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ALP conference: Reducing bureaucracy, increasing co-operation, a need for change


The Association of Learning Provider’s first national conference held at the NEC in Birmingham earlier this month played host to a number of speakers from both private and public sectors and government organisations.

In his Keynote Address, Education Secretary Charles Clarke noted that "we are not providing yet the kind of education and training skills which employers recognise the value of in order to encourage their employees to take them up". He also stated the need for employers to be "brought in to the work based learning we operate" and that "we need to look at the scope for work based learners who currently provide for young people to extend the services that they can offer with some public funding support to adult employees."

A key theme from the event was the reduction of bureaucracy across the board, with Sir George Sweeney, Chair of Bureaucracy Taskforce stated that "bureaucracy and whether we should reduce it or not is going to become an even greater political issue in the months and years to come."

Dave Rogers, Chairman of the Association of Learning Providers launched the two-day conference programme by stressing the importance of gaining the full co-operation of the inspectorates of the awarding bodies, employers, colleges, individuals work based learning providers and Universities to make work-based learning a success.

He also put forward an argument against the use of key skills testing in the workplace, stating that "work based learning is about proving competence at work, on the job and that’s how key skills should be assessed", and said there was a need to assess the affectiveness of the apprenticeship model in areas such as administration and retail: "The one size-fits-all apprenticeship model that we currently have must be revised to offer greater flexibility to meet the differing needs of differing sectors."

He went on to say that his view was that ministers and officials had their policy development "spot on", but that it was not matched by their policy implementation and delivery. He added that there was a need for "a road map" for every company being dealt with, and that government investment into the learning infrastructure should be "equitable and available" to all.

Chris Humphries, Director General of City & Guilds and Chair of UK Skills talked about the need for innovation within work-based learning but noted that the existing system worked against this, stating that encouraging innovation amongst providers was "one of the biggest issues of all". He added that "e-learning which has an amazing potential to aid and support for learning process not just for the delivery of materials but for links between learners through the capability of on-line assessments systems, producing burocracy by automating all the verification processes. There is a huge potential for here and yet there is still a risk that elearning itself is going to be classified as risky and therefore more administratively overborne."

Bryan Sanderson, Chairman of the Learning & Skills Council stated that the wide remit of the council was "a bit too wide for good communication purposes" but that "politicians and even civil servants are not managers on the whole and they don’t realise how difficult it is to set up a new organisation, completely restructure something and blend together bits and pieces from other organisations and get something new – a new culture. It is very difficult to spend £8b intelligently every year".

In a heated debate with some of the delegates later, he was uncompromising in his statement that there was a need for change to provide a more streamlined system of training provision: "We have set up a body which produces on the whole an efficient service that has got some work to do...but what you cannot expect is that it is not going to affect what you do...a more streamlined system one that gets near world class is a long long way off and they don’t do it by not changing and by accommodating every little provider that is around and accepting low quality. We will continue to drive for high quality and if you don’t like that I am sorry."

More information from the event can be found at


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