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Exclusive interview: Chairman Derek Wanless on the last days of NACETT


NACETT staff At the end of next month comes the end of an era, as the National Advisory Council for Education and Training Targets (NACETT) closes its doors for good. Arrangements to wind up the work being done are already well in hand - the final Council meeting was held in January, contracts have been wound up for the end of February and the website and website e-mail address will officially close on Wednesday. So ends eight years of work by the Council, which was set up in the wake of a CBI report outlining proposals for national targets for education and training in 1989. The report, 'Towards a Skills Revolution', laid down the gauntlet by stating that 'a quantum leap' was needed in Britain's education and training performance to increase its competitiveness in the world economy. The CBI backed this up with the publication of a set of 'World Class Targets' for education and training in 1991, which the government endorsed as national skills targets. Having given responsibility for overseeing and championing the standards to the National Training Task Force, the government established NACETT to undertake this role in 1993, one of NACETT's first tasks being to look at the targets published by the CBI and undertake a consultation and review.

Following the Government's decision to take ownership of the Learning Targets announced in 1998, a new role was defined for NACETT which has involved a greater emphasis on working with the government on lifelong learning and workforce development, particularly amongst SMEs. The publication of the Learning and Skills Bill in December 1999 sounded the death knell for NACETT, with its responsibilities being transferred to the new Learning and Skills Council as of April 2001.

With the handover to the incoming Council nearly complete, TrainingZONE took the opportunity to talk to NACETT's Chairman, Derek Wanless, about NACETT's achievements, legacy and hopes for the future.

TrainingZONE: Was it always the intention that NACETT would have a fixed lifespan?

Derek Wanless: No, it was part of the rearrangement when the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) was announced - part of structural change.

TrainingZONE: What do you think are NACETT's key achievements?

Derek Wanless: The main thing is that NACETT established the idea of targets right through education and training - it took a comprehensive view right across the board.

TrainingZONE: What's the key legacy NACETT will leave behind?

Derek Wanless: Firstly, that it established the principles of targets and secondly that the government took ownership of them. NACETT is also able to hand over to the LSC the consultation process it developed, involving employers.

TrainingZONE: What's next for NACETT staff?

Derek Wanless: Some of them are going to the LSC, some are moving elsewhere and one or two are retiring.

TrainingZONE: Is the transfer of responsibilities to the Learning and Skills Council going smoothly?

Derek Wanless: Yes - although obviously it's only one part of what they're taking on.

TrainingZONE: The NACETT report <a href="
">published in November was fairly critical of the training and development of those in the UK that don't go to University - would you say there's still plenty of work to be done in raising levels of achievement?

Derek Wanless: Yes. The key achievement so far has been to raise performance in primary schools, but it takes a long time for this to work through to adults. A lot of people can be let down when at school - what's more difficult for the LSC is tackling adult skills, and this is where employers can help.

TrainingZONE: What were the key findings of your last report, The Learning Society and the Knowledge Economy?

Derek Wanless: It contains NACETT's key recommendations for the future for England, looking at closing the gap with international competitors. The report can be ordered direct from NACETT by telephoning 0114 259 7887.

To find out more about the National Targets, go to

NACETT staff In October last year, TrainingZONE offered members the chance to get their hands on a free copy of 'Learning Pays', a video put together by NACETT to promote the economic benefits of learning to adult learners. We'd like to think this contributed in some small part to the video winning a Silver Award at the prestigious New York International Film and Video Festival recently. If you'd like a copy, NACETT are still taking orders for the free video until the end of March - send a fax to 0114 259 7580 to receive one.


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