Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Skillset

  Skillset was established by the industry in 1992 in order to:

  "encourage the delivery of informed training and vocational education provision so that the UK's audio visual industries [99] maintain and enhance their creativity, productivity and competiveness".

    —  BBC

    —  BBC Scotland

    —  Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union

    —  BSkyB

    —  Carlyle Media

    —  Channel 4

    —  Channel 5

    —  Commercial Radio Companies Association

    —  Film Council

    —  Granada plc

    —  International Visual Communication Association

    —  Motion Picture Association

    —  Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television

    —  S4C.

    —  Signpost Films.

  In addition, we have specific industry based committees in Scotland, Wales and English regions.

  2)  Whilst established by the industry for the industry, it has always worked in partnership with Government, first as an Industry Training Organisation and then as a National Training Organisation. In 2001 the DfES, in consultation with the Ministers in the devolved administrations announced their intent to abolish the NTOs (of which there were over 70 covering different sectors of the economy) and replace them with smaller network of better resourced, more influential Sector Skills Councils.

  3) Four key goals have been identified for Sector Skills Councils.

    —  Reducing skills gaps and shortages.

    —  Improving productivity and business performance.

    —  Increasing the opportunities to boost the skills and productivity of everyone in the sector's workforce, including action on equal opportunities.

    —  Improving learning supply including apprenticeships, higher education and national occupational standards.

  Employer led bids were invited for five "trailblazer" SSCs. Skillset was awarded trailblazer status and was in the first SSC to be launched in the UK in March of this year.

  4)  Skillset works in a fast moving sector which is constantly adjusting to and exploiting the opportunities that new technologies bring, whilst relying on an available workforce which is over 50 per cent freelance[100]. We also have an employer base which has fragmented since the 1980s, with a significant growth in micro-enterprises and SMEs estimated at 12,000.

  This context presents challenges as to how best to maintain and grow the skills base which our creative content driven industry requires.

  5)  Our industries are growing faster thant the UK economy as a whole. They are major contributors to the UK's balance of trade They promote British creativity and innovation to the rest of the world. And human capital has the potential to give us the extra competitive edge in the global marketplace in which we operate. That is why we established, with the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, the Audio Visual Industries training Group, chaired by Roger Laughton, CBE.

  The Group's mission was:

  "to investigate and report on the current and future skills required in the audio-visual industries and to recommend the training and education needed to develop these skills so that the UK can compete effectively in the world media marketplace".

  6)  The AVITG Report, "Skills for Tomorrow's Media" was launched in September 2001—75 senior industry figures were involved in the Group's work. It produced the most comprehensive and in-depth investigation ever undertaken into future skills needs across the UK media industries. The sector has come of age and a key indicator of its developing maturity is the collective desire to drive towards increased professionalism. The AVITG recommendations achieved a consensus of support across the industry and provide a strategic action plan for employers, unions, trade associations, professional organisations, training providers, further and higher education, individuals and governments and their public agencies. The Group's major recommendations can be summarised as follows:

  The need to:

    —  deliver an on-going programme of research, including an annual Census, to inform employment and training policies;

    —  build stronger links between post-16 education providers and industry sectors, including the need for vocational centres of excellence;

    —  create opportunities for individuals to learn new skills throughout their working lives at a cost they can afford;

    —  develop better industry-wide support mechanisms to ensure adequate investment to meet the training needs of freelancers and small companies;

    —  implement recruitment and employment policies that are fair and transparent;

    —  secure an increased supply of workers with core ICT skills;

    —  provide reliable and accessible advice for all about opportunities in the audio-visual industries;

    —  enable the sharing of good practice, including wider use of monitoring;

    —  deliver "joined-up" Government—the need for co-ordination of policies between Governments, Government departments and public agencies in the nations and regions; and

    —  provide core funding from Government and industry for Skillset to sustain a UK-wide support structure for training.

  We now have a blueprint for development which contains generic and sector specific recommendations UK-wide, as well as additional analysis and recommendations for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English Regions.

  The most difficult short-term issue was identified as the shortage of training opportunities for the large members of freelance workers on whom the industry sectors depend and the lack of funding available for those freelancers who do want to access training. One of the key recommendations of the report is that:

    "individuals should have the right to affordable and relevant training at all stages of their working lives . . . whether in or out of work . . .".

  As the Chair of the AVITG stated:

    "our task now is not just to deliver the recommendations set out in this report—but to ensure we get an industry confident enough and committed enough to pay more than lip service to the role of training in its future success".

  7)  All of these recommendations come with a cost of implementation. In some cases this cost can be met by allocating existing investment in different ways—for example, better focusing the public investment made in vocational education and training in schools, colleges and universities. However, many recommendations will only happen if new funding can be identified. The problem, as the AVITG Report identified is that:

    "funding training is an investment in generating competitive advantage. Yet the advantage, (particularly in an industry characterised by high levels of freelancing), is for the sector as a whole over a period of time, rather than for an individual employer faced by day-to-day management problems. But industries that do not understand the need for change become everybody's problem when they fail. Under investment is as much a problem in the audio-visual workplace as it is in schools, hospitals and rail networks . . . AVITG believes regulators, present and future, have an important role to play in ensuring that support for training is underpinned by licence requirements".

  Noting that the White Paper, "A New Future for Communications" stated:

    "there is a case for OFCOM to have a general responsibility to promote support for training across the wider broadcasting industry, including powers to research and monitor performance. This would be underpinned by licence requirements, as deemed appropriate by OFCOM, for licences to set out plans in this area . . . We would expect OFCOM to work with Skillset and industry in progressing this, taking into account the recommendations of the Audio Visual Industries Training Group".

  The AVITG made the following recommendations:

    —  Education and training should fall in the first tier of OFCOM'S regulatory structure.

    —  In the radio and television sector, OFCOM, in conjunction with Skillset and other relevant industry organisations, should:

      —  monitor training and education investment made by all licensed broadcasters, with particular emphasis on the investment made to support cross-industry strategies and the training and development of freelancers;

      —  as part of the monitoring process, introduce a common methodology for assessing the extent, quality and impact of education and training provision that has been agreed with broadcasters;

      —  agree minimum levels of contribution by broadcasters to the training and development of freelancers, to be made public as a condition of licence. It may be appropriate to consider the public sector broadcasters as a separate group for the purpose of setting levels of contribution;

      —  enable licensee companies to provide additional external training and education support at regional or national level, focused on the needs of freelancers and small independent producers, through reliefs on payments levied on advertising revenue;

      —  require all broadcasters to publish their training and vocational educational investment and provision on an annual basis.

    Television broadcasters should provide IPTF[101] with relevant information about independent production commissioned and actively support the collection of the IPTF voluntary levy.

  It also recommended that Government should ask the existing regulators to work with Skillset to jointly start the process of implementing proposals before OFCOM is set up.

  8)  Skillset, therefore, on behalf of its stakeholders wishes to strongly welcome the inclusion of training in the draft Communications Bill and the fact that the BBC and S4C have both been charged with adhering to Tier 1 responsibilities, which covers training.

  The clause 11.1 relating to OFCOM currently states:

    "It shall be the duty of OFCOM to take all such steps as they consider appropriate for promoting the development of opportunities for the training and retraining of persons

      a)  for employment by persons providing television and radio services

      b)  for work in connection with the provision of such services otherwise than as an employee".

  We would suggest an amendment so that the clause reads:

    "It shall be the duty of OFCOM to take all necessary steps to promote the development of opportunities . . ."

  It is vital that OFCOM is charged with working in partnership with Skillset, the Government recognised Sector Skills Council, in identifying and recommending the steps that they consider appropriate

    "for requiring the licence holder to make arrangements for the training and retaining of persons whom he employs, in or in connection with:

      a)  the provision of service

      b)  the making of programmes to be included in the licensed service."

  We fully support clause 224.4, requiring the providers of the service to take steps to articulate, review and report on the operation and effectiveness of their activities in pursuing the conditions.

  9)  We trust this submission is informative and helpful to the work of the Committee and would welcome the opportunity to give evidence on this critical issue which is key to the future of the sector in the UK.

June 2002

99   Audio visual, in this instance, includes radio, television, film, video and interactive media. Back

100   This varies between sub-sectors-for example, in radio the percentage is lower-18 per cent. Back

101   Independent Production (for Television) Training Fund-administered by PACT with the support of the main broadcasters. A voluntary levy of 0.25 per cent of the total cost of a production up to a ceiling of £6,250 has been applied and is taken from the producers fee or profit margin. To collect the levy effectively, PACT needs information and support from broadcasters. Here practice varies. Back

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