News story

'Demand-led provision is key to raising our game on skills', say independent learning providers

Learning NewsAssociation of Learning Providers

Delegates at today's annual conference of the Association of Learning Providers heard a call from the organisation's leader for an urgent implementation of government proposals to make publicly funded learning more responsive to the demands of employers and individual learners.

Martin Dunford, chairman of ALP which represents independent providers and colleges that deliver work based learning, was seeking assurances from lifelong learning minister, Bill Rammell MP, who was speaking at the conference, that the welcome measures in March's further education white paper would be introduced in full and without delay.

Following the successful precedent established by the Employer Training Pilots, the Government has proposed that employers and learners should increasingly be able to choose the type of provider they want as part of the delivery of a Learning and Skills Council programme and it has set out a four-year timetable to achieve this.

Martin Dunford told the ALP conference: "It is imperative that all of the Government's intentions regarding a contested market, focused on using only the best providers rather than a historically preferred type of provider, are fully implemented quickly. This will ensure that a key objective of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 is finally, and belatedly, fulfilled."

On the issue of quality, ALP is pleased that there has at last been some real progress in developing a new, and fairer, basket of measures, which enables the performance of work based learning to be more appropriately compared with other types of learning within the FE system.

Welcoming the support of the ALP and inviting a continuing dialogue about next steps and the way forward within the sector, Bill Rammell said: "The role of work-based learning providers is vitally important and we will fail to achieve our skills objectives if we do not accelerate the pace of change in the Further Education system. We need the colleges and providers that make up the FE system to achieve their full potential as the power house of a high skills economy".

Jobcentre Plus inertia on New Deal reforms
Twelve months after ALP called on the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to sort out the chaos surrounding New Deal delivery and the Jobcentre Plus reforms, the ALP chairman observed today that little progress had been made.

Mr Dunford noted that improved means of dialogue between Jobcentre Plus and its providers was now in place, but confirmed ALP's wish to see the agency's training functions and budgets transferred to the LSC.

Welcome for Ufi learndirect changes
Delegates also heard how Ufi had listened to ALP's advice on making the delivery of learndirect services more efficient. New mechanisms would replace the wasteful duplication of regional offices and hubs, and providers could contract directly with Ufi from August this year.

ALP in the vanguard on e-learning
Martin Dunford reported on the outstanding success of an ALP project, funded by the LSC, to promote e-learning to all providers. The project is designed to demonstrate the potential of e-learning to drive up the quality and effectiveness of training programmes.

Commenting on the LSC's proposal that the project should be extended for a second year, Mr Dunford said: "This will further position ALP in the forefront of quality developments to the benefit of both the learners and employers we serve."