Today Roger Francis, head of HR and services at MindLeaders, reports a marked change for the better in attitudes towards Functional Skills
I have recently been appointed by the Association of Employment and Training Providers (AELP) as their Functional Skills Champion. I was delighted to accept that role but was looking forward with a certain degree of trepidation to chairing the first meeting of a Functional Skills “Special Interest Group” (SIG) run jointly by AELP and LSIS (The Learning and Skills Improvement Service).
The meeting was the best attended SIG that the AELP had ever run. Sadly I fear that this was not due to my charismatic presence, but more to the high priority which Functional Skills now attracts amongst training providers. With over 40 providers, Awarding Body representatives and people from the Skills Funding Agency in the room, I was anticipating a difficult few hours as the usual throng of “Doom and Gloom” merchants, those who believe that the introduction of Functional Skills will spell the end of the Apprenticeship programme, vied with each other to offer depressing forecasts of an impending collapse in completion rates and the end of workplace training as we know it.
It was therefore a happy surprise to discover that rather than having to stamp down on the prophets of doom, I was surrounded by people who were taking a very positive and realistic approach to the introduction of Functional Skills. Of course there were concerns expressed, particularly around the thorny area of funding, but there were also plenty of success stories from the growing number of providers who are switching to Functional Skills before the deadline on 31st August. Moreover, the Awarding Bodies indicated that pass rates were continuing to rise and that Private Training Providers were easily outperforming colleges and schools. That fits well with our own experience as our first-time pass rates continue to exceed 90%.
So why is there still clearly a small band of training providers (sadly including some quite large companies) who continue to predict a disaster when Functional Skills becomes mandatory in a few months time? I suspect that the key driver is fear of the unknown. The discredited Key Skills qualifications have been easy and straightforward to deliver and have not required providers to escape from their comfort zones. The thought of actually having to do something different and provide a more robust learner experience is simply proving to be a step too far for those providers who are wedded to the past.
Fortunately it would appear, certainly from my experience in my new “Champion” role, that these people no longer represent the majority of training providers. Whilst MindLeaders have led the way in developing innovative and exciting new approaches to Functional Skills, other providers are now starting to appreciate that they need to take a positive approach to the issue and start finding appropriate delivery solutions rather than yearning for the past. We are delighted that an increasing n umber of those providers are turning to us for support and we will continue to ensure that we lead the market in Functional Skills delivery.