Press, Skills, Welfare to Work

Single Employment and Skills policy needed to respond to unemployment and NEET

Single employment and skills policy essential to satisfy government’s ‘more for less’ efficiency agenda, say training providers

Britain’s training providers are urging ministers from different government departments to formulate a single unified policy to respond more effectively to growing unemployment and the NEET issue.

Before offering the new government a series of suggestions on how to improve skills delivery to the unemployed and employed at today’s annual conference of the Association of Learning Providers (ALP), the association’s chairman Martin Dunford congratulated ministers on not only retaining the previous government’s commitment to apprenticeships at the core of their skills policy but immediately strengthening it by allocating an additional £150m of precious funding.

Mr Dunford urged the government to maintain the centrality of work based learning, not only for young apprentices, but for adult workers who still needed basic skills and other skills development support.  He also called for the development of a comprehensive pre-apprenticeship programme.

The ALP chairman said that the coalition government’s reforms of its welfare-to-work programmes and the refocusing of training programmes offered a real opportunity to generate better outcomes when further spending cuts were in the pipeline.

He added, however, that a much more substantial impact on employment could be made if the DWP, BIS and DfE agreed a joint policy and channelled funding through a single procurement agency which could commission integrated employment and skills (IES) provision for both young people and adults.

ALP has noted that the recent BIS grant letter to the Skills Funding Agency prioritised skills training for the unemployed in 2010-11 while DWP ministers have previously identified training as a key component of the new Work Programme, due to start next summer.  With the prospect of a very tough autumn statement, training organisations believe that the twin objectives of BIS and DWP could be met more efficiently by adopting the single commissioning point approach that has also been recommended by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

ALP would also like to see the DfE, which funds provision for 16-18 year old NEETs, involved in a new cross-government approach to tackling unemployment.

The ALP conference is expecting to hear skills minister John Hayes and employment minister Lord Freud respond to the call for more IES provision when they address delegates at the London event.  UKCES chief executive Chris Humphries CBE will also be speaking on the first morning (14 July).

In response to a request from Mr Hayes, ALP has just submitted a paper to the skills minister, setting out proposals on how costs can be saved in the FE and skills system while delivering more effective training for employers and individual learners.  The 6-point plan advocates:

  1. i.            further progress towards a demand-led open market with a single FE budget open to all providers from the public, private and third sectors
  1. ii.            a preferred supplier register which would help drive up the quality of delivery
  1. iii.            providers rewarded for successful outcomes rather than payments based on time spent learning
  1. iv.            a greatly simplified quality assurance system but still supported by independent Ofsted inspections
  1. v.            increased use of modern IT solutions, such as electronic signatures, to reduce frontline delivery costs
  1. vi.            a single, professional procurement agency for government-funded vocational education, skills training and employment placement.

Martin Dunford argued that implementation of these proposals would assist in achieving the BIS target of an extra 50,000 apprenticeship places which John Hayes announced in May.

ALP also believes that the proposals will realise greater value from the continued £757m investment that the coalition government is making in work placed learning and will help justify this vital investment when upskilling the adult workforce is so important to a sustained economic recovery.

ALP chairman Martin Dunford OBE said: “The new government has got off to a good start with its prioritising of apprenticeships as the flagship skills programme.  Equally the decision to streamline welfare-to-work provision into a single Work Programme has obvious advantages.  However we need ministers to be even bolder if we want to avoid a lost generation of young people and a raft of employers complaining that they don’t have the skilled recruits available to take advantage of any upturn.  This requires greater cooperation between government departments to enable central and local funding mechanisms to commission more integrated employment and skills provision.”

The ALP annual conference 2010 is being held on 14-15 July 2010 at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel on Albert Embankment, London – a five-minute walk from Vauxhall underground station.  Full details on the conference programme are available at:


  1. DWP already runs one mixed skills and employment programme for people with disabilities – the Residential Training Programme. Some DWP staff seem to feel uncomfortable with the mix, however, pointing out that there is no “S for skills” in the DWP name. More cross government working is needed to bring skills and employment programmes closer, however, as flagged by David Willetts before the election. Can ALP act as a catalyst for this?

  2. Once again ALP are thinking outside the box and reflecting the growing views that providers have had for many years.

    Lets grasp this opportunity for the benefit of learners, providers, businesses and the UK economy.

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