Ministers' silence leaves training in 'disarray'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE GOVERNMENT'S drive towards national training targets is in disarray, according to senior sources.

The state-funded organisation charged with overseeing progress towards the objectives was abolished at the end of last year, and has not been replaced.

Members of the employer-led National Training Task Force (NTTF) yesterday expressed amazement that ministers had not yet revealed any details about the group that was meant to replace it in the new year.

The organisation's role was to ensure that British workers developed the skills necessary to compete with countries such as Germany and Japan.

One member of the NTTF said there would have been 'the mother and father of all political rows' if the same indecision existed in education. Members of the task force were told to stand by at the end of last year, but have heard nothing since.

A key function of the NTTF was to oversee the Government's Investors in People initiative in which companies have to meet high training standards in order to qualify for the kitemark.

Ministers have set 1996 as the deadline for ensuring that half of all medium-sized and large companies achieve the status. Given the recession and businesses' preoccupation with survival, some of the taskforce members are privately sceptical over whether the target will be met. By the end of last year only 120 companies had qualified for the kitemark, with another 1,500 in the pipeline. According to one source, 'there was an absolute mountain to climb'.

Another concern since the abolition of the task force was how the responsibilities were divided up. Training and Enterprise Councils administer Investors in People locally and the Department of Employment is ultimately responsible to Parliament, but the taskforce was meant to ensure an input from the private sector at the very highest level.

A spokesman for the Department of Employment said that Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Employment, was 'considering the arrangements' and hoped to make an announcement in the 'near future'.