Skills Council could cut training costs

Engineering employers are hoping that the new Learning and Skills Council will help reduce the cost of the Modern Apprenticeship scheme.

Engineering employers are hoping that the new Learning and Skills Council, which takes over from the controversial Training and Enterprise Councils next April, will help reduce the cost of the Modern Apprenticeship scheme.

The LSC, hailed as the biggest shake-up in post-16 vocational education and training since the end of the Second World War, will bring all school sixth forms, post-16 training and further education colleges under one system for the first time in the country’s history.

Anne Bailey, head of education and training at the Engineering Employers’ Federation, said manufacturers are hoping the LSC will make a difference to the cost of Modern Apprenticeships. They cost between £30,000 to £45,000, some of which the TECs have traditionally paid. But individual TECs can set their own rate of contribution, which has led to dramatic variations in funding, Bailey said.

While some TECs offer £10,000 towards the cost of a Modern Apprenticeship, others only pay £3,000, leaving employers unsure about their training costs, Bailey added. The LSC will set a national rate of payment, with only a small local variation permitted.

Announcing an extra £600m funding for the LSC, education and employment secretary David Blunkett said last week that the council would receive £5.5bn in funding for the academic year 2001–2002, an increase of 9% on current spending for post-16 education and training.

The LSC will be made up of one national and 47 local councils. Each local body will have an annual budget of around £100m, to finance some 100,000 students. Around 10–15% of this budget will be available for locally funded projects. The councils will be responsible for identifying the learning and skills needs of local employers and people, and ensuring these are met.

The government wants the councils to cut the number of young people dropping out of education and training at age 16, drive up standards and raise levels of achievement across all age groups. The councils will also be charged with ensuring courses are relevant and attractive, to increase demand for learning.

‘High standard vocational training, with new apprenticeships will be as important as more academic education in colleges and schools in attracting young people,’ Blunkett said.

At least 40% of the LSC’s national and local council members will be employers. But Bailey said the government’s interpretation of ’employer’ has disappointed industry. ‘We believed it would mean private industry, and that would have made a real difference, but I don’t believe that is the case. Other organisations do not have the same needs as hard industry.’