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Worries over LSC transition

Employer groups and training organisations have expressed concern about aspects of the Government plan to axe the Learning Skills Council (LSC), the public body charged with improving the UK’s skills.


Last month the Government announced that from 2010 its £7 billion yearly spend on funding educational and training provision for 16-to 19-year-olds would be diverted from the LSC to individual local authorities (LAs).


It also announced that the £4bn annual spend on training and skills provision for adults would be delivered through the creation of a new Skills Funding Agency (SFA), in a bid to ensure that funding reflects the training needs of employers and learners.


The plans were revealed in the white paper Raising Expectations: Enabling the System to Deliver jointly published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.


The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed the creation of SFA. “Our general view is that with the creation of the SFA, we are moving towards a more demand-led funding approach to training,” said Simon Nathan, CBI senior policy adviser. “And this is something that we would welcome.


“We believe funding should be employer- and needs- led. In the past, the LSC, which was a supply-led organization, would essentially deliver funding according to the training provision available. The SFA must focus on responding to what employers need, rather than planning training provision centrally.”


Keith Marshall, SummitSkills chief executive, was more circumspect, especially since the tranisition from LSC to SFA would need to be well-managed. “If the creation of the SFA is going to lead to a more employer-friendly adult skills system, with firms’ skills needs at its heart, then I would be very pleased,” he said. “However, as always with change, I am waiting to see the detail before I can come to that conclusion.


“I would be interested to see what controls and mechanisms are going to be put in place to insure that the SFA remains demand-led and employer focused. The transition from the LSC to the SFA is going to be very important, and I hope that that this transition is managed properly to support the gains that we have made so far in creating an employer-driven funding system, particularly through our Sector Skills Agreement.”


On the plans to shift responsibility for 16- 19-year-old funding away from the LSC, John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, expressed grave concerns, which were echoed by SummitSkills: “There are risks that these moves could lead to more complexity for employers, colleges and training providers as they will seek to deal with a multitude of local authorities. With new vocational Diplomas being introduced in some areas this September, the potential for confusion and mixed messages is a real danger,” he said.


Mark Brenner, Building Engineering Services Training chief executive agreed the reform would be challenging but explained that a mechanism was in place to deal with this issue. “Increased regionalisation of funding will need some sort of re-alignment from our sector,” he said. “However, we have pre-empted this by forming regional relationships through key colleges and regional delivery partnerships that are already bearing fruit.”


“We do need to retain a national single point of contact for our sector, which tends to be more mobile because of the nature of their work which can take them around the country, but I understand that the intention is to retain a National Employer Service contract embodied within the new Skills Funding Agency.”