to the adult careers service will be prioritised for Skills Account holders and whether adult employees aged over 19 engaged in Train to Gain, Apprenticeships and related programmes will therefore not have the same degree of access. On this point the TUC will be pressing the Government to ensure that the service is genuinely universal and available to all employees wishing to reassess their skills needs and career prospects.
The Skills Accounts are clearly going to be the key mechanism designed to support individual adults:
In addition, the implementation plan confirms that the Government is going to translate the existing administrative entitlements to Skills for Life and first Level 2 qualifications into legal entitlements via the forthcoming Education and Skills Bill. It says that in order to ' encourage low-skilled adults to take up learning, we propose to introduce legislation to support adults accessing basic literacy and numeracy programmes and training leading to their first full level 2 qualification'. It continues by saying that 'this would give statutory backing to the existing entitlements which we have created administratively since 2003. This arrangement would not create any new obligations on employers, since the case for new legislation around workplace training will be reviewed in 2010' (paragraph 2.24).
Clearly these strengthened entitlements will not enable trade unions to force employers to allow individual employees to access their entitlements in the workplace or to require them to participate in Train to Gain and related government-subsidised training programmes. However, they could be used as additional leverage to persuade some employers that they should be signing up to the Skills Pledge/Train to Gain (see below) as a means of allowing individual employees to access their legal entitlements. Presumably, the entitlements would also go some way to strengthening the funding of this provision in the same way that the LSC has had to prioritise funding 16-19 year-olds under provisions in the Learning and Skills Act 2000. Finally, as the TUC has highlighted, the legal entitlements prepare the ground for the introduction of a full legal right to training in three years time if employers fail to support enough employees to access training up to level 2 by supporting the Skills Pledge.
This section of the report also highlights the new awareness raising campaign launched by the Government to promote the benefits of learning and skills for both employers and individuals (see www.inourhands.lsc.gov.uk).
Whilst acknowledging that 'many employers have an outstanding record in training', the implementation plan also highlights that over a third offer (35%) no training at all. It also highlights that in the UK the pattern of training that is delivered by employers remains concentrated on those already qualified, is of a shorter duration than in most other European countries, and in too many workplaces tends to only cover induction and health & safety issues. The implementation plan says that to change this culture 'employers themselves will need to increase their investment [in training] and target it better' and in return Government 'must be able to assure employers that qualifications are economically valuable, that they will be able to access high quality training that meets their needs, and that available public funds are being well spent'.
The Government has also given a commitment that employers will be given a stronger voice on the content and delivery of skills and employment programmes via their influence on a range of bodies, including: a new national Commission for Employment and Skills; reformed and relicensed Sector Skills Councils (SSCs); an expanded network of National Skills Academies; and, a network of Local Employment and Skills Boards.
The new Commission will be a UK-wide body that should be fully operational in 2008 and it 'will provide a vigorous, expert, and external challenge to the employment and skills system at all levels, to ensure that it is delivering the services that employers and individuals need.' The UK-wide remit of the CES is still under discussion with the Devolved Administrations but it is clear that in 2010 it will report to Government on whether a statutory entitlement to training is appropriate and whether further institutional change is required to deliver a better integrated employment and skills service. It is anticipated that the CES will report formally twice a year to the highest levels of Government and will also publish an annual report on the state of employment and skills.
In England the CES will: advise Government on skills and employment strategy and assess progress in meeting targets; ensure the employment and skills services are integrated to meet the needs of individuals and employers; and, oversee the performance and reform of Sector Skills Councils. The National Employment Panel and Sector Skills Development Agency will be subsumed into the Commission as will the role of the Skills Alliance and the implementation plan emphasises that the new body 'will need to develop strong relationships with employers, Trade Unions' and a wide range of key delivery bodies.
The remit of SSCs are to be more focused on three strategic objectives: raising employer ambition and investment in skills at all levels; articulating the future skills needs of their sector; and, ensuring that the supply of skills and qualifications is driven by employers. Sector Skills Agreements and the development of Sector Qualification Strategies will be key mechanisms for delivering on this new SSC remit. The aim is for all SSCs to be re-licensed by the end of 2009 and this will offer the opportunity to establish new performance criteria and also to assess whether the sectoral footprint of each SSC is still appropriate.
SSCs and vocational qualifications
Through SSCs, employers will also be given greater responsibility for the reform and development of vocational qualifications. In the future SSCs will decide which vocational qualifications will be put onto the Qualifications and Credit Framework that is currently under development with the aim being to 'build employers' confidence in the programmes and qualifications offered by universities, colleges and training providers.' In effect, this means that ultimately the LSC will need to consider advice from SSCs when it decides which vocational qualifications should have priority for public funding. In addition, the implementation plan confirms that the Government will also be making it easier for 'employers to have their own in-house training accredited through the Qualifications and Credit Framework'.
SSCs and collective action on skills
The Government is also committed to legislating in the forthcoming Education and Skills Bill to 'make it easier for SSCs to introduce [training] levy schemes where they consider that these would help improve skills and productivity in their sector'. However, this would require a 'clear majority of employers in the sector' supporting such an approach. It is not clear how it would be feasible to measure employer support on this level and the TUC will be lobbying Government to enable levies to be triggered if a majority of employer and union representative on SSCs support their introduction in their sector or in particular sub-sectors. The Government will be consulting on this particular proposal in the near future. In addition, it has also committed to 'carry out research to establish whether there are any circumstances in which extended use of 'licence to practice' schemes could drive up skills and productivity, without creating competitive barriers and with advantages that outweigh the drawbacks.'
The implementation plan also confirms the Government's commitment to continue expanding the network of National Skills Academies in order to offer employers even more opportunities 'to directly influence the content and delivery of skills training for their sector, through further and higher education'. There are currently 12 Academies in various stages of development and the aim is to 'have at least one Academy for each major sector of the economy'.
In order to simplify the employment and skills institutional framework at the regional and local levels and to boost employer involvement, Lord Leitch had recommended that the CES should support and license a network of local employer-led Employment and Skills Boards. This recommendation was designed to build on an already established trend, with similar partnership bodies springing up in major cities and the announcement by the Government in 2006 that the Mayor of London would lead a new London Skills and Employment Board.
While the implementation plan supports the general thrust of Lord Leitch's recommendation, it stops short of fully implementing it and in particular does not envisage that 'it would be right to give the UK Commission a role in licensing such local Boards.' Furthermore, it says that the Government does 'not intend to prescribe one standard model for an ESB' and that 'in all cases any new ESBs should build on what already exists' with a key aim being to simplify the range of existing local bodies. Lord Leitch had made it clear that his ESB model required union representation and the TUC will be pressing Government to require all ESBs to meet this commitment.
A separate update on progress with implementing the changes set out in the FE White Paper was published alongside the implementation plan (Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances - Update, 2007). In addition, the implementation plan states that the Government is going to pilot a scheme in England to extend qualification awarding powers to colleges and training providers, which will build on the previously announced proposal to allow colleges to apply for powers to award their own Foundation Degrees.
The role of the LSC is set to change significantly as responsibility for 14-19 vocational funding (excepting Apprenticeships) will transfer to local authorities' ring-fenced education budgets at some stage in the future. And there are indications that the LSC role may be reformed further, e.g. the implementation plan states that 'in relation to post-19 education and training, [the Government] will consider, and consult on, the best way of delivering all of those functions and services that are necessary to support the FE sector and to achieve our skills ambitions.' The TUC would of course expect the relevant recognised trade unions to be consulted.
The implementation plan stresses that the Government will continue to encourage more HE institutions to collaborate with employers to develop programmes and delivery methods that meet their higher level skills needs. In line with this, the Government has asked the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to support an additional 5,000 employer co-funded student places in 2008/09 and to repeat this commitment in each year up to 2010/11. In addition, the Government is developing the higher level skills offer within Train to Gain and is currently trialling this approach in three regions, with the anticipation that this will become a mainstream element of the programme over time.
The implementation plan sets out the Government's approach for improving workplace skills in England, including through encouraging employers to take responsibility for the skills of their workforce by making a Skills Pledge to support their employees become more skilled and better qualified, with Government support. It also states that in 2010 there will be a review of whether Government should introduce an entitlement to workplace training for employees without a full level 2 qualification.
The work of unions and union learning representatives is also recognised. Trade unions, in particular via the role of union learning reps, will be encouraged to work with employers to draw up action plans for delivering the Skills Pledge and to help more employers and employees to access Train to Gain provision. The plan also notes the ongoing project of the TUC, unionlearn and DIUS to define a strategy for developing joint funding models to support learning in the workplace via the Collective Learning Fund project. Further, that the TUC, CBI and Government departments aim to publish new best practice guidance on developing workplace dialogue on training and skills in autumn 2007.
The implementation plan also sets out refinements to the Train to Gain brokerage service, and commits to a fundamental review of Investors in People, working with the Devolved Administrations.
Through the Skills Pledge, employers are encouraged to commit to supporting their employees and new recruits to improve their skills and become better qualified. The TUC is supporting the Skills Pledge but only on the basis that the Government remains clearly committed to introducing a statutory right to training if the pledge does not lead to a sufficient rate of improvement in investment in training by employers by 2010.
The implementation plans sets out how the Skills Pledge is being taken forward. 'As a minimum, that means supporting all employees who need them to gain literacy and numeracy qualifications, and work towards achieving first full level 2 qualifications ... In return for their commitment, employers making the Pledge will have access to Train to Gain, including the support of the brokerage service and literacy, numeracy and first full level 2 training for their staff' (paragraph 4.2).
The plan also notes that 'Where their business needs are at higher skill levels, many employers will want to extend their commitment beyond this 'core' Pledge to support employees to gain higher level qualifications relevant to their business. Each employer's Skills Pledge should be backed up by an action plan, which can be as short or as detailed as the employer wants, depending on the needs of their particular business. There will be no requirement for action plans to be shared outside of the organisation' (paragraph 4.3). Employers are also expected to specify the scale, scope and timetable for delivering their Skills Pledge.
Unionlearn are currently working on materials to support unions in taking forward the skills pledge with employers, particularly aimed at embedding the pledge within learning agreements. This will include a short brief for union learning reps, and model letters to employers. Materials are expected to be available on the unionlearn website from the end of August 2007.
The plan includes a case study about the Public Services Forum (PSF) Learning and Skills Task Group, noting that the group assessed the long-term skills priorities for public services and developed a plan of action. A key element of this is a joint commitment across public services for the implementation of the Skills Pledge, adapting it so that the core offer is available to employees as soon as possible, with a wider, sector-specific offer building on this in the long term. The Interim Report of the PSF Learning and Skills Task Group is available at http://www.tuc.org.uk/skills.
The implementation plan notes that 'if we do not make sufficient progress towards our world class skills ambition for 2020, we will consider creating an entitlement to workplace training for employees in England lacking a first full level 2 qualification. We will ask the UK Commission to maintain an overview of progress towards our ambition, and in 2010 Government will review whether introduction of an entitlement is necessary and appropriate' (paragraph 4.29).
Further, 'key considerations in this review will include the progress of our reforms, the level of take-up of the Skills Pledge, and progress against a range of metrics and business performance, which the UK Commission will develop. Until the review in 2010 has been completed, we will retain an open mind on whether legislation for a workplace entitlement will be necessary or desirable' (paragraph 4.30).
It is imperative that the Government takes a robust view when reviewing the need for a statutory right to training for the low-skilled in 2010 and does not once again put off the decision if employers are shown to be avoiding their responsibilities. The TUC will continue to press this issue with Government.
The plan recognises the role of trade unions in the learning agenda, and noting in particular that 'Union Learning Representatives play a vital role in helping employees to develop their skills and gain new qualifications' (paragraph 4.26). Trade unions, in particular via the role of union learning reps, will be encouraged to work with employers to draw up action plans for delivering the Skills Pledge and to help more employers and employees to access Train to Gain provision. The TUC and unionlearn will follow this up over the coming months.
The plan outlines how in May 2007, the TUC, CBI and Government departments launched a joint project to produce best practice guidance helping employers, employees and trade unions to develop workplace dialogue on training and skills.
This work is taking forward a commitment made last year in the DTI report, Success at Work: protecting vulnerable workers, supporting good employers (available on the DTI website at: http://www.dti.gov.uk/files/file27469.pdf ). In addition to other policy issues, this policy statement contained the conclusions of the Government's review of the commitment in the Warwick Agreement to 'look at the possible inclusion of skills in the statutory bargaining procedure'.
The Government's conclusion was that 'the latest data shows a trend towards more workplace dialogue about skills and training, though there is little evidence that they are subject to collective bargaining', in effect ruling out, for the time being, including training as a collective bargaining issue in the statutory recognition procedure. However, the report did include a commitment to 'work with stakeholders ...to develop best practice in this area'. Further information about this joint project is available at http://www.tuc.org.uk/skills. The guidance is expected to be published in autumn 2007.
The plan also notes the Collective Learning Fund project currently being taken forward in the North West of England by the TUC and unionlearn in conjunction with DIUS. The project has been set up to help define a strategy for developing joint funding models to support learning in the workplace. These could cover contributions by employers, the state, unions and individuals in terms of funding and time off for learning. The aim is to identify, pilot and evaluate different models for pooling funds and produce a report that sets out proposed models with supporting case studies. The results of the CLF project are due to be published in summer 2008.
The plan also includes a good practice case study of employers and unions working together to improve skills in the workplace in the Merseytravel public passenger transport operation. It highlights how the development of a learning agreement has developed a new learning culture which has revitalised the role of union learning representatives, achieved joint working between the five unions on site, and greatly improved management-union relationships.
The implementation plan highlights the role of Train to Gain in developing skills in the workplace. Train to Gain funding will be around £400 million in 2007/08, and over £650 million in 2008/09. It is projected to rise to over £900 million in 2010/11. Train to Gain will continue to offer free training for employees to achieve a level 2 qualification (or a Skills for Life qualification) if they do not already have an equivalent qualification. From 2008/09, employers will be able to access matched funding for level 3 programmes within Train to Gain.
Train to Gain also includes access to Apprenticeships, support for leadership and management and other skills solutions offered by organisations including Job Centre Plus and Investors in People.
Following a review of Train to Gain, the Government will support the expansion of the service by:
expanding the current skills brokerage offer to ensure that it can support employers of all sizes in all sectors, private, public and voluntary;
asking the LSC to expand the remit and capacity of the National Employer Service so that it can work with a greater number of employers with more than 5,000 employees;
working with colleges and training providers to introduce greater flexibility into the way they can work directly with brokers;
working with the Institute of Business Consulting to develop the capability of the skills brokerage service;
developing a major programme of capacity building for providers, and in particular, 'their staff who work with employers, building on the improvement programme led by the QIA'.
Opening up Train to Gain to the voluntary sector.
The Government will also be considering in the autumn whether skills brokerage and business support brokerage should be merged to provide a seamless service. Any change would be made from April 2009.
Working with the Devolved Administrations, the Government will review the remit of Investors in People. The review will be commissioned to run to December 2007. Subject to the outcome of the review and any subsequent consultation, recommendations are to be implemented from April 2008.
The plan also highlights Government efforts to ensure that young people are equipped with the skills they need for further learning and employment. The implementation plan highlights initiatives including personalisation of the school curriculum and improved progression routes, reviewing Key Stage 3 and reducing prescription of the National Curriculum, rolling out 14-19 Diplomas, and making functional skills the cornerstone of young people's education.
The plan notes how all suitably qualified young people will be given access to Apprenticeships through a new Apprenticeship entitlement, and other areas of development regarding Apprenticeships. Apprenticeships will be the main focus of the discussion below.
The plan also commits to improving work-related learning, giving employers greater involvement in the design and delivery of qualifications, and consulting on raising the participation age to 18, so that young people are required to stay on in some form of full-time or part-time education and training.
The Leitch Review recommended the expansion of the number of apprentices in the UK to 500,000 each year by 2020. From 2013, there will be an entitlement for all suitably qualified young people to access an Apprenticeship through the creation of a new entitlement. However there are already insufficient employer places, with significant variations in quality. The big challenge facing Apprenticeships is to drive up provision of high quality employer based places. The TUC supports the expansion of Apprenticeships, on the basis that they are of high quality (including decent pay and access to appropriate training), promote equality and are largely of employed status.
In the 2006 White Paper on FE reform, the Government announced the introduction of a new entitlement for 19-25 year olds to free training to achieve their first full level 3 qualifications. The implementation plan states that Advanced Apprenticeships will be promoted as the most appropriate route to deliver on the new Level 3 entitlement for young people aged 19-25, to which Government will contribute two-thirds of the cost.
The LSC and SSCs, working with the Apprenticeship Ambassador's Network, have drawn up a joint action plan to boost the number of Apprenticeships. Key developments with Apprenticeships, within budgetary constraints, outlined in the plan are to:
Expand the current pilots of vacancy-matching services, so young people are able to access Apprenticeships which meet their needs and abilities. National rollout will begin in 2008/09.
Introduce a pre-Apprenticeship programme for those who do not quite meet the standard for their chosen occupation and need some help to do so. Trialling will begin in 2008.
Increase the supply of employer places, particularly in those sectors will little prior involvement in Apprenticeships, concentrating marketing and promotional activities on sectors and businesses that can most effectively deliver additional places. Training providers who can demonstrate the ability to expand will be encouraged to do so;
Review the Apprenticeship blueprint, which sets out the minimum standards and flexibilities in the Apprenticeship frameworks; and
Host a summit of employers and key partners in autumn 2007 to take delivery of the final agreed plan and monitor progress towards the introduction of the entitlement.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs recently published the findings of its inquiry into employment and training opportunities for low-skilled young people. The report Apprenticeship: A key route to skill included recommendations that within five years, all Apprenticeship funding should go directly to employers, rather than through training providers as is currently the case. Another key recommendation was around quality improvement, and that Apprenticeships should satisfy basic minimum requirements, including at least a day a week equivalent of off the job training and greater progression. The Committee recommend that if such quality improvements are not forthcoming, the case for introducing a statutory framework should be examined. The TUC's submission to this inquiry is available at: http://www.tuc.org.uk/skills. The Government is due to respond to the Committee's report in the autumn.
In March 2007 the Government published a green paper Raising Expectations: Staying on in Education and Training Post-16. The Government has already announced its intention to introduce legislation to implement these proposals. Since the publication of the Leitch implementation plan, a report of the Raising Expectations consultation has also been published, and is available at: http://www.dfes.gov.uk/consultations/downloadableDocs/Raising%20Expectations%20Consultation%20Report.pdf.
The TUC's submission highlighted that while the ambition in the green paper was very welcome, there are concerns about a compulsory approach that could result in young people being forced into learning or being penalised via the criminal justice system. Rather, the primary focus should be on support, encouragement and an attractive offer. The TUC submission is available at: http://www.tuc.org.uk/skills.
The TUC welcomed the implementation plan, in particular the noticeable change in tone as regards to the importance of meeting the skill needs of individual employees as well as giving employers a bigger say on skills.
The decision to 'bring forward new legislation to strengthen the current funding entitlement for adults to free training in basic literacy and numeracy skills, and to achieve their first full level 2 qualifications' (paragraph 15) is welcome. In principle it prepares the ground for the introduction of a full legal right to training in three years time if employers fail to support enough employees to access training up to level 2 by supporting the Skills Pledge.
The TUC is currently supporting the Skills Pledge but only on the basis that the Government remains clearly committed to introducing a statutory right to training if the pledge does not lead to a sufficient rate of improvement in investment in training by employers by 2010.
The TUC continues to have concerns about the extent to which the employer-led approach on skills is being strengthened and will continue to press the Government to give employees and trade unions a significant voice in the new institutional skills framework, in particular via the new Commission for Employment and Skills. It is also particularly important that the workforce, through trade union representation, is able to have a significant influence on the new powers that Sector Skills Councils are to be given around the design and approval of vocational qualifications,
 TUC Welcome for Government action on skills, TUC press release, 18 July
 Qualification level equivalents are as follows: Level 2 equates to 5 GCSEs at A-C grades, Level 3 equates to 2 A-levels, Level 4 and above equates to degree level and above (or their vocational equivalents, e.g. NVQ levels, 2,3,4,5). The Skills for Life targets are Level 1 for literacy and Entry Level 3 for numeracy. There are three entry levels (1, 2 and 3) below Level 1, and Entry Level 3 is the highest of the three entry levels.
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