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Taking action in higher education

Government skills plan needs a social partnership to develop its aims and delivery

18 July 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU today called on the government to 'rebalance' its plan for the development of skills throughout England by giving less attention to employers' demands and more to the skills needs of citizens.

It called for a wider social partnership with communities and educators to better direct the skills strategy.

UCU was commenting on the government's response to the Leitch report proposals, published today as 'World class skills: implementing Leitch in England.'

The union also called for the government to channel training resources in England to colleges and other frontline training providers - and end the waste of resources on unproductive training brokers.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'UCU welcomes the commitment, funding and strategic priority of the government to developing the nation's skills, but retains serious doubts about the over-emphasis on skills for employment and about the quality of skills training which may result from some of the intended methods of delivery through private providers.

'There is a need to rebalance the aims of the skills agenda to include the broader learning, social and cultural needs of diverse and complex adults. This requires a social partnership which includes educators and communities who can help to deliver the strategy.

'The government is currently confusing the learning needs of the public with the short term skills needs of employers. Funding is increasingly being concentrated on qualifications for employers to the exclusion of broader skills for people's development. Of course we need a highly trained adult workforce for the future, but skills are not just for work - people need roses with their bread.

'And despite Leitch's stated aim of 'social justice', there is currently little thought given to discovering the needs of excluded groups: the elderly, women, black and minority ethnic groups, migrant workers and those on incapacity benefit.

'UCU nevertheless welcomes many proposals including the universal adult careers service and improved childcare provision for learners. Postponing the transfer of adult education funding to Train to Gain is also welcomed and plans for Skills accounts now appear better than the once envisaged voucher system. A possible future statutory right to training is a welcome prospect which should be pursued.

'The skills strategy will require investment in the development of teaching workforces yet resources are still being wasted on Train to Gain Brokers who are failing to generate significant new training. Their ineffectiveness should be investigated.

'The government says employers will be expected to pay more towards training, but continues to apply only encouragement and entreaty, despite ample evidence of the need for compulsion. That is a bullet which needs to be bitten.'