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Skills push: How the Learning and Skills Council is delivering training solutions in the public sector


Michael Stark, Head of Skills and Workforce Development at the Learning and Skills Council puts forward some examples of the work the LSC is doing on a local level within the public sector.

Through a variety of work-based solutions, the Learning and Skills Council is working in partnership with the public sector to tackle the skills shortage head on.

A shortage of skills, be it in terms of job specific skills or in terms of literacy, numeracy or interpersonal skills, is costing the UK as a whole an estimated £10 billion a year. In fact, there are over 6 million adults with no qualifications at all in the UK. The public sector is by no means immune to this problem.

In July 2003, the Government set out its vision for tackling the skills deficit at a national, regional and local level in its Skills Strategy White Paper, 21st Century Skills. The White Paper placed the Learning and Skills Council firmly at the centre of this vision.

The Learning and Skills Council is responsible for the strategic planning and funding of all non-university education and training for adults of sixteen and over, including work-based learning. Its mission is to ensure that training is relevant, affordable and closely aligned to the needs of managers and employers. Through its national office and 47 local offices, the LSC is working to identify more effective ways to close the skills gap and one of the areas on which it is focused is the public sector.

In Dorchester for example, the Learning and Skills Council is working with Dorset County Council to help train employees in administration skills, via Modern Apprenticeships.

MAs offer organisations the chance to recruit highly motivated staff and train them to develop their skills to match their needs, which ultimately leads to increased productivity. Apprenticeships provide managers with the opportunity to assess a young person’s aptitude and motivation and fashion their training to meet their specific requirements. The Advanced MAs (AMAs), are employed by the County Council from day one of an employee’s two-year contract and so far all successful applicants have been offered permanent positions at the end of the training period.

The AMA programme has enabled Dorset County Council to improve retention of staff. It also ensures that young staff are trained to occupational standards right from the beginning of their career and therefore provide a valuable age balance in the public sector workforce.

The Learning and Skills Council also provides funding and strategic advice for vital training in the armed forces. The Defence School of Transport (DST), based in Leconfield, East Yorkshire, has been responsible for training personnel from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force for the past 25 years.

Supported by the LSC, the DST-run Advanced MA, Foundation MA (FMA) and straight NVQ programmes in Transportation, Customer Service and Engineering for service personnel from numerous regiments in the Army as well as the Royal Marines and some RAF logistics personnel. At present, the DST have 2455 funded trainees and 543 non-funded trainees and this year have achieved 390 NVQs and 85 Frameworks.

In April 2002, the Learning and Skills Council began piloting a revolutionary method of enabling employees to gain vocational qualifications on the job. Employer Training Pilots are new-LSC backed training schemes that pay public sector organisations and businesses to train their staff. The training is free and both managers and employers are compensated for the time employees spend away from work on training courses.

Currently, pilots exist in twelve areas, including Derbyshire. At Erewash Borough Council twenty-seven front line employees are gaining vocational qualifications as part of the pilot scheme. Erewash Borough Council secured funds of £15,000 from the Derbyshire Learning and Skills Council, which included wage compensation for up to 35 hours per employee, as part of its ‘valuable skills’ pilot.

The employees are undertaking NVQ Level 2 training courses in their areas of work – Finance, Waste Management, Street Cleansing and Customer Services. The one-year pilot
which began in January 2003, is aimed at increasing the basic skills and Level 2 skills of employees aged 19 and over who have less than five GCSEs at grades A-C. External trainers have been brought in by the Borough Council to run its courses.

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