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Manufacturers call for a skills shake-up
Published:  01 October, 2006

Manufacturers call for a skills shake-up

Britain`s manufacturers are calling for a radical reform of the skills training system in the UK which, they say, is still failing to address the skills gap, despite attempts at change

In a new report*, the manufacturers` organisation, EEF, analyses the skills that firms need to succeed and whether the current system is helping to develop the workforce that the economy needs.

It concludes that there are flaws in the current system. Marrying sector- and regional-led approaches has created excessive complexity with poor relationships between the organisations involved, it suggests. This has led to excessive bureaucracy, duplication of effort and confused and disengaged employers.

EEF is calling for a move from the current fragmented approach to a more streamlined one, which is sector-based and demand-led. This would ensure clear roles and responsibilities for assessing skills needs and allocating funding, leading to a reduction in waste and inefficiency, it says. By adopting a sector-based approach, EEF believes that regional needs would also be addressed because these tend to be a function of the geographical spread of industry.

Most importantly, EEF believes that any reformed planning and funding system has to be driven primarily by one body.

The report says that, contrary to popular belief, manufacturing companies are significantly increasing their expenditure on training.

"Delivering the right level of skills is essential if UK manufacturing is to improve its performance and meet the global challenge," says EEF director general, Martin Temple (above). "Recognising this, manufacturers are investing more in training but they are being badly let down by an inadequate skills system.

"The current clutter and confusion needs to be swept away," he adds, "and be replaced by a sector-focused system which has the company and the individual at its heart."

Among the report`s key recommendations are that:

the Government should adopt radical reform and introduce a sector-driven approach;

the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) should be merged with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to create a body that would speak with a single voice on the development of post-16 learning;

the number of Sector Skills Councils should be reduced to provide better utilisation of resources and more focus on sector-specific skills issues;

the LSC`s boards should be merged with the Regional Skills Partnerships and enhanced with more business representation;

the focus of the new Sector Skills Academies should be on the delivering and/or accrediting high-quality training provision and they should not include functions that are carried out elsewhere;

the Manufacturing Advisory Service should help firms to take a more strategic approach to training; and

there should be a renewed effort to promote the benefits to business of participating in Investors in People.

* The report, Learning to Change - Why the UK Skills System must do better, can be downloaded from

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