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Agenda: What are we gaining?


figuresAs the government announces a £2.4m TV ad campaign to promote its flagship skills programme Train to Gain, Mike Morrison asks if it's value for money.

This week saw even more activity heavily promoting the benefits of the government's flagship skills programme Train to Gain. The adverts and centres that are driving Train to Gain are doing so with a vengeance, lots of publicity, numerous case studies but where is the evidence of success?

Photo of Mike Morrison"My concern is that by focusing on the existing Train to Gain providers (mainly colleges) the emphasis is still on assessment rather than skills development."

Who is paying for this heavy sell cycle? Well that appears to be an easy to answer question: The trainers delivering the training and assessing. According to a report in The Guardian, it appears that the Learning and Skills Councils (and other sales organisations) are getting £140 per sales visit, but leaving a very small amount to pay for the delivery. Adverts on some of the trainer sites and calls I have had from agencies suggest that day rates for assessing of this activity are less than £150, and in some cases offering just £500 per completed portfolio. When I did my vocational qualification some years ago it took the assessor more than five days to go through my workplace portfolio – so that is just £100 per day, less if you take out another day-or-so for administration.

I know that many assessors are taking shortcuts and signing off portfolios prematurely to get their fees. I for one am not sure that we can trust all qualifications that are gained through this route, certainly not the higher vocational qualifications which take much more time to assess.

Getting the right training?

Recently Ofsted voiced concerns that while employers generally value the addition of skills, they are not always getting the additional skills they, or their people, need.

We have seen this before when the then Department of Trade and Industry launched Business Link with the goal of educating employers to trust external consultants for advice. In many areas this worked well moving from a free service to a fully paid for service. Then, just when employers were starting to purchase, the government changed and stopped the service and only provided signposting. Since then the amount of consultancy to this audience has dropped – will the same happen to the qualification and training sectors? Is the model sustainable in the long term?

Change in the future?

Recent research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has shown that among those employers that have engaged with the scheme, only one in three are satisfied that it met their skills needs. According to a recent CIPD report the government has recently changed the focus to leadership and management skills development in SMEs on the back of feedback from employers.

My concern is that by focusing on the existing Train to Gain providers (mainly colleges) the emphasis is still on assessment rather than skills development, or worse will it become yet another funded signposting system with little or no value add.

Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI Ltd, a consulting and training company specialising in organisational development and the development of high performing teams and individuals. For more information go to

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not of


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