The government will shortly be announcing the names of those organisations who have successfully applied for the second round of Employer Ownership Pilot (EOP) funding. The principle behind this scheme is very straightforward – employers rather than the government (via the Skills Funding Agency) take the lead in determining the training programmes which are most important for their own individual business and determine the best way to utilise the available funding to maximise the benefits for learners and for their organisation.
Whitbread Plc were one of the successful bidders in the first round of EOP funding and at Creative Learning Partners, we are very proud that they have chosen us as their partners to deliver the Functional Skills element of their programmes. The cornerstone of their bid was the recognition that Whitbread needed to help smaller businesses in their supply chain who would not necessarily have the resources to run their own training programmes. The company realised that raising the English and maths skill levels of workers in their suppliers, was just as important as developing their own people through their hugely successful Apprenticeship programme.
It all makes huge sense to me and I do hope that it isn’t just seen as another one-off new initiative, but a deeper recognition that when it comes to government-funded training, the previous “one size fits all” strategy, is simply not the best way of addressing the current skills crisis that exists in the UK. The recognition that individual employers rather than civil servants, are the people who are best placed to understand their own training priorities, strikes me as a major step forward.
I therefore hope that the same principles will underlie the proposed introduction of Traineeships in September. These programmes are a combination of work experience and pre-employment training designed to more effectively prepare young people for the work environment. In principle the idea sounds great (as long as this doesn’t just prove to be an attempt to rebrand previous programmes). However, I believe that Traineeships will only be effective if employers are given the freedom to adapt the courses to the specific needs of their industry or sector. So whilst there is an obvious need to put clear standards in place, a Traineeship in for example Hospitality, should be a very different experience from one in Construction. I’m convinced that any attempt to impose a generic qualification will not get the employer buy-in which is essential to the success of the initiative.
Currently the whole Traineeship project is going through a detailed discussion phase and as far as I am aware, no final decision have yet been made. However, with less than 6 months remaining before the proposed introduction date, employers and their training provider partners, urgently need to understand where the government intends to go with this scheme. What we don’t need is the procrastination and uncertainty which surrounded the introduction of Functional Skills with revised implementation dates and then a total rethink on funding levels.
There seems to be almost universal agreement on the need to make a reduction in the levels of unemployment among our young people, a key priority. Traineeships could be the answer, so let’s get them going now rather than in 18 months time and let’s make sure that they are fully aligned to the needs of employers.
Roger Francis is a Director with Creative Learning Partners Ltd, a new vocational training company formed by the senior managers and staff of MindLeaders Learning Services following the acquisition of the company by Skillsoft in 2012 and focusing on the delivery of Functional Skills