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Skills sector council boss welcomes recommendations that employers more say on Government-funded training

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The head of the UK food and drink sector skills council has welcomed a call from a think tank to give more control to employers in the way skills and training are funded by the Government.

Improve's chief executive, Jack Matthews (pictured), said recommendations made in the report, Simply Learning, published by the Policy Exchange think tank would slash bureaucracy, deliver real-term benefits to the economy and put employers in a position to determine the content and delivery of training.

The report proposes scrapping the Government's flagship Train to Gain scheme, which funnels public funding into NVQ training, and instead direct the money to help businesses set up their own in-house apprenticeship schemes and other accredited work-based training programmes. It also proposes creating individual learning accounts to help stimulate a market for innovative, aspirational training driven by demand.
 
Matthews said: "Everything this report calls for is common sense to people in industry. The problem since the Leitch Report is everyone has fallen into the trap of chasing targets, particularly the number of qualifications everyone is getting. What really matters is not the qualifications themselves or the number people are getting - it is the skills being developed and the way they are used to boost performance and productivity in businesses, and the positive impact that has on the economy, that we should really be focusing on."
 
"The food and drink industry would benefit greatly from seeing accredited in-house training - companies developing their own training programmes and apprenticeships - really get off the ground," said Matthews. "No two food and drink companies have the same training and skills needs, which means that unless the content of training is determined by the employer, it is not going to tick all the right boxes.
 
"That is why we have developed the new Improve Proficiency Qualifications (IPQs). Employers will have the freedom to specify what their needs are and then their training professionals - or with the help of their training provider - will choose from thousands of job-specific units to design the most relevant learning pathway. IPQs are critical to the development of workplace competence which supports productivity improvement and innovation on-the-job.
 
"Because IPQs are part of a credit-based system where learners will accumulate credits for each unit completed, we have been lobbying the Government to link public funding to credits achieved rather than any final qualification. This would mean funding is being targeted directly at the achievement of specific skills needed to perform consistently and reliably at work."
 
The Simply Learning report calls for greater freedom and funding to be given to sector skills councils to offer strategic guidance on training based on employer demand. Matthews added: "Sector skills councils work hard to serve the needs of employers and at Improve we take a lot of pride in representing the views of the food and drink sector to policy-makers. We are continuing to work hard to help the industry get the best it can from skills and training."