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IT Skills feature interview: Maggie Roy, Learning and Skills Council London Central


How does the government support IT trainers and those with IT skills needs? We put some questions to Maggie Roy, a Workforce Development Manager at the Learning and Skills Council London Central, to find out more about the work they are doing in these areas.

TrainingZONE: For those looking to begin a career in IT training, what support and advice is available?

Maggie Roy: I would suggest the first port of call is the Institute of IT Training, which runs various courses for those considering a career in IT training, in addition to being a good source of advice. Alternatively you can contact your local Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which will be happy to direct you to a suitable training provider.

One important piece of advice is that having the right training skills is just as important as having the necessary IT skills. Being able to structure the training, understanding how people and the ability to motivate are essential. This is why the Learning and Skills Council has funded 'Train the Trainer' programmes (see below).

TrainingZONE: How does the LSC support trainers, and IT trainers in particular?

Maggie Roy: The 'Train the Trainers' programme is based on the principle of 'cascade training', where specialists in a field are given the training skills so they can train others. The programme leads to an NVQ in training and development, which allows people to understand the core principles of training. It is an excellent qualification to have as it allows for a large degree of flexibility; the principles can be applied to training in any industry, from IT to hairdressing. Handy if you decide to switch industries!

TrainingZONE: When the Individual Learning Account scheme was withdrawn, IT training appeared to be one of the areas most affected by the drop in funding available. What funding schemes and support remain for organisations wishing to develop the IT skills of their workforce?

Maggie Roy: IT skills are high on the agenda in terms of government priorities. In fact, IT skills are now considered as important as numeracy and literacy skills, and form part of the Basic Skills Curriculum. This means anybody who lacks basic skills in IT is entitled to free training in this area. The LSC can point both organisations and individuals in the right direction.

There is also a programme known as the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL). It is a heavily subsidised IT training course for all firms with less than 250 employees. As different firms have different IT needs, why not give your nearest LSC a call to talk through what your needs are.

TrainingZONE: How do you keep track of how IT skills are developing within organisations in England, and identify particular skills needs?

Maggie Roy: IT skills surveys are published regularly and are conducted by government and private sector companies alike. The Skills in England 2002 report, conducted by the LSC, is the largest survey of skills across Britain to date. It examined a wide range of skills, and found IT skills are being viewed with increasing importance within the workplace (in 1997, 44.6% of employees thought that the use of computers was essential or very important on their jobs. In 2001 this had risen to 54.5%).

The LSC is also looking at developing a skills database, which would keep track of the varying skills levels across England. In addition, the LSC London Central has recently worked with Union Learning Representatives, who are responsible for assessing skills needs and the best way of addressing them in the workplace. This has also helped identify IT skills needs within London.

TrainingZONE: Are there any IT-related initiatives that the LSC London Central is particularly proud of?

Maggie Roy: The LSC London Central has been involved in a number of IT projects which it is proud of, the most recent being a pilot qualification, due to be launched across London next month. The ITQ (Information Technology Qualification) is aimed at boosting effective IT skills within the workplace and giving employees a formal recognition of their abilities.

It is employer-led, which means it is closely aligned to the real needs of business. It is also extremely flexible; learners will be able to mix units at different levels, from different awarding bodies, in a range of combinations. For example, one learner might need to focus particularly on Excel, while another might already be competent in this area, and focus on another package instead.

If the pilot is successful it will be launched early next year. In the meantime, training providers will be looking for participants to offer the ITQ to, so if you fancy being a technological guinea pig, please get in touch!


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