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Interview of the month: Tony Green, Employment NTO


Tony Green

At the CIPD show last week, TrainingZONE took the opportunity to talk to Employment National Training Organisation (EmpNTO) Chief Executive Tony Green about some hot topics: namely, the process of revising the old TDLB standards, the incoming Learning and Skills Council, that old chestnut, 'skills shortages' and the Department for Education and Employment's recent suggestion that the number of NTOs would need to be reduced in order for them to function successfully.

At the National NTO Conference the previous week, Lifelong Learning Minister Malcolm Wicks had stated that NTOs would need to think hard about how they could work better together, and said that some NTOs would need to merge in order to make them more successful. Tony Green was comfortable with the suggestion: "The marketplace will determine the coalescence of NTOs. Mergers will happen - NTOs need to justify themselves. What Malcom Wicks says has no fears, it's reflecting what will happen." Part of the process of justification will take place through the three-year re-recognition process NTOs go through. The Employment NTO's re-recognition has however been postponed due to the fact that, as Tony explains, "we have already undergone a merger process by taking on the Advice, Guidance and Counselling areas."

TrainingZONE was interested to know about progress with the review of the TDLB standards, which we reported on earlier in the year. Tony Green responded: "The consultation will stay on the site for a few more months. We've had a wealth of responses on the training, health and safety and union side of things, but have been short of responses from the HR side. We won't move forward until we've received a good level of response - we're using many networks, including the CIPD, in order to make sure this happens."

With regard to the planned deadline for responses to the consultation, Tony was prepared to be flexible: "We're aiming for the end of November but it could be later. To assume silence means consent is wrong - we're better off taking time now than finding out later that people aren't happy, and it shouldn't delay the programme. We'll also consult further on qualification structures and the assessment strategy. We'll then take these and the new standards to the QCA in Spring/Summer 2001."

We were aware that there had been some controversy over the demise of the D32/D33 units (used as part of the NVQ Assessor programmes), and asked Tony about this: "Well, those units hadn't been revised for ten years, so it was time to look at them! They're being revised as a result of demands from the marketplace - it isn't something we've decided on. They're being revised in form, structure and shape and there's a separate consultation underway just for those units, which has representatives from all interested parties on board." On the question of the mentoring and coaching units, which had also been a cause for concern from some quarters, Tony was happy for the feedback to keep flowing: "There has definitely been some vigorous discussion about L21 and L22, as they will be known, but that's no bad thing! We're trying to get more consultation on it and we welcome any comments, as long as constructive suggestions are made. I would urge people to highlight problems and then tell us ways we can get it right. As an independent arbiter we justify what we decide by effective consultation."

Tony added that the consultation methods used in the process hadn't been used in NTOs before, and as a result, some of the other NTOs were keen to take the Employment NTOs practices on themselves.

Tony is keen to stress the role of the Employment NTO in benefitting not only training, HR, health and safety and union practitioners but also those who have some responsibility for these in their work: "The aim is to build an integrated suite of standards which is accessible to all. We're trying to develop a common approach to what was seen as different occupational areas, by identifying a number of different routes for people to access the qualification suite." The Employment NTO is one of seven all-sector NTOs (the others are Customer Service, Science, Technology and Maths, Languages, Administration, IT and Small Firms) which work across all areas of the economy.

Tony also emphasised the fact that the government has been fully involved with the process of re-assessing the standards: "This is the first real demonstration of NTOs getting involved with top level government - the process goes right to the top. Learning and Skills Councils will annually dispose of £6 bn to improve people's competence. The government wants to know that people who are delivering this are competent, hence the formation of the ALI."

"The introduction of National Standards in Training and Development will mean mandatory minimum qualifications for anyone involved in training on government-funded programmes in England. There's been a lot of discussion with training providers about the qualifications and the message is that they're happy with the idea, because it should get rid of the 'cowboys'. For good training providers it holds no fears. Good trainers are the key to unlocking people's abilities."

TrainingZONE asked Tony how he felt the incoming Learning and Skills Councils would develop. Tony said it was too early to tell yet, but that the EmpNTO was keen to communicate: "Now it's becoming clear who's running them, I want to start talking to them. LSCs will need the help of the NTOs but all need to be asking questions about what is needed from each side." On the thorny question of whether the LSCs will simply be a re-incarnated version of TECs, Tony is positive about the opportunities the LSCs have, provided they have the right people on board: "You shouldn't throw away the good things that TECs have done - it's a baby and bathwater situation."

As a final point of discussion, TrainingZONE turned to the the hot topic of skills shortages, which seems to be constantly in the news. Tony's view is that skills shortages are inevitable in a free market economy like the UKs: "You don't need statistics to tell you there's been a skills shortage in jobs like nursing for years. But the directive approach doesn't work - you can't force people into these jobs." Tony emphasised the role that Sector NTOs can play in gaining qualitative data to support the quantitative data being flagged up in the media: "They can start getting real information about the state of employment within their sectors."

Tony sees the Employment NTO as being in a unique position to influence the development of skills, in part through assessing the status and role of HR in different industry sectors. He would like to see the standards used for developing competence for line managers.

Tony's vision extends further than this, though, to a world where training is regarded as a right: "I want to see the day when as part of a contract of employment there is a right to training. I think we've succeeded when this has happened."

The Learning Network for Assessors and Verifiers has been established by the Employment NTO to promote the development of best practice, through electronic information exchange and regional events across the UK. Members of the Learning Network are being drawn from a broad range of occupational sectors, and TrainingZONE members are welcome to join - visit the website for more details.

Details of the new proposed standards can be found here.

Tony Green also sits on the NTO National Council.


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