· 66 min read · Features

HR magazine round table on employee accreditated training

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Full transcript of HR magazine's round table on employee accreditated training, sponsored by QCA on 26 February 2009.

Attendees:
Peter Crush, Deputy Editor, HR Magazine
Sian Thomas, Joint Acting Director, NHS Employers
Judith Norrington, Head of National Policy Development, City & Guilds
Brad Coales, Director of Employer Engagement, London South Bank University
Madalyn Brooks, HR Director, Procter & Gamble
Sue Georgious, Director of Adults Skills Programmes, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
Sue Densley, Head of the Employer Recognition Programme, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
David Woods, Online Reporter, HR Magazine
David Morris, Head of Training and Development, McDonald's
Chris Banks, Chairman, Learning and Skills Council

Peter Crush
Firstly, I think I have already said it to everyone but welcome and thank you for coming along here today; we appreciate it.  Roundtable events are a format we do every now and then on the magazine and they are a really good way of getting different people together, discussing a thorny issue and hopefully coming up with some interesting debate or conversation around it.  That is what we are all here to do today.  
Why are we all here together today?  This roundtable is sponsored by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).  What we want to do at the magazine is to really look at the issue of where training is at the moment.  Obviously we are in tough economic times and I was actually doing some research before we got here and it looks like a fairly depressing picture.  A poll from the Guardian in January this year was saying that half of training managers in the top 100 companies believe that training has been or will be cut this year.  Only 16% expect to increase their training budgets, and that is not a one off.  We have a few other pieces here, companies like Xerox, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Bank, Smith's and Barclays all record cuts in their training budgets.  
Therefore, what we want to do is discuss two areas: the economic climate and where that sets the context of training, learning and development; and also the mechanics of training, which is bringing in the QCA and the accreditation of training.  Is this something employers care for in this tough time we might be in?  What are the benefits of getting yourself accredited as an awarding body?  These are some of the things we are going to throw around.  In order to formally introduce everyone, please could you go around the table and introduce yourself, say why you are here and where you think you are in the context of the discussion.

Sian Thomas
I am Sian Thomas and I am here representing the NHS.  I am the Director of a company called NHS Employers and we are the employers' organisation for the NHS.  We represent about 550 employers in the NHS who also employ NHS and social care employees and, I think, three million people.  We also represent some of the independent sector employers.  Previous to this job as Director of NHS Employers, I was the Director of HR and Chief Executive in the NHS.

Judith Norrington
I am Judith Norrington from City & Guilds, which is one of the long standing awarding bodies in the sector.  It has been working with employers and learners for about 130 years, although not me personally.  At any given time we have about two million learners going through qualifications and our portfolio covers every single one of the sector areas, so we work right across the system.  I suppose my role here is to also remind us that there has been an awful lot of work between employers and awarding bodies and other sectors going on for a long time.  Therefore helping to shape how the future goes forward but also building on that experience from the past.

Brad Coales
I am Brad Coales.  I am the Director of Employer Engagement at London South Bank University.  I head our Higher Education Funding Council for England funded Employer Engagement Project, which is one of about 40 projects that have been set up around the country to encourage universities in response to the Leitch Report and the emerging skills agenda.  It is about how universities can become more user friendly to businesses, how we can actually tailor what we provide in the way of perhaps bite sized learning or courses and potentially accrediting employers own training.  As part of the role, I have been on the London Higher Skills Board, which is the organisation that represents all of the roughly 40 higher education (HE) institutions in London.  I have been part of what they have been doing with their skills policy.  I sit on The Council for Industry and Higher Education's Employers Forum, which again has spawned some of these issues.  I suppose I am here to try and provide a HE view rather than London South Bank's view.


Madalyn Brooks
My name is Madalyn Brooks.  I am the HR Director of Procter & Gamble (P&G) and I feel very different from everyone else that is here.  I do not have quite the expense of knowledge as everyone else has in the field but, as the HR Director of P&G, I am here I think just to add to the debate and the discussion.  P&G, as many of you know, is an old long standing company, which has a high reputation for the internal development and training of its people.  In fact many other organisations and companies see P&G itself as a university and take people from P&G who have qualified, so we feel a bit like an accreditation within ourselves.  

Sue Georgious
I am Sue Georgious.  I am the Director of Adults Skills Programmes at the QCA, which is the body that has responsibility for qualifications across both general A-Levels, GCSEs and young people's qualifications and adult's vocational qualifications.  We are in the process of some change at the moment.  We previously regulated that but that is separating this year, actually through the Bill that is just going through Parliament to set up an independent regulator.  We will therefore become more of a development agency actually supporting both sectors, awarding bodies and government in terms of their qualification strategy.  I suppose the reason I am here is because two pretty significant initiatives that we have been working on are pretty relevant to the discussion.  
One is the creation of a different kind of qualification system through a new framework which is now in its early stages.  I call it fairly immature at the moment, in it's baby stages, it's toddler stages, but it will gradually, through a program of qualification reform for vocational qualifications, become the major vehicle.  The other hat really is through an initiative that John Denham set up, almost a year and a half ago now, to try and encourage employers to get engaged with accredited training.  The QCA was asked to lead on that work and try to encourage employers, either with the awarding bodies, as Judith suggested, to have another look at what they are doing and to see whether they wanted that in the national system, or for employers and employer organisations that were interested in actually becoming part of that system as awarding organisations themselves.  
We have been leading on that work over the last 18 months or so and I am just going in to a new phase of that work which seems quite appropriate, bearing in mind the economic circumstances and the general context that all of this is sitting in now, which is very different from the context 18 months ago.

Sue Densley
I am Sue Densley and I have worked at the QCA for two months.  I am the head of the programme that Sue has just spoken about and I am here today to provide support if anybody wants to know any technical details about the Employer Recognition Programme, as much as I can provide after two months.  Previous to this role, I was working at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which was the organisation that put the commissioning advert in the newspaper around how important it is to continue trading in this economic climate.  I have obviously got some views from those days as well.

Peter Crush
As I said in my introduction, there are two things that are important.  We have already talked about the economic climate in our introduction and I would like to concentrate on that first.  What seems to be apparent is that there is a lot happening that all of you are involved in, but as soon as we have an economic recession, training seems to be cut.  Therefore, it seems that employers seem to accept or acknowledge there is a training issue but then it is very quickly erased.  I am amazed.  I will have to talk to some employers first, but are you cutting your training?  Are you one of this half that will be cutting training?  Why is it that training does not seem to matter as much in a recession?  Could that impact these qualification areas we are going to talk about later?

Madalyn Brooks
Yes, it completely matters.  There is no way that we are cutting training.  We would never do that.  I do not know how the questions you were quoted for were asked, but if you ask any department in the company if budgets are cut, everybody's budget is cut.  The training department is not unique in that respect.  Everybody is being asked to be more frugal, more productive for the money they spend, so if you ask is your budget being cut, you could ask anybody's budget and it is being cut.  Is it being cut more?  No.  I think there is just a general tightening of belts going on.  When you talk about the advertising budgets or whatever, be careful to balance that.  In P&G, training is our lifeblood.  The reason training is our lifeblood and we say that is because we are a built from within organisation so it is critical that we train.  We do not have the ‘luxury' of buying in skilled people higher up the organisation.  We bring people in at the bottom and we develop them.  Our CEOs, vice presidents and executives are all grown internally so if we do not have training and development we do not exist, so no.  
Now, what we do need to do though and that is the challenge, as every department is challenged when times are tough, is how can you do as much with less?  How do you do it with less travelling, for example?  Do you run more events in different places rather than getting everyone to travel to an event?  Do you run it over the internet rather than face-to face?  It therefore actually pushes people to be creative and not just rely on the old ways of doing things and deliver in the same way.  I am sure many of those employers there would not have said that training is not important anymore; everything is just running on a leaner budget though.

Peter Crush
Do you have a sort of magic per head spend that you like to keep?

Madalyn Brooks
No, it is completely different at people's stage in their career, what level they want to do, what job they are doing.  Some jobs require more technical training than others; some are more on the job training.  It is very different.  We do not measure it in that sort of way.  Some people need more than others, so we do not measure it like that.

Peter Crush
Is there a good figure?  I think we spend £33 billion on training every year.

Madalyn Brooks
That is really just the tip of the iceberg though because you cannot count the real cost.  You cannot count the travel cost, the staying over cost, the time of the trainers.  In P&G, our line managers do the training.  To try and total the whole cost is probably the tip of an iceberg.

Peter Crush
Do you think that as UK plc, that £33 billion is about the right number anyway, or is that already short of where we should be?

Sian Thomas
I think there is a different question.  From our experience of talking to employers in the public sector and the private sector in the last four months, where really every week that goes by there is almost a new situation, the question is what is the decision I made today that creates the value for my business in four or five years' time?  That is more difficult to predict now than it ever was so the question is not: am I spending the right money on training or do I think that investment is going up or down?  The question is: how will I create the value in my business?  How do I survive the next year or two to prepare me for the next four or five years?  What will the economy look like in every sector in five years' time?  If you are in banking or manufacturing that is a tougher question.  If you are in digital, energy or health, it is an easier question but still quite difficult to answer.  
People are coming at it from different perspectives.  This recession is very different to previous recessions, because we are in a global economy.  Certainly for most of the chief executives I meet, the business case for skills argument no longer needs to be talked about in the way it did in the last recession.  I think we will see people with the level of maturity of P&G saying, ‘Actually this is the only thing we can leverage now because we have leveraged everything else to make ourselves lean.'  The only thing we can leverage is the talent we have.  The challenge for us is to imagine what the economy will look like in six years' time in UK plc, for the six million public sector jobs that we look after.  What do the six million people working in the public sector need to be skilled in doing that is different then to now, and for the 24 25 knowledge workers in the rest of the economy competing with the growing markets.  Really it is a different question.  
We spent £4 billion at least in the health sector in education and investment, probably a bit more than that.  That increased last year; it is going to increase this year; and I suspect it will increase in 2010.  The year we are kind of concerned about is 2011 to 2016 where we know that there will be public sector growth and doing more with nothing, not with less, is the thing.  Although actually we do not have nothing, we have £110 billion, so I am saying to chief executives, you might not have any growth, but you do have £110 billion, so what can you make of £110 billion?

Sue Georgious
There are two other interesting angles on all of that.  One is what the demographics might be like in 2011 to 2016, because clearly they might look quite different to the ones that we have got now.  There is a lot of focus on young people and their skills, but we actually know, even though the Leitch view of the world may be a little bit out, that the supply of young people coming through may not be enough for the demand.  Therefore, what are we doing about the older workers who are actually going to have to re skill and retrain?  I think that is one thing that that period 2011 to 2016 actually starts to highlight and I do not think people have really clocked that yet.  
The other is scale, because I agree with you, we have examples, and some around the table here and others that we come across, of companies where this is just part of the lifeblood.  It is nothing new; it is inherent in the way they do business, whether it is public or private sector.  
The larger concern I think, from what I hear and the engagements that we have with government, are around the small and medium sized businesses where potentially there is a huge pool of talent that is not being developed perhaps as it might be.  I think that is a different question; the approaches are different.  We certainly have had McDonald's up in the headlines and others are doing really well with it, but what is the Community Alliance For Youth around the corner doing?  None of us have very good answers to those questions yet, around whether we need to do something about that and then what.

Peter Crush
David has just arrived.  Shall we introduce him?

David Morris
I am David Morris, Head of Training and Development for McDonald's restaurants.

Peter Crush
I will continue with the employers to start with.  When you are looking at skills, developments and training - and the government wants to increasingly involve employers in the skilling up of Britain - you can look at that in one or two ways: you can say has the education system failed and why should employers have to be the ones that end up finishing off the education system?  If you are talking about money being spent on training, the remedial work that you need to do before you can even start with someone, is that something you are concerned with?  Is that part of your calculation for trying to work out this matrix[?]?

Sian Thomas
I think for the health sector it is probably a mixed picture.  If you ask most NHS employers they would say, after a £4 billion investment in training and development, probably, at the moment we are spending 30% of that in pre employment training.  That is a huge debate we are having with the Treasury.  Should we marketise that?  You could argue that you could just marketise doctor and nurse training and not pay for any of it through government tax funding, but use those tax revenues in other ways and help[?] marketisation.  I am sure it would be a massive risk for probably half of the country, but that is a debate to be had.  Most employers I think would expect that if there is tax revenue funding of pre employment training, then they should be employable when they arrive.  I do not think that is the case with each of the 350 job roles we have, certainly not in health and science.  When 55 scientists arrive, we do not expect that they are all job ready, and how can they be when they have been on a four year degree programme, so you have to give them bench skills and R&D skills in the job.  Therefore, I think it would be mixed.  
The area we are really most concerned with is that we are about to move nursing in the UK to an all graduate profession, the registration.  It is the biggest change in nursing for 50 years with a huge risk that we will not get people.  We need to recruit 18,000 nurses in to universities every year and, if we move it to an all graduate profession, my challenge and for us all in the community, is will we get 18,000 nurses who want to do a degree in nursing, able to do the A Level attainment or diploma level attainment to get to that point?  If we cannot, then what is the fall back?  Lots of us have found it but I think the question most employers are asking is that question, and we do not want to lose a diploma, apprenticeships, vocational routes, because actually we find a lot of great people through those routes.  If we lost that to a very high level knowledge graduate then we would be very worried.

Peter Crush
Why was that decision made?

Sian Thomas
It is because the European and the global markets are changing all around us.  We are four million health workers short in the world and Australia is just about to take about 3,000 more nurses.  They are over here recruiting and they are going to an all graduate profession, Europe has an all graduate nursing profession, Scotland have and Wales have and England are currently the odd one out.

Peter Crush
Do you know how much of your nursing profession comes from non graduate routes?

Sian Thomas
80% of our nurses at the moment join at the diploma level of the programme and only 20% join a degree programme.  Even if we changed the bursaries so that we fully fund the degree - which is a massive political decision to make, because you could say ‘no' - that needs to be means tested: a) because you are putting 18,000 more people into debt as students; b) I do not actually think we could recruit people in to nursing on that basis, because they are not earning the salaries when they come to pay their debt back, so it certainly would not get the doctors that we need.  Thus, the decision was made because it is actually a degree level programme.  Science is getting more difficult and more complicated and employers do not want to do the fill up at the end, which is what is happening now.

Sue Georgious
I am assuming nurses are taking on an increasing amount of responsibility?

Sian Thomas
Yes, they are doing the jobs of doctors.  They are doing the jobs of doctors and scientists and therefore we need to train them properly.

Peter Crush
Just so I understand this, does that mean then that you do not fall under this qualifications credit framework?  Can you accommodate that?

Sian Thomas
No.  I think what we will see is some employers, as the NHS becomes more fragmented and more autonomous with many businesses, which is effectively where we are going in the marketisation of healthcare, then Foundation Trusts (FTs) will venture with universities.  That is what I would like to see: employers and universities forming joint ventures, developing great businesses and forming their own pathways for education.  What we are is the glue that, as an employer's organisation, helps everybody not to reinvent the wheel but still have local innovation.  The big tragedy for countries is that we are researching and developing lots of inventions for improving healthcare and solutions for massive chronic disease but, because we do not have that system in place, we do not bring it to the market quickly enough.  Therefore [pay one?] the country invents the drug or brings the solution and UK plc is losing out.

Peter Crush
I do not want to pick on you, but I feel like I have to now.  If I understand this correctly, you are going up the graduate route when, this is a point where Brad could come in, other industry is saying to label something as a graduate is what puts people off training in the first place, and we want to make training these bite sized credits and so forth.

Sian Thomas
No, we are doing that as well but within a graduate framework.

Brad Coales
As a particular university we actually have somewhere approaching about a third of our students who are actually nursing students.  Nursing really found its way in as a graduate [inaudible] because we took over it or had been previously called a university.  Therefore, that has already started and you have a twin track where you have graduate nurses and you have diploma nurses, so it is not something that is just about to start.  A lot of what we do as well is the arrangement that was being talked about in terms of trusts, NHS Trusts and universities working more closely together, so it is already happening.  As well as training and turning out nurses we are actually providing a lot more of their continuing professional development and actually tendering to provide a lot of the kind of specialisms and influence that come in later as they move through.  
The universities that take it seriously are already forging with us.  An awful lot of it is work based learning.  It is not, ‘come to university and spend three years in a lecture theatre'; it is based pretty much half and half between actually doing the job on a hospital ward and being in a university environment.  It is much closer to perhaps an employers own kind of training programme, in terms of the input that the employer actually has, so that is certainly a nationally standardised qualification.  The actual bits and pieces that come out of that are actually done with the employer.

Sian Thomas
I was going to take the debate a bit forward about the recession, which is where you started off.  I am interested in people's views around the table.  If we are seeing the largest number of unemployed people we have seen this century, possibly the largest number of long term unemployed people, the consequence for the country is so significant around health generally, around the ability for people to sustain their own health, but also seeing its decline in the education attainment of people.  If that is true then there is a big question for all employers.  To what degree do we just leave us all to do our own thing as we have always done?  Should government intervene so that there is a system to support those people, a system which keeps people in education programmes, whether they are in employer-based programmes?  
As a large employer, I would therefore take some social responsibility to take people in on work placements or skills training, who I do not employ, but they are in my community.  It is just a question really as I think that is what is going to be asked of large employers to help small employers keep things on the road when they do not have any cash, or growth.  It is a pretty bleak outlook for the next two years really.

Judith Norrington
We have some examples where we are beginning to work with employers who are either making people redundant or offering a window, or any of the phrases that are being used, internships and so on, to try to look at how you, among several things, protect the validity of the qualification.  If it is a work based competency qualification, how can you make sure that people go on having the opportunity to either study, still in the workplace, or something that is as close to it and means that you get a valid offer, or to provide other options that are not occupational specific but are a wider training programme?  I think the route through to graduates still needs to have lots of progression opportunities, even for people to go quite a long way along the track and then possibly decide they want to do an allied role activity.  All of that is beginning to happen.  
As to whether we need a coordinating force, I think it would be interesting.  You would need a lot of people around the table or a lot of people representing particular groups around the table to see what would be possible because there must be synergies.  There must be people who have done some level of training that could be useful in companies, possibly small and medium enterprises possibly elsewhere, where they could add value, gain some more experience and then go on continuing to train.  I do not think anybody is saying at the moment, or very few people - there may be personal budgets - the training is not significant.  Everybody is saying it is more important and the old language of look what happens if you do not do it, as opposed to what happens if you do, is very significant here.  
The other point that I think is critical and you raised earlier was: what is it that we know we need to give people?  What are the skills that they need?  I think there is a tendency for us to build in some of the skills that we need today and we have to work harder at building in the skills that we need tomorrow.  Some of that is about equipping people to develop themselves in a way, the old learning to learn, building in those sorts of ways of being, so you are not waiting for this as a particular job, if we do the talent.  One of the challenges we have at the moment is that we design for sectors by sectors where actually quite a lot of jobs are generalist or beginning to be, or have specialist elements but also work in the wider environment.  Building that into the system is going to be quite significant.

Brad Coales
People have also learnt lessons from the last recession, so certain sectors, even though they are under pressure at the moment, are aware of what happens in the construction industry.  We are aware of what happened in the early 1990s where people could enter a profession, people left the profession and did not go back afterwards and they struggled with actually having the capacity that they needed over the last few years.  Therefore, while obviously a lot of people with the more hands on construction jobs at the moment are unemployed, a lot of the more skilled professionals, who were people that were going to be - the ones that held back some of the big developments that were going to go forward because there simply was not the workforce - they are actually moving across and they are still very worried.  
Even if you predict the recession going on to about 2012, they have got an ageing population because people live later, they know, as I said earlier on, the demographics of the fact that there are going to be less 18-year-olds entering.  They are actually really worried about what is going to happen come 2013, 2014 onwards up to 2020.  That applies I believe in the legal profession as well.  We were looking at that this week, and again it is the demographics.  The problem last time is that they actually lost a lot of people out of the profession.  Although high street solicitors at the moment are struggling because the average practice has lost about a third of it is business, because that would have been in conveyancing.  They are still very much aware that if you lose those people out of the profession now, especially some of the younger people who would be going in, then, as things pick up there is going to be lack of capacity.  There is going to be a lack of capacity to actually take things forward, so I think people are taking a slightly longer term view than they might have done in the past.

Sue Georgious
I think that challenge that you just made is a really interesting one, because I don't think that policy at the moment is looking at those problems in the way that you just described.  The idea that large employers may actually, as part of a social commitment in their communities, be supporting of their workers, in terms of either keeping them in training, keeping them engaged or providing them with other routes, has touched the political agenda.  Now I actually think that is a really interesting idea and in other countries in Europe of course, the social responsibility of employers is very different.  The way in which they do some of that is very different.  If you go to Scandinavian countries for example, you will find exactly those sorts of initiatives that are not even questioned, but actually just happen.  We do not have that mindset and what we have got is a structural environment now, which for all the right reasons, is being created to actually focus on skills and sectors and Leitch and all of those things.  It does have the danger though, I think you are right, of segmenting approaches to this in a way that silos it.  That actually does not bring together a coherent view of the world for what might be all of those people who are unemployed, who need to retrain or just need to keep in the jobs market.  We have not got that right.

Sian Thomas
My fear is that the rate of unemployment and the resources we have in government being spent right now are £4 or £5 billion, if you add up the whole strategy.  The extra half a billion on employer incentives is going to perpetuate what we have always had.

Sue Georgious
I agree with you.

Sian Thomas
What we are doing is therefore focusing on support too late in the day.

Sue Georgious
Jobcentre Plus support is actually after the event.

Sian Thomas
Of course, it is a bit like saving lives with heart disease, where you had to put all the money in for open heart surgery, but as soon as we stop people dying, we went right upstream where we have got money going in to obesity, so we have stopped spending lots of money on open heart surgery.  You never sort the problem out if that is where you stay.  My worry is all the resources we have will go in to the real help for the long term unemployed, and we will never get early enough up the chain.  What happens is [inaudible] that, is just going to grow massively over the next two years, such that the people who are being de skilled because they are in industries that are not growing and they are not really learning new things either, just fall out of work or are not employable for the new economy in five years time.

Peter Crush
Welcome, Chris.  The social side of things is all very well, but do we not just need people who can do their job straight away?  Do you not just want to focus on those people rather than the people that may not?

Sue Georgious
There is a large mistake though in saying that the social side is all very well, actually, that social side contributes either positively or negatively into the economy, because you have a potential there that is not being used.  That is the point.  You have a growing potential which, with some intervention, could actually push us up the OECD figure, and so could reduce those.

Peter Crush
It is probably a good place to bring in McDonald's.

David Morris
It was really interesting.  Clearly McDonald's is very specific to the hospitality sector.  We do not face some of the challenges that some of the others have described, but it is quite clear to me that there has definitely been, through government initiatives, a push for up skilling.  For us that is clearly very specific in our sector.  It is the up skilling of our basic skills and around other areas around hospitality, so for the short term that is great for us, it is fantastic.  We incentivise our staff to complete our training programmes and then go beyond what is their core training programmes, but the end result, as you said, is that people are now more interested in learning and developing than they ever have been before.  
If nothing else has come from this the Leitch Report and other things, as we have seen from our own staff, it is that people are now hungrier to learn more.  Whether they stay with McDonald's for two and a half years, which is the average we have, the reality is that once they start with some of these external programmes we are now offering, they quite like it and they are using that as a platform to then step on to other areas, other professions, other skills.  We are very happy with that because it means they are engaged with us while they are engaged with us.  I think the social element does exist: everything that has been talked about in the last five years around skills and Leitch has had a knock on effect.  
There is no doubt about it.  Some of the incentive plans, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), for example, are good.  The counter effect is the engagement around learning and development, which I think is almost as important if we are looking at the wider skill.  For us we have also got some immediate short term benefits of course, but looking at it beyond that I think we are very happy to be part of this larger thing, because we know they are not going to stay with McDonald's.  Some choose McDonald's as a career, but most do not and they will use us as a platform to go on to something else and we are extremely effective for some of those who use us.  It is quite exhilarating to look at actually.

Peter Crush
Why did you decide to become an accrediting body in your own right, because you could have partnered with City & Guilds?

David Morris
We have as well, so we have gone down two routes.  We have gone down the route of partnering with awarding bodies, and the big programme we are working on right now is our degree programme with the Manchester Metropolitan University, so we are going all angles.  Partly it is partnering with awarding bodies and partly it is just accrediting what we already have in place.  It allows us some control over what we develop and we train so we can make it very bespoke.  One thing that has been very useful for us is the flexibility we have seen from organisations, from awarding bodies, from the QCA, etc.  There is definitely a flexibility we have never seen before.  As soon as that flexibility starts to hit, all of a sudden it becomes much more relevant for business, to say actually we can do this, it is not too far out of our grasp and we have tried it in the past several times.  
We have tried in our history to offer even a national NVQ programme.  They are very difficult.  For the first time ever we have had the flexibility in the approach from organisations that allows us to do it.  So we do it because: a) it is the right thing to do as part of national strategy, a UK plc strategy; and, b) it incentivises our own workers to complete training programmes and they are very motivated to complete these programmes.  They love the fact that they are getting external qualifications.  If you look at the individual, many of us have come to McDonald's who have not had the best education, or who have at that time or otherwise had chosen not to embrace schools or education.  They come to us at a certain point.  The end result is they absolutely value these qualifications, and you can speak to the individuals.  Again, it is very energising to speak to them and see the impact that has.  We are getting more motivated employees so it absolutely a win win for us to do it, it is a no brainer.  For the first time ever we have had the flexibility from all different agencies, to allow us to do it on our terms as well as their terms and that is what, to use the phrase, is a win win.

Peter Crush
Have you come up with what your qualification equals in the academic world?

David Morris
The first one we have done just now is the equivalent of what you call an A Level qualification.  That is the first one we have awarded ourselves as an awarding body.  Obviously, we are doing apprenticeships and we are doing that through City & Guilds.  Right now we have already got two and a half thousand managers a year going through our diploma, McDonald's diploma in Shift Management and Hospitality it is called.  The equivalent of that is an A Level qualification.

Peter Crush
If someone from McDonald's applied to work at P&G, it might happen, and they had a McDonald's A Level with them, what would your view of that be?  Would it matter to you?  Would you count it as an A Level?

Madalyn Brooks
Yes, what we would look at is the job they are applying for.  There are obviously ones with pre skills needed.  One thing I was going to throw in earlier is the skills they demonstrate through their application - things like their interpersonal skills, leadership skills, problem solving skills.  That is what we are looking for when people apply to us.  Yes, if they want a management position they need to have a degree.  Yes, if they want an administrative position they do not.  There is a certain base level that you look at for an entry point but what would see whether this individual would go through the process would be other things they demonstrate.  
We have probably one of the toughest online systems, although our students who apply to it say they love it because they get a lot about understanding the company from it, but you are screened through quite a tough process.  The things that we are training for are not the things that we expect the universities or other qualifications to give; they are things like leadership or management.  An MBA can give you a start; a management degree can give you a start; but it is not until you are actually in the situation that you start to learn.  There are some things I think that the universities and schools could help us with and we actually do work in partnership with the campuses that we recruit from and the schools we recruit from to do that.  Feedback on the type of students we are seeing, the type of applicants we are seeing and why they are not getting through, what is it they lack?  Often it is communication or basic skills like that and we do work in partnership with them.  
The other thing we do is try and tap into rich seams of potential people and we have just entered in to this new partnership with Teach First.  I do not know if you are all familiar with this, but this is this programme whereby new graduates, because the teaching profession is so short of quality graduates going in to teaching, so we are supporting them as a partner company.  The graduate would go in to teaching for a couple of years and then they would stay in teaching or would be a prime prospect for us to take in to take in to P&G as a career.  So we are sponsoring that programme at the moment to try to help the teaching profession to get it's teacher standards up as well as helping us to get a very strong seam of potential candidates.  I think it depends on those sorts of skills.  Of course our manufacturing sites which I am less close to have other more technical and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) etc which I am less familiar with, but for us the training we need, and that is what we give internally, are those sorts of softer skills.  I do not know if you want to call it that and they are quite hard but they are called soft skills.

Peter Crush
So does my having three A Levels and a degree, does it matter?  The government seems to be obsessed with having x many thousand per cent of the population at level three, four or five, but what you seem to be saying is that each company is unique in what we are looking for and the fact they have a degree is sort of by the by.  It proves they have educated themselves for a certain number of years but we want to actually do something else.

Madalyn Brooks
There are a couple of little boxes to tick, I suppose to say, that is the minimum for this particular job you are going for.

Peter Crush
Why have that minimum at all?  What is the point if you are really looking for those other skills?

Madalyn Brooks
It is because the understanding is that people who have done a certain level of education will be better set up to take on a job at maybe a higher level or a higher demanding skill.  There is a base line, as I was saying before, to say ‘okay' if you want to work at this level, at this sort of responsibility, then either GCSEs or A Levels are sufficient, but if you want to go into this role.  That is the starting point; there are many fantastic high level academics who will never make it in to P&G because it is not about academic achievement or even getting As in everything.

David Morris
Can I just respond to that?  I was speaking to Ed Balls yesterday and he was saying that over the next few years we are going to see a revolution in education because it is going to be the law for young people to stay in education until the age of 18.  He was saying that the way he is seeing it is that more young people are going to want to attain their education, their qualifications in the workplace and do you think then it now means employers have a duty to educate as well as?  It is a new strand, is it not, if that is the way things are going?

Madalyn Brooks
Employers have a responsibility to train and develop their people.  If you want to call that ‘education', I am not sure.  There is a place for public education for skills, to enable people to enter in the workplace, but I also think that there is nobody who comes in to P&G ready to work.  It does not happen.  Once they have what has been given to them through their schooling system and their university system, then we will carry on the programme from there, so an employer does have a key responsibility.  Is there a responsibility to educate?  Yes and no I suppose.  It depends what we are talking about.  Does it teach people to read and write?  I am not sure that is a private sector employer's responsibility.  I think there is an education system to do that, but does it teach people how to communicate better, yes.

Brad Coales
That is where the tensions have come between HE certainly and employers over the last few years.  First of all smaller employers are the ones who generally tend to say it is necessary to have what you might call an up and ready graduate so that you can make an immediate impact, because for them taking that person on is a big investment.  They need a quick payback.  The more traditional graduate recruiting companies who have the luxury of being able to have an internal programme which then inducts them in to the culture of the company are generally happy with the quality of a graduate.  It is therefore that bit about how do you mix the academic and the technical skills that you may get within a subject that you are studying with all of these softer skills.  Whose role is that?  Is it the employer's role to do it?  Is it HE's role to do it?  That is really what is been being talked about, particularly over the last couple of years, in terms of how you shift that?
With some of these things that are now coming out with things like the national diplomas, the introduction of the apprenticeship scheme again, in such a way that you have chances for people to interact with employers at different stages.  That actually means that if you are an employer who has volunteered to provide two weeks' meaningful work placement in a diploma, and you are able to keep in touch with some of those people and have taken an active role in designing the content of that diploma, the chances are, by the time they have then been through a university course, you have a chance to build that person into your working culture over a period of time - particularly if you then follow that up again with something like a workplace or a short summer placements and not the traditional sandwich placements, as people have done in the past.  Whether companies will go down that route, I do not know, but it certainly seems to be the more productive way.  I do not think that universities are ever going to turn somebody out who has precisely the right skillset over and above their academic discipline, to suit every single employer.  Therefore, the closer the universities and employers can work together to achieve that, the better it will be for them.

Madalyn Brooks
To your point about how can a small and medium enterprise organisation get those graduates to be effective in the first place, they use companies like P&G.  If somebody has worked at P&G for two years they will learn their trade and then they will go to the school.  We know that we are seen as a quasi university.

Judith Norrington
There has also been a tension that sat underneath policy for many years, which is the very thing you have talked about.  I am not sure whether I like the term ‘softer skills', but we cannot figure out a better one.

Madalyn Brooks
‘Non-technical' maybe.

Judith Norrington
All of those skills do not sit very well with a programme on the academic side.  I think some of the vocational ones do sit better where people are told to work individually, they are told to work separately, they are told not to share anything; it is plagiarism at best.  In a sense, we try to be serious about it by introducing things like various forms of core skills and common skills, and yet we are not really serious about it, because there are a lot of high education programmes that are still very much about you work alone, you do this, you do that.  I remember talking to some young students recently, who, just very small things, the implication of you not doing something affecting other people, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link element, really was not there.  If they did not turn up for school one day the impact was on them - they might get told off - but it did not really affect anyone else.  In your company, if you do not turn up at a meeting that is expected on a particular day or you do not do the output, it really has an effect on lots of other people.  
Therefore, I think there are things like that, which we can easily build into the way we train and teach and learn.  Working with employers along the way is a good idea, but from almost the beginnings of education, you can build in some of the consequential issues.  How is the communication working with others and so on, but we do need to do it seriously.  We cannot just keep bolting it on as something on the side.  That is where I think some vocational provision has been very successful because it started from where the people are, looked at where they need to be and worked on the stages and the steps.  That is about their own personal development, their own communication style.  It is also about technical knowledge and expertise and has worked around them to achieve that rather better than a sort of centralised model.  This is what everyone must have.

Peter Crush
Only a couple of years ago, the government were not supportive of employers becoming their own accredited bodies, I think I am correct in saying that.  What has been the change, what has been driving that change of mind?

Chris Banks
What I can say is that, when I took over as chair of the LSC, I was struck by the extent to which the agenda was driven by the needs of the learner rather than the needs of the employer.  There was some understanding that the needs of the employer were important, but it was learner first and employer second.  I was absolutely determined to try and ensure that the two go hand in hand because actually, where the needs of the individual and the needs of the employer overlap, you stand a much better chance of the thing working.  You probably will have noticed quite a series of initiatives over last few years that have been designed specifically - not to replace the needs of the individual, but to bring the needs of the employer up alongside.  You would expect me to say this, but Train to Gain, which many of you will have heard of and many businesses have now participated in, is a good example of that, where it is for the individual but it is via the employer.  The employer is saying, ‘Yes this is something that is valuable to my business as well.'  
Therefore, the desire is to respond to what employers want and people, in our day jobs, we probably never use the word ‘demand led', but in my LSC day job, that is what people are talking about.  How do we change our part of the education and skills system to be demand led, i.e, giving employers more of what they want and getting individuals more of what they want, which is why you have seen so many changes.  The main mechanism for employers articulating what they want is the sector skills councils and that is how we see it.  If a sector can efficiently agree a set of qualifications that are worth something, respected, valuable and relevant, that is a great place to start.  
People like us, the LSC, can then make sure that the money flows towards supporting those sorts of programmes and that sort of training rather than, maybe, courses that you feel are being pushed, or employers are feeling are being pushed on them.  That is the main mechanism.  It is not much of a step beyond that to say that if there are circumstances where an employer really cannot get what they want for their business and what will make the difference for their business, agreed at a sector level, it is so unique to their particular position that they are prepared to go as far as McDonald's have done, in terms of becoming an accredited or an accreditor, if you like, of training.  It is really good that that is available.  I do however suspect there will be relatively few employers that want to go that far and where the needs are that unique.  The Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) ought to be the place to go, but in terms of sending a really powerful signal that we are really serious about listening to what employers want and making sure that the training that is provided meets it better, that is one good example.

Peter Crush
If becoming your own accreditor in your own right was such a great idea, more companies would have done it and there are only about six or seven.

Chris Banks
I would imagine it would remain the exception rather than the rule because the natural way of doing it would be through the SSCs.

Sue Georgious
You also have to take into account that, in this country, and it is not the case in other countries in Europe, we have very established awarding organisations like City & Guilds who know this business inside out.  For a lot of employers working with an expert in an organisation is absolutely the way to go and as McDonald's have said, for certain of their offers, that is what they have done.

Peter Crush
Was the reason you went for your own accrediting status, because you did not feel what was out there was not good enough?

David Morris
I think it allows us even more flexibility around certain areas that we wanted to concentrate on and the reality is we are not our own awarding body for apprenticeships; we work exactly through the SSCs - which again have been very flexible with us - People First and City & Guilds.  The reality is that there is a sea change in the approach now, so for certain particular areas, and there has been great flexibility with that.  That just allows us to be even more flexible around some of the other levels that we are doing, so it is about doing more.Peter Crush
Did you have to change the content of your training to meet the QCA standards?

David Morris
Some of it, yes absolutely, but mostly it was beneficial for us.  Again, you work with them to get the right level of balance as Chris said, for the learner and for us as well, and working through that process has actually been very beneficial.  We get a better understanding of what will impact the learner and actually what we need, so it is a combination of the two.

Peter Crush
I suppose there is a slight subtlety in a company tweaking what it is doing so that it can become an accrediting body or just what you have already got already equals a diploma, or whatever, and just making it.

Chris Banks
Well, it would not be a diploma, but for many employers I think the basic programmes could be accredited in the normal way so that they are the equivalent of.

Peter Crush
So they do not have to do anything, they do not have to change anything at all.

Chris Banks
You may have to do some, because the expectations are quite rigorous and they will be a bit different, but I think the norm would be that it would be accredited by an external organisation but still the training programme that you want.  It is your training programme, but accredited rather than going that one extra step which is equipping yourself to become an accreditor, an awarding body in your own right, which is another step.

Chris Banks
The expertise and long term commitment may be absolutely right for some parts of what McDonald's and others want to do, but may not necessarily be right for others.

Judith Norrington
There are two things to add to those points.  One is that it is not that easy to be an awarding body; I mean there are high expectations, quality assurance and proper assessment.  You know there is a range of things that quite rightly are there to assure the learner that comes out with the McDonald's qualification that they are right to be proud of it, that it has portability and that they can take it somewhere else and it is of use to them.  I think that is a very significant element and one of the reasons why people are choosing to change.  The other thing that I think is not often said, but I think is significant, is that this change has come around at a time when the regulations have changed and actually the regulations were pretty rigid for those of us creating qualifications and sometimes I think we would have rather preferred to be a bit more demand led.  There were rules that we had to follow which sometimes helped, but did not always help us to exactly meet the needs of individual employers and there is a balance to be struck.
There is a balance particularly where public funding is concerned between supporting employment, somebody to go on and have all of those things, we talked about the portability, and supporting only one bit of one company's need which I think is a much more questionable issue for public funding.  I think we need to be very careful about how we spend this pot, whichever version it is, whether it is the public funding pot or the funding pot that everyone is using.  There are differences.  We have a right as a nation to expect the public part to be very clearly linked to people's progression and people that can use it for other kinds of purposes, rather than only the needs of a particular individual corporation.

Peter Crush
In P&G, if a marketing person does a set of P&G training that could be turned in to a craft diploma or a whatever, would you?  Would it interest you to turn it into your qualification or your training into those things, is it something you would want to do?

Madalyn Brooks
It is not on our agenda.

Peter Crush
Why would it interest you to do that?

Madalyn Brooks
That is what I am thinking about and I have not got an answer to that question because I am not sure what it would bring for us.  As I said before we are committed to training, no less now than we ever were, and in developing our people and being a built from within company and fortunately not in a situation where people are leaving us.  Therefore, something that is recognised externally, for you to take and show somebody else, is not necessarily in our best interests.

Peter Crush
So you do not need to add qualifications to your training I suppose?

Madalyn Brooks
No, it is not in the current climate, not so much in the current circumstances.  We do not sense a pull for it from employees, we do not sense a push for it from external, plus the fact that P&G over the years has learnt to recognise what its core capabilities are.  Our core capability is delivering training, but not then becoming an externally recognised diploma as such.  It is not what we are in business for I suppose.  We have to get very clear about what we are in business for and we are not in business to give people externally recognised qualifications.

Peter Crush
Does that matter to you, Chris?

Chris Banks
The truth is that the training that you are doing, and P&G is probably a very good example, has a national value, a national recognition.  I do think that having its equivalent will be a bad thing actually, if people know that.  This is part of the challenge.  The employers' own trait is that the general public, so the individual and their family, will not always know what that means, what it is worth if you like and that is quite important.  Therefore, there is some value in having a way of articulating what level you have reached and the worth of what you have done.  Sometimes it is a real shame that people who are very highly skilled can demonstrate it practically, if you like, but cannot demonstrate it at interview stage or at screening stage.  These days I think that is really important, so on the one hand you have got some facts like, companies that invest in the trade are two and a half times less likely to fail than companies that do not, and that is the well researched evidence, so we want to do all we can to encourage employers.  
Equally we know that, if you are thinking of recruiting someone and you have two people - one who has recognised evidence of a level of achievement and a level of skill and the other who does not - at this stage where you have been quite ruthless probably in screening people in or out for interview or for a discussion, you would tend to prioritise those who can demonstrate objectively that they have some evidence of having acquired the skill and the experience.

Peter Crush
Actually I have got the facts here.  Of that £33 billion we said earlier that is spent on training, only a third of it is spent on training that goes towards a recognised qualification.

Sue Densley
I am really dying to chip in here because I think for me personally that really resonates because I have had some fantastic training with organisations I have worked with.  I have worked for one of the top 10 accountancy firms; I have worked for a privatised utility company; I have worked for a company that sent me on Cranfield Management courses.  I do not have anything other than a certificate that says I have been on these fantastic courses.  They do not appear on my CV because there would be too many of them.  If I could really take that and convert it in to a currency that meant something on my CV, I would really want to do it.

Peter Crush
I like throwing spanners in the works.  I am going to do another one.  You are going to be able to turn it in to numbers, the qualification credit thing, yes?  As I understand it, I might have three A Levels, a degree that equals 26 credits or whatever.

Sue Densley
It will not transfer - all of the little packages that I have done in all of my career history.  The system will not be able to do that.

Sue Georgious
Where we are trying to get to with the qualifications and accreditation framework is to have a common understanding of both challenge and level for any accredited qualification system.  The old qualification system actually did not tag things down tightly to some degree or level, particularly around it, but in terms of size did not tamper in a way that the new framework will.  It has two characteristics I think that are important and I will go back to what Chris said, because I think what he said makes a lot of sense to where we are trying to get to and what we said earlier about the volume of reform.  We have huge numbers of reforms going on at the moment, which are all intended to bring the same sort of outcomes.  One of those structural things is this new framework, which will actually allow qualifications to be placed in a matrix that immediately identifies their level and the level of challenge that that achievement represents.  You asked a question earlier about whether this us an A Level.  Well, no it is not an A Level; it is a qualification at an equivalent level and I think it is really important to say that because a lot of the debate has been diverted around industry qualifications that are A Levels.  They are not A Levels; they are qualifications that are an equivalent level of challenge to an A Level with their own particular characteristics and that is really important.
Another area of quite difficult debate there has been over the last 10 years or longer is whether a level three vocational level is equivalent to an academic qualification at level three.  It has different characteristics, but the level of challenge is the same.  For the first time we will be able to represent that much more carefully, and also we will be able to represent the size of this achievement because we have things out there that are called ‘diplomas' and we have things that are called ‘awards'.  Nobody has any sense of how much effort has gone in to that and how big it is, so we should be able to start to show that and for recruitment purposes and for progression purposes, which are critical I think.  We then begin to build a system that allows individuals to actually start to use that stuff in a different way.  The idea is that Sue's achievements in career development and so on, and indeed most of what some of us might have done - and for those people that achieve stuff outside of education, but perhaps in voluntary and community sector work - will be able to have that recognised within that matrix, knowing that it has quality assurance behind it.  It is not just something that has been.  ‘I have got this but actually what does that mean?'  We know what it means because it is quality assured by a regulator.  It actually does start to open up possibilities for people to move about the system and to move up the system and I think it is the moving about the system which will become more and more important in the next few years.  
Back to P&G, I think I can absolutely understand what you are saying and I think Chris is right that there are certain company schemes that are almost accredited anyway because they have quality of edge around them and people recognise them.  However, I would see that adding that national accreditation as just another tool that allows individuals to use those in different ways.  Now it may be that individuals that work at P&G do not move about and that might be fine, but actually some of them are accumulating stuff from elsewhere as well that can add to that portfolio, and they move on.  In a way, being able to accommodate that, as the framework should be able to, not a credit, but degrees, masters, post graduate qualifications all in one system actually starts to give you some of that flexibility.  I think it starts to move us along the path that you are talking about.

Sian Thomas
A sustainable model?

Sue Georgious
Yes and that is why we are so passionate about it, because we think it does something different and it offers a common currency of achievement.  It offers something that is bankable and usable.

Peter Crush
Can I not add up lots of low scoring credits?

Sue Georgious
Qualified in anything, not necessarily, but it might do.

Peter Crush
Say a ‘10' is a degree.  If I have 10 lots of ‘one' I am not at degree level.

Sue Georgious
No, because that degree will tell you which of those credits you have to have, so it will set out very clearly what the specification for getting that qualification is, as would a vocational qualification or an academic.

Madalyn Brooks
I suppose coming from an employer's point of view, I was intrigued and delighted to hear you say it is actually done very flexibly which is very interesting because we are very simple souls, employers, and all this discussion of all this stuff just makes us blank over.  We do not even know where you are coming from, let alone where you are going.  You know we are very simple souls.  If people need skills then we train them and we talk about NVQs and this and that and the other.  Most of us do not know what we are talking about and so it just scares the living daylights out of us to say the qualifications, the accreditations, the process, the checking and everything.  That is why I love what you are saying around one system that everybody understands.  We have not seen government bodies trying to get to one system before.

Sue Georgious
That is something we have to knock out of the system.

David Morris
I would agree 100% because McDonald's was in fact a system of franchisees, so in fact we have 200 franchisees that operate our business for us.  There are 200 individual business people who do not always understand some of the corporate speak that we come out and use.  They are local businesspeople who are just interested in making a profit and when we embarked on this journey, first of all, we said we are going to start offering qualifications, they were just excited about that full stop because they looked at their individual members of staff and said this is great for my IT members.  We are very much a family organisation.  Then what we had to do is we had to educate them around a level framework and once they re-educated, it was a very clear mapping for us.  It is very clear that for level one we offer maths and English; level two, we can offer the apprenticeship programme; level three, was our Shift Management Programme; level four...  It became very clear almost instantly, our own internal programmes were very clearly equivalent to the level framework.  
Once we had started communicating that it was very easy for people to understand and grasp that.  Now, to your point, that is exactly what we do, we are saying actually our longer term goal is that.  At certain levels, we may have to bolster our training in some areas.  We are going to.  If you are at this level in your career, this is the kind of level you should be at in terms of the framework.  It has become a very good framework for us to match both directions.  Once people cottoned on to it they were excited and they understood it and I think that the very simple framework level has definitely helped that.

Sue Georgious
It is a different language and we are learning every day.  I think that we have to find a common language that actually everybody buys in to.

Peter Crush
Madalyn, would you be more interested in a South Bank University degree or 20 points?  What does it say to you?

Madalyn Brooks
Nothing much, if, we have 15 or I do not know how many thousands of applicants for every job every year, we need to have some automated way of screening them.  We are not going to sit down and individually read all that, we are going to have that automated.  If our systems accept that as the same qualification, it will come through and get the same evaluation as any other person.  It is naïve to think we will sit there and read that and an individual would evaluate that one by one.  It will not happen.

Peter Crush
There is no point.  Is this not why people are becoming accrediting bodies because, ultimately, people's skills just feed in to a pipeline of some sifting technology?

David Morris
Interestingly enough, although we accredit and although we are very much supporting a framework where we can recognise our staff training externally, the reality is the same as you.  We do not hire on qualifications; we hire on attitude and aptitude and the softer skills you were talking about.  We are actually blind to that until it comes down to a conversation with an individual, and then you start to explore what they have done with their career and what they have done and then, ‘Oh okay, you have completed this qualification and that qualification, right, that is interesting, tell me what that has given you, what you got from that.'  It is therefore the output rather than the actual piece of paper when you are hiring someone.

Madalyn Brooks
On the point you made earlier and also for moving on, we do not require people to have a certain qualification to get promoted.  We do not even require them to have had a certain level of training.  If they demonstrate that they are suited to whatever is required they will move up, they will move across.

Sue Georgious
I absolutely recognise that and I think that that is practice in many large, very solid training organisations that are successful businesses.  The need for them to do any more than that is negligible really.  I think, though, and it is the point we started off at the beginning with, we are looking at the period up to 2020.  Is that world still going to look the same in 2020?  It may in P&G.

Madalyn Brooks
I doubt it.

Sue Georgious
It may in McDonald's, but for a large number of employers and businesses in this country it may not be the same at all.  From our perspective, what we are trying to do is to create, and I think with the LSC and others and not just around publicly funded qualifications either, an environment for qualifications.  I do not necessarily believe the rhetoric around equivalence between skills and qualifications, but qualifications have a place and for that place I think we need to create a more flexible and different environment for those qualifications that allows them to be used better.  That allows individuals to actually use them differently but allows business and employers to use them differently.  That is what we are trying to build.  It will not be a panacea for every business and every employer.  Actually we do not believe either that we will get loads of employers that want to be awarding organisations.  Government might have more aspirations than us around that.  We are realistic in that respect.  However, we would like them to embrace a look at this to see whether it can provide them with, through an awarding body or in another way, something that they can use for the future.

Sian Thomas
Just to give a real example from our perspective as a context, we have about 30,000 jobs any month.  Of the new jobs available that are visible to the market, we have about a thousand every day.  Probably 30 35% of those could go to people who come from outside the health and social care services.  They could be in roles that would relate to health and safety care skills; they might have been a carer; they may well have worked in the private sector context or perhaps in an industry which has brought some of those skills, which they may have done programmes of study for.  The challenge at the moment is, first of all we need all of those people so I would like to believe that today we can fill the thousand jobs we have got on our jobs board, and I know we cannot.  The Prime Minister said, ‘How many jobs do you think you can fill every day?’  I said I think we are not filling about 10 15% on a recurring basis because we just cannot find the talent. 
Secondly, the number which we are seeing varies by region, but in London, the North West and the North East, two of the bigger ones, we are seeing double the number of applications than we did last September.  Last September, 30,000 applications for clerical jobs in London and not just today, in any one month; it is 120,000.  If we do not have a system that speaks to itself about whether you can assure what people are saying or have done in some way or other we are just letting down the public, because those people brought in to very vulnerable care settings and from day one, literally, are expected to do the skill level they are describing at interview that they can do.  We really have not, and neither do we want to spend, taxpayers’ money with 700 employers in the health and social care sector all reinventing the wheel, to get everyone up to the same level.  There is a challenge for us, which is that, in times like now, where we do probably need some systematic way of moving people around the system, it is possible to do that.  We absolutely should: a) because that is a public responsibility and; b) from a safety perspective within our industry, it is actually just a lottery.

Peter Crush
Chris, do you think the majority of employers know about these new credits that are coming in force next year?  Madalyn said she only has a year to go before people are going to start applying saying I have whatever they have.

Chris Banks
As an employer, one of my favourite sayings is: ‘throw me three balls I will drop them all and throw me one and I will probably catch it’.  I think the principle of keeping the messages as simple as possible and as clear as possible is important.  It has proven very useful for very large employers, the national employer service – which is effectively a one to one, man to man marking of offering a way in to this world.  In fact we worked with McDonald’s on that basis.  At the other extreme, you have the little, small, medium sized business, even down to micro business.  There is a skills broker equivalent role in a sense where you are not going to be trying to accredit local qualifications, but you are trying to find a way of small business being able to tap in to and access all the support that is available.  I think that is particularly important now to your point about the numbers. 
If the Confederation of British Industry is right, and they do have a habit of being broadly right when they talk about churn numbers, another million people will come out of one job and into another job over and above the normal churn in the course of the next year.  Then who knows what will happen after that because of the lag effect.  We are talking about very large numbers of people who will need to be retrained and repositioned and helped to re enter the employment market in a different place.  The game has moved on quite a lot.  When Sandy Leitch produced his report the game in town was up skilling the labour market.  It predicted growth and the need to up skill.  That underlying requirement is still there but in the meantime, the game in town today for another couple of 100,000 people more than yesterday, and likely another million over the next year, is retraining and re skilling and on a scale that is really massive compared with what we have been used to doing. 
It is just a shame; timing is everything.  It is just a shame we had not got all of this done a couple of years ago, bedded down the movement, because I think it would make all the difference to the efficiency of the labour market.  What we have to do now is in the very short term.  We have announced that we are making another £150 billion available, so that everybody who is either under notice of redundancy or has been made redundant will have the opportunity to engage, paid for by the state, on top of whatever else they are entitled to, a personal tailor made retraining programme, initially for two to eight weeks, just to get them back into learning the skills so they are able to demonstrate some of the skills and behaviours that will be most useful to the new employers.  That is a guaranteed entry point into funding and support by Train to Gain, with the new employer that they end up being placed with.  There is at least there a very practical new service available from April. 
To your point, this is a really fast moving environment and I often think that if anyone had ever read everything that has ever been written about skills in the last two to three years, they would not have been able to do much else.  There has been so much written.  In fact those people have not, and our job is – you are absolutely right – to try and make sure that employers know about the key things today.  For the very large national employers it is easier because they are normally what I think people call ‘intelligent buyers’ or something along those lines so they know more about this system than many others and there is an account manager to help them through it.  The key thing is just to be really focused. 
I always say at the moment, ‘If you are in business and you only do one thing, traintogain.gov.uk is the single point of accessing as much of this as you need today.’  We will then see, if we are generally determined to encourage employers to train but to do it in a way that makes sense for their business, we will see how many of them want to become awarding bodies, how many of them want to become providers of training which is accredited to a national recognised qualification, how many of them want to specify what they want and have other people deliver it or a combination of all of those.  There is no reason why colleges or learning and training providers should not be providing the training that a large company is the awarding body for.  You do not have to do all your own stuff.

Peter Crush
All the SSCs are under a process right now of accrediting the various training providers that are in their sector, to that level.

Chris Banks
That is right and this is very fresh in my mind because I was up in Milton Keynes the week before last, giving Milton Keynes College the award for the 100th training provider to receive the training quality standard, which is the evidence of ability to respond to employer needs.  The fact that there are now 100 institutions up and down the country that have got to that level and the programme is accelerating are good signs of the willingness and determination of the providers as well to change and adapt the way they worked better to meet the needs of employers too.  I think the system is moving in the right direction; it is just coming under a lot of stress at the moment, not least because of the demands on it and the current economic impact.

Brad Coales
There are a lot of other issues there as well.  For instance, when people have looked at skill shortages going back over time, for whatever reason, whether it is because it is public sector, there is a kind of critical point at which somebody does not wish to work below and so therefore people complain that they cannot get the skilled people to do the job they need.  When it is actually being investigated, it is shown that people are getting that work elsewhere at a better rate of pay.  The way around that has been you up skill somebody who cannot come and do that job from within your own organisation, because then it is a benefit to them and it is helping them go somewhere.  They can see the reason for doing it, so the up skilling is still quite important.  It may change slightly if there is larger [labour figure?], but certainly the pay factor has been quite critical. 
Secondly, there is a kind of level of things to all of this as well.  If it is re skilling somebody at the same level that they were at before to do something different then that does not supplant the Leitch agenda, because the Leitch agenda across all levels was about we needed to up skill the level of the workforce that we have, and remember that was only to be economically competitive in 2020.  That was not to change where we were.  When it was being written and published in 2005/06, it said in 2020 we need to do all of this moving forward just to stay where we were, at the time it was being written, so there is still a critical need to actually raise the overall skill level of the workforce.  The big problem is that we do not know now, and it is even less certain than it was when the report was written, about in which areas those skills need to be.  At that stage we might have said we need to have more people in creative industries, because creative industries are going to be a big income generator.  Would it be?  We do not know quite so certainly at the moment. 
There is that issue and the other thing, I think out of all of it, is that the further you move up and once you start getting to university level – because a lot of it seems to have been more at home in the further education college, at a certain level – it becomes much harder.  The reason being if you are delivering a sizeable qualification, it is much harder for an employer to become their own awarding body because it is a much more onerous task for them.  The way that, certainly the project I am involved in and the other employer engagement projects around the country, have been looking is that being demand led for us means talking to the employer, finding out what it is they actually need and then finding a way for us to be able to deliver what they need.  If it is up skilling the workforce, then we need somebody that has something that would be at the equivalent level of a foundation degree or a part of a foundation degree.  You actually try and create that for them, so that takes that issue of the validation and, what have you, out of it.  You can co deliver it where the expertise exists within that organisation and that organisation staff can co deliver it, plus you do not have to sign somebody up for a full programme.
If somebody needs something which is equivalent to, I do not know, what might have been perhaps a quarter of a year’s study, and that is as far as they need to go at that stage, or much more than that if that is what was necessary, that can be done and either accumulated over time or stand in its own right.  Again, it can have exactly the McDonald’s effect by doing something like that, that inspires your workforce then to sign up for something later on, so there are lots of different ways of doing it.  The higher up you go, the less likely it probably is that an employer would want to have their own degree programme, except through where you have got foundation form.  That is a way of actually breaking down some of those barriers and taking the sweat out of it and being the interface between the employer and the university or further education college that is actually going to accredit the provision.  There are therefore many more factors than simply having a magic credit framework.  I mean that is very important; it makes life easier.

Sue Georgious
There are a huge number and I would have to say I think that all of these debates, and one of the frustrations that is the same as Chris’: if we had had this two years ago, we might have been better prepared for some of this.  Actually, it is only just beginning to get its feet in to the economy and with employers and in provider organisations as well.  I agree with you that there is a challenge on both sides here for us because we all - I mean I do it and I am sure everybody else does - we all can see the picture of a very responsive employer education partnership and how it should work.  There are certain things that are happening now that actually are absolutely bringing that together.  
There are big challenges, certainly on the education side, I expect on both sides but the education side is the side I know.  In actually turning that rhetoric into reality, because an employer who wants something in this environment, where actually it is about re skilling, or it is about closing down and looking after their workers, they want it quickly.  They do not want bureaucracy; they do not want a huge lot of other things to go through and we have got to find ways of actually speeding some of that up.  I think the awarding organisations, those that are particularly focused on vocational work already, realise that, and are doing what they can to respond quickly.  I think structurally we have to look at it and see whether we are doing that quickly enough.  In some of the projects, including the ones that we are involved with, with both the framework itself and the employer project - sitting around a table and saying that is exactly what this will allow you to do and then taking six months to do it - is not acceptable anymore.  We all have to get real with that.

Brad Coales
That is exactly why The Higher Education Funding Council for England has just issued out its own economic challenge investment fund, which actually allows universities to work with a business or provide for free.  It is without the requirement that there is any accreditation in it at all, so that it can be quick and swift, so you can actually go in and deliver some training to somebody and, whereas in the past you were qualified for the HE funding, you would actually have had to prove that it led to some award or credit, you would not have to do that under the current scheme.  It is actually a way of being very responsive.  The idea is it might get you to work with a business that would never normally have looked at a university before and because you have been of help or assistance to them at this time it then enables you to take that forward and build on it in the future.

Judith Norrington
City & Guilds has a lot of experience in doing exactly as you talked about, working with individual employers in lots of different ways, and it is a very important part of our role and we have a section that is dedicated to it, but it is more and more built into everything else.  From the description you have just given of the HE funding council, looking at Chris, there are some issues to do with how we flex up or choose to spend the money in the other spectrum of our work.  At the moment, for example, there is a lot of flexibility around a small and medium enterprise, quite rightly too; they are unlikely to access it from anything else.  There is still a pretty strong encouragement towards a whole qualification for large companies, and we may all collectively think that is right.  In terms of clarity we need to make it very clear what it is that we are saying.  The areas where there is potential for confusion are around who is doing what in the different layers.
SSCs are setting out qualification strategies.  They are not themselves accrediting people to offer qualifications, though some of them are choosing to become submitting bodies, so there is quite a chain.  Then you have, as you were talking about, Chris, this really effective way of kite marking whether people are working effectively with employers.  There are lots of incentives in the system, but they are obviously not incentives for everybody.  There is therefore a need to review as we go forward how we are able to make the system as flexible as it needs to be to take in the next five years, the next 10 years, while having it grounded in a way that means that, when you get your qualification, it does mean something and you can take it further, and you can use it in more than one place.  I think otherwise we do a disservice to the learner.  An employer is important but so is that learner taking away their piece of paper that they assume will give them access to lots of other places and if it does not we have short changed them.

Sian Thomas
I have a question for Chris about the change of government potentially.  This is the question, and then I will make a point and come back to you, to give you a moment to think.  To what extent do you think a new change of government would change the track you are on?  That is just a part, but is there a big idea and is it going to move us in to a different territory or not?  What is you expert point of view about that?  My point is just about young people, which we were asking in the Public Sector Employer Forum, with the Cabinet Office, and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) because the unemployment figures we have seen do not take in to account school leavers or graduates next summer and, do we know what the impact of that will be?  Most employers I have talked to have stopped their graduate scheme and have no intention of taking any people through except maybe through apprenticeship routes.  To what extent do we think it will damage the current picture so significantly?  If it looks very bleak, then we have a real role.  Certainly my primary care leaders are very concerned that we will effectively have a whole tranche of generation of young people, and history has taught us those people are poor parents, they have a propensity for lifelong health, disease, and that is not really good for the outlook for the public health agenda, but if that is the case then what help and support do those people need this summer.  
Employers who might not be recruiting but could offer work placements or experiences for young people with some training opportunities, is there something that could be put in place?  That leads to a bigger point about all these ideas in the job summit and the new resource.  What we are facing is a need to continually re evaluate all of those things.  If we do not think that one set of things works we should stop it, and go on to the next thing.  That is what the trade unions are up for this time.  They are in a much more different space than they ever were 10 or 20 years ago.  There is not anything that trade unions would consider now because such is the seriousness of the situation we are in, but we all almost need to talk to one another on a continuous basis because we cannot just go, well that is a set of stuff, walk away, come back to it in a year and see if it has all worked.  Guess what?  It has not.  All of us, including journals like yours, have a responsibility to do that.  
At the jobs summit, I was absolutely astounded: it was the first time that the DWP, Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) have actually got together in the room.  It was the first time, on 12 January, and they have not done it since either.  I said, ‘Is there really not a responsibility to put employers, trade unions and those three government departments in a room?'  The employers in the room between them employed 8 million people and big employers have a responsibility to inform and support.  
You have more government intervention now than we probably have needed before, in a way that maybe we have not done.  Certainly if we do not we will have these schemes and we will never know actually whether they are really helping real people.  My question goes back to whether we are going to have an election next year, or even this year.  Nobody knows.  If we had a change of government would it alter significantly?  We are not going to have a whole new set of things because if we are then, my sentiments to that are we will never get to the place where we want to get to.  We might as well not even bother trying and just have employers work it all out because at the end of the day we will sort it out.

Sue Georgious
My instinctive take on the answer is that, from the snippets that we hear from the opposition, they want more flexibility in the system.  Whether that means changing what we have now or not, I do not know because I am not privy to that.  Certainly David Cameron has talked about flexing up the system further and that might mean getting rid of one or two of the quangos and so on, but actually, if the initiatives were more flexible, then I think that is what we need.  Clearly, in the next year or two, the state of the nation's economy, will have a take on how much money some of the schemes that are seen as long term actually have behind them.  That may shift and change.  I agree with you though, only I think the trouble is that education, and I have been in it a very long time, is often short termist.  
The solution is yours: education and employment interest and others need to be thinking about this in a different way around the table and I think they are starting to.  My take would be - Chris will probably have a better view than me - but my take would be that the DWP, the DIUS and others are starting to talk to each other in a way that they have not done before.  The conversation has changed and it has changed quite dramatically in that respect.  Whether having lots of new and different departments is helpful I do not know, but I do think the conversation has changed and shifted.  What I am trying to say is I think the fear is probably delayed a little bit but I do not think there is any guarantee on that.  I absolutely agree with you that if you set something in train and do not give it time to bed in, shift it to something else very quickly, we actually are in a worse position.

Chris Banks
I am just picking up on the last point.  I actually got involved in the education world through the welfare to work part of it actually, education being a way of solving some of the welfare to work issue.  I have been struck, particularly in the last two or three years, by the extent to which the agenda has moved from the education system, worrying about qualifications and welfare, or the work system, worrying about getting people in to jobs only, to both worrying about getting people to have the skills that they need to get, keep and succeed in a good job with prospects.  If you looked at the policies now and compared them with three or four years ago, it is a very marked difference, and I think entirely positive.  It is what has allowed some of the integrated employment and skills programmes and indeed some of this integrated response to the recession, because the level to which the Jobcentre Plus part of the system and the LSC part of the working, is very much closer than they have ever been before.  
That is very important and I have now shared a platform on a number of occasions with the DWP and Jobcentre Plus people, where either of us could have said the other one's script.  I think, in terms of what is the extent of the agreement on the shared objective, which is actually enshrined somewhere in the shared objective to move a given number of people up the ladder, I think it is very powerful.  I also think that there is cross party support for the importance of the skills agenda and you will see that also manifesting itself in the shared statement around the importance of apprenticeships.  I am glad that apprenticeships have come up several times during this session because it is actually apprenticeships week and it is really good to be meeting on the Thursday of apprenticeship week.  It is good to at least acknowledge that it is a good example of where the McDonald's apprenticeship is an apprenticeship and it is McDonald's, the Rolls Royce one is an apprenticeship and it is Rolls Royce's and it is really different, and the BT one, and the British Gas one and the Tesco one.  They are all different and tailored to their own businesses but referred to as apprenticeships.  
That shows us something of the way forward.  We are seeing a real demand from employers for adult apprentices, so apprenticeship style training for the adult workforce, which I think is brilliant and really powerful.  However, you are right: starting to see some tailing off in the appetite among employers to take on young apprentices.  There is still a lot being taken on but the number is under pressure, and that is one of reasons that there is the drive at the moment, not least in the public sector but also among those sectors of the market that are still doing well.  Over 80% of employers who do have an apprenticeship scheme say that it affects the overall productivity of their total business, so it has a positive knock on effect, and it is good to see.  I think genuinely there is cross party support for increasing programmes like the apprenticeship.  Having said that, inevitably a new government would want to do things differently and so our job, of course, is to do what is right for the learner and the employer and that is what we are focused on doing.  That has to be our focus, but I think it is inevitable that a new team would look at things differently.

Sue Georgious
Not least the disruption of the election in May.

Sian Thomas
I think that is our lobbying point.  When we meet ministers, it is at least part of that point: that this is not the time to stop things that are going well; to try and get potential ministers animated on things which we have been providing people, as opposed to things which do not make any sense whatsoever but might feel like the [inaudible] thing.  I think that is our collective job really.

Chris Banks
Meanwhile of course we are going through a big transition, structurally, to replace the LSC in the spring of next year with one agency focused on young people and one agency focused on adults.  We therefore have to learn to improve the service to individuals and employers in a time of recession and with major structural change going on at the same time, which has its own risk.

Peter Crush
Chris Humphries cannot be here and he was originally hopefully going to be here, I know you have only just left the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, so what do you think he would be saying?

Sue Densley
I think he would certainly reiterate the [inaudible] for skills and that we are a long way off the mark from getting to where we need to be in 2020.  What Chris would have done, and I have seen his presentation many times, is indicate that there are areas of growth which are sectoral which we could concentrate on and certainly.  If you are looking at the re skilling agenda, the key thing is where will we re skill to and where are the gaps going to be.

Sian Thomas
This was the big play at the job summit.  I think Peter Mandelson got the message that we do not want losers back in the government.  What we want are governments and bodies like ourselves investing in the industries.  We are going to have lots of jobs for in the next seven years.  We are not really articulating what we think they are though, and I think that is the next thing we need to be doing.

Sue Densley
He talks a lot about what we can do and where we could create jobs around the sustainability agenda, etc.  I could probably do it verbatim but it takes about 45 minutes.

Peter Crush
Is there anything anyone is burning to say because I think we have come to a close?

Sue Densley
I would like to say one thing if I could and that is the whole purpose of the system is about the responses between employers and it is not just about accrediting whole in house training programmes.  It is about looking at what is out there in existing provision and what could be tweaked by the way of bespoke units, contextualised elements, introductory elements or whatever.  The system does allow that flexibility now and I would not like us to go down the route of just thinking this is about accrediting whole programmes or turning employers into awarding organisations.

Brad Coales
If you do not accredit more, you will never know whether you have hit the Leitch target because, if vast amounts of the training are going on and they are satisfying your internal training needs for you to move forward and become more profitable, you will never know whether you have hit 40% or more of the qualifications at level four, etc.  There is therefore a kind of sub industry there, which suggests it is necessary to quantify and qualify some of these things so that you know where you have got to.

Sian Thomas
The point I would make is about the global labour market.  We are absolutely now in a global labour market situation in healthcare and competing with growing workforces around the world in the health care market.  We are trying to go in the same direction if it is right for patients, but also for the labour market strategy globally, so we are not seen to be synchronous with competing countries for that talent and skill.  What we would hope is that you are doing that as well, and I am sure that is true, so the education and regulation systems are aligned across the world.  We have come across a real challenge for that in health; we are in a dispute at the moment with a number of regulatory bodies over that, where even between European Union countries people are not allowed to do certain things in health care and we are always going to be a bit behind the curve with it.  That is a massive challenge.

Peter Crush
I hope it has been useful coming here and thank you for your input; I really appreciate that.