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Our view: A memo to the Prime Minister

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An open letter to the Prime Minister on the occasion of Labour's re-election to Government.


Congratulations, Mr Blair,

Your unprecedented second term in office and your huge majority have created a platform to deliver five years of economic and social reform throughout the United Kingdom. We urge you to use your commanding position today to ask some fundamental questions about the current state of Employment and Training and to create a genuinely reforming agenda. In particular, we draw the attention of your new ministerial team to five key issues:

Employees in the workplace
Over the last few years, the European Union and the European Courts have been developing the rights of employees in the workplace through various initiatives, rulings and directives. As we - inevitably - become more closely involved with our Europe partners, these developments create a more equitable climate for employees and for labour movement throughout Europe. It is important that these developments do not become bogged down in political rhetoric. The criteria for their adoption should be one of 'best management practice'. Individual people are the bedrock of our economy; they deserve to be well-managed and increasingly skilled. A strong lead to identify and promote best management practices across the workplace should be a cornerstone of all Departments whose work relates to employee and workplace development.

The skills shortage
Despite all the initiatives of the past four years, the skills gap is growing not reducing. The highest level of employment, the steady reduction in unemployment, the partial reform of welfare schemes, and the support for long-term unemployed people are all welcome. However, several studies have shown the confusion which surrounds the maze of government-funded schemes and programmes intended to create a more skilled workforce. It is very early days for the Learning and Skills Councils. They need practical support to simplify and reduce the myriad of programmes into a coherent, accessable menu of options for training and skills development.

Post-16 education
Colleges, Universities and Workplace Training Schemes have been through a revolution in the past decade. Many are reeling from the volume of change; some face financial difficulty. Their funding mechanisms need to be both more transparent and more equitable. Whilst the growth in access to education is undoubtedly welcome, and the promotion of learning skills and attitudes is essential, the role of employers in helping to shape the nature, format and content of post-school education and training is vital. The LSCs can provide a forum for this. In the drive for integration and modernism in post-16 education, there are very important questions to be answered about 'education for what' as well as 'education by how'.

The IT Revolution
In the era of the global economy, the continuing development of technology structures and skills is essential. Our schools have made good progress but a great deal remains to be done elsewhere. The government's e-envoy has yet to make a significant contribution. Government departments are themselves failing to provide a widely visible lead. Corporations and organisations require leading examples of how technology will really enhance their work. A major push is required to implement broadband technologies quickly and widely across the country. And the IT labour force needs support to stay, expand and lead these changes.

The future of learning
The value of learning is now widely recognised - for individuals as well as for organisations - whether it be called 'continuous professional development', 'lifelong learning' or 'self-development'. It is the method by which this learning takes place which will form the next critical challenge. Already learnDirect and over 200 learning management companies are competing to deliver individualised learning on demand. Whilst these approaches will change both the nature, place and responsibility for learning, the picture is too confusing for many people to understand. We need standards and protocols not only in the technology but also in the content, delivery and validation of our learning. Developments in areas such as VQs, IiP and Quality demonstrate that these standards should be process-led rather than product-driven. And a start needs to be made urgently.


The next five years will bring a host of changes, many of which we can only guess at from our current view-point. There is much to be done. In our opinion, these five issues should be at the core of a reforming agenda and we look forward to reporting on them over the years to come.


The Editorial Team at TrainingZone and HR Zone.

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