Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Supplementary evidence from the Department for Education and Skills


Ways in which Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are working with DfES, HEFCE and the universities to ensure that employer demand for specific skills is met through the educational system

  1.  Through SSCs, employers will contribute to identifying the specialist and generic skills required to meet their current and future business needs particularly those which will improve business performance, productivity and competitiveness. The key mechanism will be Sector Skills Agreements. The agreements will provide the framework for SSCs to work with employers in their sectors, with key agencies like HEFCE and with Government to address priority skills issues.

  2.  Four SSCs are currently developing the first agreements. Two of these have a particular focus on SET: SEMTA (science, engineering and manufacturing technologies) and e-skills UK (focussing on the IT industry and IT users and IT professionals). The other two are Skillset (currently looking at broadcasting, film and inter-active media) and ConstructionSkills.

  3.  In preparing their agreements the four SSCs have undertaken a thorough assessment of the sectors' needs, covering the long-term, medium-term and short-term, mapping the drivers of change in the sector five to 10 years ahead and determining the implications for skill needs. They have also reviewed the range, nature and employer relevance of current training and education provision at all levels including in Higher Education (HE). Through an analysis of the main gaps and weaknesses in workforce development SSCs have identified the priorities they wish to address through their agreements.

  4.  The four SSCs have now published draft agreements and are in the process of consulting with key partners such as HEFCE, UUK (Universities UK), QCA, the Learning and Skills Council and with DfES. The agreements will be finalised by the end of March 2005 and will contain a summary of the analysis and identified priorities and an action plan encompassing the deals and agreements that have been put in place between the SSC, their employers and partner agencies to address the priorities.

  5.  HE has emerged as a priority for all four SSCs with each identifying HE related proposals which they wish to develop during the first year of their agreement. e-skills UK, for example, have developed an new IT degree in a partnership between universities and industry. It incorporates the technical, project management, business and interpersonal skills required for a range of IT professional careers. e-skills UK expect the new degree to be offered in five universities from Autumn 2005.

  6.  SEMTA, through their analysis of current and future skills needs have highlighted an increasing demand for higher level skills (Levels 3, 4 and 5) for craft persons, technicians and professional engineers over the next 10 years. As part of the response to this need, SEMTA are developing a model for a fast track Foundation Degree Apprenticeship and are discussing with DfES funding support for piloting the model from autumn 2005.

  7.  In addition to specific proposals, the four SSCs have identified through their agreements a number of common themes where they wish to see action from Government and funding bodies including: the need for closer cooperation between HE institutions and employers in the design of courses to ensure their relevance to industry; an improvement in the Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) services with a greater input from industry via the SSCs; more flexible progression routes from 14-19 and beyond; and a greater recognition and support for industry identified priorities in funding decisions.

  8.  The DfES, HEFCE and other partner organisations are working with the SSCs to agree how industry can engage more fully in the design of courses, for example via HEFCE's HE Academy. Similarly, discussions are continuing about how to support greater SSC involvement in IAG and HEFCE have agreed that the Skills for Business Network, which represents all SSCs, will have an opportunity to respond collectively to the consultation paper due for publication in April about the future funding regime for HE. In addition the recently published White Paper "14-19 Education and Skills" gives SSCs a key role in developing the new specialised diplomas, with IT and engineering amongst the first four lines to be introduced by 2008.

March 2005

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