Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
28 APRIL 2008
Q60 Ian Stewart: Why, then, have
they been all but airbrushed out of all the documentation?
Lord Leitch: I do not think they
have at all. Right from the top we saw the establishment of the
Commission of Employment and Skills having Brendan Barber on the
Commission. We say this is going to be employer-led; it is also
going to have a Director General of the CBI and the TUC leader,
so it is not airbrushed at all. It is in there very clearly; there
are many mentions of union learning reps who have done fantastic
work here. I went to speak to the TUC Congress in Brighton and
consulted with them and Frances O'Grady, I spent many hours with
them, so they have been a critical part of what we are doing,
and are very important.
Q61 Ian Stewart: You have just mentioned
what was being perceived as the very important development of
trade union learning reps, now 18,000 across the country. Would
you see a potential for those learning reps becoming involved
in the delivery of vocational training and skills?
Lord Leitch: What do you mean?
Q62 Ian Stewart: Delivering training
in the work place?
Lord Leitch: I think some of them
do at the moment. If I remember, I went to a further education
college in the north of England and there were union learning
reps teaching, so it does happen at the present time.
Q63 Ian Stewart: Was there a recognition
that there is a movement out of colleges, the brick buildings,
to the delivery of training for skills in the work place itself?
Lord Leitch: By union learning
reps, or generally?
Q64 Ian Stewart: Generally.
Lord Leitch: Yes, absolutely.
That is the thrust of what we are saying. It should be work place
training, and we have to push that forward. Absolutely.
Q65 Ian Stewart: Would you think
that the development of trade union learning reps as deliverers
of vocational training in the work place would be a good development?
Lord Leitch: Yes. I think that
Q66 Dr Iddon: Looking at the three
institutional levels that you mentioned, national, sectoral and
local delivery, it appeared to me that you did not want to perturb
the existing organisations too much. For example, with the Learning
and Skills Council, you wanted them streamlined and, in fact,
they have been abolished. Are you disappointed about that? And
we have the new Skills Funding Agency.
Lord Leitch: Certainly they should
be streamlined, and the rationale for that was because there was
a very dramatic change in that they would no longer be doing central
planning of courses, but we felt we still needed a body to do
things like Train to Gain, apprenticeships, to manage the funding,
so we thought there was a dramatic streamlining needing to take
place. Now, the change which has gone on seems to me to mirror
the machinery of government change with DIUS coming in, and I
think that is a sensible move. So I am not disappointed at all.
Q67 Dr Iddon: Bearing in mind that
change, do you consider that the institutional reforms advocated
in your review stand up to your own principles which are threeflexibility,
simplification and continuity?
Lord Leitch: If you look at the
organisational map of skills in the United Kingdom it is astonishingly
complex, and I think we made this point to try and simplify things.
The changes which are being made are relevant, and the big change
organisationally is no central planning by the LSC, that changes
fundamentally, and the move to demand led. All these changes absolutely
live up to the principles we set out.
Q68 Dr Iddon: The creation of the
United Kingdom Commission for Employment and Skills and the continuation
of the Sector Skills Councils under your proposals is obviously
central to achievement of the United Kingdom's ambitions in this
area, but it relies, as you have been saying all along in this
interview on employers coming on board now. Employers have been
one of the unknown quantities in the past; we have not always
got them on board, have we? Do you think it will be any better
in future with the new institutional reforms?
Lord Leitch: I am very confident
it should be better in the future but this is a journey and there
is a lot of work to be done. As I said, one third of employers
do no training whatsoever; we have some brilliant employers and
brilliant training that is done; many employers are not happy
with their fee qualifications that are coming through, and we
have the opportunity to give the employers a stronger voice in
driving economically valuable qualifications so, yes, all the
changes we are putting in will drive that forward. Can I just
say that if you look at the stakeholders here, you have government,
employers and individuals, and no one stakeholder can do this
on their own. It has to be a partnership between the three, so
you need employers in there who are government-committed driving
this forward, and you need individuals driving this forward, and
I feel very strongly on individuals that there is got to be a
change in culture in this country about seeing the value of learning,
and that may be a generational thing to happen but it will be
very difficult to achieve. Unless we start it, we have no chance
of achieving it and improving it, and the recommendations we made
in this report in terms of awareness, national careers service,
in terms of joining-up employment and skills, which to me is fundamentally
importantall these things have to happen. So it has to
be the state, the employer and the individual working in partnership
to drive this forward.
Q69 Dr Iddon: But the companies you
mentioned earlier, and we could mention Rolls Royce, all the big
companies of course, have future profits which depend upon working
with the United Kingdom commission. But what about the smaller
companies, the ones that are locally based, the small medium-sized
enterprises? Are they going to come along with this new plan?
Lord Leitch: I think Train to
Gain is a massive opportunity for smaller companies. I remember,
I went to see a small printing company in south east London, the
first company I had been to on Train to Gain, and the individuals
I talked to had never done any training before, and the bosses
of the company suddenly had their eyes opened about the benefit
that this could bring to them. They had a broker come in and assess
what their company needed and they were over the moon about the
results, and I think we can drive that forward for the smaller
companies. We recommended to put a grant in for management training
also for the small and medium enterprises. I feel very strongly
about management as a skill, and if those smaller companies could
develop more of that it would transform their performance. So
Train to Gain has a fundamental role to play but, of course, it
is difficult for a small company with a limited budget which says
they cannot afford to spare someone to go off and train because
they cannot see the return. It is about persuading them, showing
them, influencing them, and helping them to see a return.
Q70 Dr Iddon: You have admitted that
some Sector Skills Councils are a lot better than some others.
How are you going to make the ones that are not good better?
Lord Leitch: I think it is the
role of the Commission to do that, and I recommend that we should
stand back and look at them all and evaluate their performance,
and see what they have done and look at the sector skill agreements.
I do not know if any of you have looked at the sector skill agreements
but for the poorer performance they are so complicated and so
voluminous you cannot see what they are there for, but also we
have to make it easier for them because remember, Sector Skills
Councils, to be fair, are a fledgling organisation and have not
been going for very long, so maybe I am being a bit hard on them,
but they have to have better funding. So many of them spend their
time scratching around looking for ways to generate funds, they
have to have enough funding to let them deliver their objectives
so we have to help them too, but I think the evaluation lies with
Q71 Dr Iddon: Finally, concerning
careers advice, those of us who saw the disappearance of the old
careers service in local authorities and have seen how the Connexion
service concentrated on certain individuals and left others to
get on with it, usually the brighter ones, have been very critical
in this Committee on careers advice given to people, in schools
particularly but beyond that as well. Do you think that the new
universal adult careers service is going to provide better careers
advice for all age ranges?
Lord Leitch: Yes, and I think
its location is critically important as well in terms of being
closer to Jobcentre Plus. Jobcentre Plus has done a terrific job
in getting people to work; it really is outstanding. Remember,
it was a very big merger between Job Centre and Benefits, it has
been a difficult task, and they have delivered extremely well.
What has not been happening is the integration and the join between
skills and jobs. Two thirds, if I remember, of claimants after
six months are recycled, so you have to ask why that is happening.
Skills are a critical part of it, and having this careers service
skills evaluation is fundamentally important, so it should be
able to do that. But, Gordon, the point is this is a journey,
and what I cannot do now is prove conclusively or with evidence
that these things are going to work. I cannot do that.
Q72 Dr Blackman-Woods: Are you genuinely
satisfied with the response by Government to your report?
Lord Leitch: I am very pleased
with the response. I spent a lot of time consulting right across
all political parties, trade unions, individuals, trade organisations
and employers, and I spent a lot of time ensuring that we had
something that was pragmatic and deliverable in that sense but
also exciting enough and demanding enough to deliver what we needed
as a nation, and I think that time was well spent. The Government
have taken my agenda and recommendations and it is now government
policy. If you look at the volume of material published since
then it is remarkable, and just reading World Class Skills
before this session, what they are coming up with as action points
is a huge array of initiatives which they have to deliver, but
I think they are committed, they have made investments, they are
looking at Train to Gain increasing to a billion pounds in 2010,
so the money is coming too. So yes, I am very pleased.
Q73 Dr Blackman-Woods: Are there
any areas or recommendations that you thought they should have
accepted and have not?
Lord Leitch: There are always
going to be. What I have not got is the job of balancing the nation's
purse. We also said in the report, if I remember, that it is up
to the Government to evaluate our recommendations and look at
value for money and practicality and the balance point, and there
is one point where we said all funding should be demanded by 2010,
and they have not gone for 2010 because they think there is a
danger of jeopardising five FE colleges, so they have gone a little
bit later on that. But that is OK. From my very crude calculations
I think they have accepted delivering about 95%. You know, in
many reviews you do the review and nothing happens, and here many
things are happening.
Q74 Dr Blackman-Woods: What about
the pace of progress towards achieving those targets, as opposed
to delivering documents about how they might achieve them?
Lord Leitch: It is only nine months
since they set out the policy. I think I would give them a little
Q75 Dr Blackman-Woods: So you would
not agree with Richard Lambert of CPI who said that he thought
that the Government's response to the Leitch proposals was a bit
lame, that the Government had pulled back from some of the bolder
recommendations, and he also commented, "I think the rather
leisurely way the Government is going about the Leitch proposals
will make it very difficult for business to make these changes
in time", so do you think that is not a sensible set of comments
at this stage?
Lord Leitch: I think it is not
balanced. I think he has some validity on some of the points mentioned
in 2010. I think it is no way leisurely, and looking at the volume
of material they have produced, it is anything but. There is an
urgency, a commitment, they see that we need to raise the game
and the consequences of not doing thatno, I disagree with
the balance of the point. There are many good things they are
Q76 Dr Blackman-Woods: So would it
be fair to conclude that you are generally optimistic about the
Government achieving these targets?
Lord Leitch: Yes, I am.
Q77 Mr Marsden: Louise, you have
been on the other side of the table, as it were, since this review
was completed working with many of the stakeholders. Is there
anything, looking at it from the other side of the fence that
you think: "Gosh, I wish we were moving a bit quicker on
Ms Tilbury: In terms of implementation?
Q78 Mr Marsden: Yes?
Ms Tilbury: No. I am incredibly
impressed by the speed at which the Government has picked up and
gone along with the recommendations. The important thing to remember
is that it is a vision for 2020 and there is a lot of reform that
needs to be gone through in the very short period of time, even
to 2010. In terms of organisational reform the Commission was
set up from 1 April this year, and I think that is ready to go
now and we will see a change again this year.
Q79 Mr Willis: Sandy, in terms of
this 2020 vision, one of the big flaws in our adult training skill
system over decades, not just this Government, has been the employee
who finds himself in a job not only where his employer does not
train him or her but also where they see the need for training
themselves as an individual in order to move on, with the employer
who has absolutely no incentive to invest in that employee so
they will move on. Where in your report is that huge group of
individuals tackled? Where do you see the advantage to them moving
on between now and 2020?
Lord Leitch: I think what we have
tried to say in this review is that there is an incentive also
for the employer because, by and large, what we see from all the
evidence is that if individuals improve their job performance
improves. So what we have tried to do through the Commission,
giving employers a stronger voice by sector skills, is to demonstrate
that and to encourage more participation and investment from employers,
and I think that will happen. At the same time, as you know, we
have said in areas like basic skills there are too many employees
without basic skills, and we came across this pledge that was
being implemented in Wales on a voluntary basis, which was a voluntary
pledge for employers to commit to give their employers training
up to level 2, and we think if we do a strong exercise in promoting
this we can get employers to do this on a voluntary basis. What
we did say, however, is if that is insufficient by 2010 we should
look at whether compulsion is the right answer for that basic
level of skill that people should have.