Parliament and Politics: Flexible approach to skills welcomed

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Indy Politics
THE GOVERNMENT yesterday welcomed a radical approach to the provision of training for the growing number of adults out of work.

Leaders of Training and Enterprise Councils proposed a flexible strategy which aimed to increase the number of job offers to jobless people by 45 per cent over two years without an increase in the budget.

A central aim of the approach is that training should be strictly harnessed to the needs of local employers.

Under the plan, the present Employment Training scheme and Employment Action, which provides little training, would merge. Unemployed adults would be 'empowered' to 'buy' training from specialist providers and employers with vouchers provided by the Employment Service. Hitherto, vouchers have been restricted to school-leavers in pilot areas.

The report, produced by the Group of Ten TEC chairmen, which represents 82 bodies that spend more than pounds 2bn of taxpayers' money a year, immediately came under fire from unemployment pressure groups. Critics believe the suggested system would have little impact without an increased state subvention.

Peter Wetzel, leader of Barnsley and Doncaster TEC, who chaired the working party that produced the paper, called for a simplified administrative structure which would be achieved through closer co-operation between the Government's Employment Service and the local employer-led TECs.

At the moment the unemployed were unclear as to who was delivering training schemes, Whitehall or the TECs, the report says.

Paul Convery, of the Unemployment Unit, funded by charity, doubted the ability of TECs to achieve the target they had set themselves.

The suggested scheme implied a reduction in the number of 'training weeks' available for individuals from 26 to 20. He said the paper smacked of a political deal between ministers and the TECs, rather than a serious blueprint for training people who were out of work.