Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)


2 MARCH 2005

  Q20 Jon Trickett: I want to ask you about value for money because I believe ultimately the output that we expect, certainly speaking on behalf the taxpayer, is that people will gain skills and get into work. Now it is very hard to actually identify the number of jobs which have been produced by this scheme but it looks to me as though there are round about 93,000 people who have gone through the Jobskills scheme. Is that right? I have added together 17,000 adults with 76,000 young people. Is that about right?

  Mr Haire: Yes, that is correct.

  Q21 Jon Trickett: Then there are various percentage figures given of people either dropping out or failing to get employment. How many of those 93,000 people finished up with a job however relevant the skill was to the job which they got?

  Mr Haire: The overall figure we are seeing is 25% unemployment coming out of the scheme at the present year.

  Q22 Jon Trickett: There are drop-outs going all the way along. Are you measuring the people who stay to the end of the course? I want to know how many people out of the 93,000 who started course finished with a job.

  Mr Haire: I cannot give a detailed figure[6] but can I stress the point that unemployment has fallen significantly, especially youth unemployment in Northern Ireland.

  Q23 Jon Trickett: So what you are saying is that the economy has taken up the jobs rather than the Jobskills programme helping those people get into work. Let me try to go through this stage-by-stage. When I read this Report it stated a 50%-ish drop-out rate while the course is on-going. Is that right?

  Mr Haire: 50% do not complete their qualification.

  Q24 Jon Trickett: Out of the 93,000 people none of those who fail to finish the course have been helped into work by the course itself, they have dropped out for one reason or another. Is that right?

  Mr Haire: We would argue that many of them have got the basic employment skills which have helped them in working with employers and that has been of help but we would quite agree with you that—

  Q25 Jon Trickett: They have not finished the course and they have not got the NVQ and many of them have disappeared; you do not know what has happened to them?

  Mr Haire: We do not have records for 18% and clearly we are trying to—

  Q26 Jon Trickett: I make it that 45,000 people finish your course out of the 93,000 that go through it. Is that about right?

  Mr Haire: That would be about the right figure.

  Q27 Jon Trickett: Okay, how many of those actually get work?

  Mr Haire: Our figures would indicate that the overall figure is about 50% employment. Therefore 50% of the scheme we are talking about those people getting employment.

  Q28 Jon Trickett: It says 46% here, less than half.

  Mr Haire: Can you please give me the page reference?

  Q29 Jon Trickett: I am looking at the brief. The figure is in the document. Do you not know the number of people who go into work?

  Mr Haire: Excuse me while I find the table reference.

  Q30 Jon Trickett: I am amazed you do not know the percentage of people who get a job.

  Mr Haire: As I stressed, 50% of people are getting—

  Q31 Jon Trickett: It says 46% here. Do you dispute that?

  Mr Haire: I am looking at 3.26 and figure 10.

  Q32 Jon Trickett: Let's ask the Auditor. I have got a briefing now here saying 46%; is that about right? I am asking the Auditor.

  Mr Dowdall: Yes, 46%.

  Q33 Jon Trickett: I am right that the 50% that you are quoting is not actually accurate. So out of the 45,000 people out of the 90-odd thousand starters who finish the course; of that less than half of those go into work. So I am being generous and saying a maximum of 20,000 people get jobs having finished the course out of the 93,000 who go through. Is that right?

  Mr Haire: That would sound about right on the figures.[7]

  Q34 Jon Trickett: We have spent £500 million to get 20,000 people jobs. What is the cost per job? Then I will tell you. It is £22,500 per job created, which is outrageous, is it not?

  Mr Haire: We are saying looking at the figures here, looking at Audit Office Report here, we recognise that the 46% are the people getting their jobs very soon after they leave the scheme. Others are going into employment with those skills in due course and they are getting the training to get that quality of employment.

  Q35 Jon Trickett: I am saying on the figures on this document—and you have signed it off, you have agreed to this document and I am being generous and doing mental arithmetic and I am surprised that you do not know the figures—roughly 20,000 people go into a job having finished the course and it has cost £500 million—£500 million—to help 20,000 people into work when the economy itself is taking much of slack of employment anyway. There are no circumstances under which you could say we have received value for money on behalf of the taxpayer. It is either fraud or incompetence, which is the question I started with.

  Mr Haire: Value for money because people are getting a range of qualifications and experience into employment in that area. It is not creating jobs in that sense, but it is giving them those skills which are helping them into that area.

  Q36 Jon Trickett: We are not training people for the sake of being trained or making them better human beings, which is an objective in itself. This is about getting people skilled for work and ready for work, and the fact is to get 20,000 people jobs has cost the taxpayer £500 million. There is no value for money there, unless my figures are wrong, and I am sure they are not wrong. It is either incompetence or fraud. There is no inspection regime in place to try to measure either fraud or competence, is there, frankly?

  Mr Haire: As I indicated, there is a very strong regime for inspecting areas. Can I point you to figure 14 of the Audit Office Report looking at the whole Jobskills programme and the emphasis there and the outcome for the whole Access programme in the third column there, which is 66 % into employment.

  Jon Trickett: All I can say is the figures which are in front of me are saying 46%. It says 66% achieve an NVQ. In fact, there are 40,000 NVQs being produced for 20,000 jobs. It seems as if some people get more than one NVQ but you have no idea whether they are or they are not really. Anyway, my time is up.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. Mr Steinberg?

  Q37 Mr Steinberg: I had a certain amount of sympathy for you, Mr Haire, but I am gradually losing it because I would have had a lot more respect for you if you just held your hand up and said the scheme is rubbish, to be quite honest. It is a total failure. In fact, it is one of the worst Reports that I have read in the five years that I have been on this particular Committee. It is a catalogue of failures—failure by your Department, failure by the training providers and failure by the individual trainees themselves. If you had held your hands up and said, "I have been copped, guv, and we are going to scrap it or do something else about it," I would have understood. For you to sit there and try to defend this is absolutely amazing. As Mr Trickett has said, you have virtually wasted half a billion pounds because if you look at the Report it says that the net employment impact of Jobskills may be as low as 14%. How can you defend that? If you had turned round to this Committee and said the scheme has been a failure, we have only got 14% of people into work and we could have done a lot better, that would have been one thing but you have not, you have tried to defend it. How can you defend that?

  Mr Haire: The employment effect is the net overall impact on the economy. The growth of the economy comes from that process. It is not the number of people going into employment as such. As indicated there the Skillseeker system in Scotland, which is a comparable system, has a figure of 12% in this area.

  Q38 Mr Steinberg: That is not brilliant. Because Scotland are useless does not mean to say you have got to be useless as well.

  Mr Haire: It is the economic effect, the boost to the economy, the expansion of the economy produced by this form of training; it is not the direct number of people going into employment. As I say, the scheme has indicated the reference I made before.

  Q39 Mr Steinberg: You still think the scheme is successful, do you?

  Mr Haire: I think the scheme does provide for young people who had not got skills before to get not only a high level of access to vocational skills but a good transition to employment, and in paragraph 1.7 of the Report the NIAO notes this point and notes the general strength of the scheme in this way.

6   Note by Witness: Within Jobskills, management information is based on the number of starts during a cohort year ie it includes those who complete training and those who leave early but excludes those who leave within the first four weeks. Back

7   Note by Witness: Figure 14, pg 59 of the NIAO Report, cites a rate of 66% entering employment Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 2 November 2005