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Learning providers call for joined up approach on skills


If the UK is to create a sustainable jobs market, the coalition government must develop joined up policies around welfare-to-work and apprenticeship-focused skills provision, learning providers have warned.

Martin Dunford, chairman of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, formerly known as the Association of Learning Providers, told the organisation’s annual conference in London yesterday that the success of the government’s new Work Programme would depend on how successfully it was possible to merge employment, employability and skills agendas.
The programme was "a revolution not without risk", he said, and must be co-ordinated with the provision of apprenticeship-focused skills - as AELP members were already doing themselves at ground level - if it were to work.
The problem was that many key officials failed to understand that job sustainability would only be achieved "if the separate welfare to work agenda and the apprentice-centred skills agenda overlap much more", Dunford warned.
"To over-generalise it, ministers want it, too many officials do not appear to fully understand it, providers have been doing it in spite of the system and not because of it. It will be the capacity for providers to truly bring together the employment, employability and skills agendas that will ultimately determine whether the Work Programme is successful or not,” he said.
But it would help if the government’s National Apprenticeship Service focused less on asking employers to fund on-the-job schemes, which in the current economic climate was “absolutely the wrong message”, and more on emphasising the reasons why business should invest, particularly in light of government financial contributions.
It would also be useful for the Department for Education to officially recognise that Foundation Learning was a positive employment goal/outcome for disadvantaged young people and could help prevent them from becoming NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training), Dunford said.
His speech came the day before National Vocational Qualifications Day, which is intended to highlight the vocational qualifications available to young people, teachers and employers and takes place today.


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