Skills head wants tougher regime on qualifications

BRITAIN'S new skills "czar" has attacked the present qualifications system for being wide open to abuse. Chris Humphries, who has just been appointed to lead the Government's training taskforce, believes there should be a much tougher regime to reassure employers about the quality of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs).

His call comes as the Government today prepared to launch its proposals for a university for industry.

Mr Humphries, currently chief executive of the TEC National Council, will combine his part-time job at the taskforce with his new post as director general of the British Chambers of Commerce.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Humphries pointed out that there was a clear "over-supply" of trainees studying tourism, leisure, media and healthcare, and a shortage of people qualifying in information technology and engineering.

The skills taskforce would need to identify and respond to industry's skills needs. There should be better information on which youngsters, parents and employers could base decisions.

He contended, however, that it was often a mistake to talk in general terms about skills shortages. In the construction industry, for instance, shortages were specific to certain geographical areas.

He argued that there should be a means through which funding could be directed where it was most needed.

It was clear there was "potential to exploit" the system of training accreditation, he said, particularly where the organisation providing the training was also awarding the qualifications. "The system is not consistently bad, but it is not consistently good."

While large organisations like the City & Guilds and the Royal Society of Arts could not afford to award spurious qualifications there were hundreds of other bodies which might be less scrupulous, he believed.