Employer ownership criticised as ‘top-slicing’

An FE leader blasted new training incentives for businesses worth £150m as “top slicing” funds from the adult skills budget.

Maggie Galliers, president of the Association of Colleges (AoC), was speaking at this year’s annual AoC conference where FE Minister Matthew Hancock announced the cash pot for businesses to help “build a skilled workforce”.

During his speech at Birmingham’s ICC Mr Hancock said businesses across the country could bid for a share of the funds to create the training schemes they needed to “grow their companies”. The fund is the second round of the Employer Ownership Pilot (EOP) which is already giving nearly £70 million to companies including Nissan, Whitbread and GE Aviation, with projects ranging from extending skills training to local suppliers, to doubling the number of female apprentices.

“For Britain to compete we need as a nation to deliver the skills employers need,” said Mr Hancock.

“This is a unique opportunity for companies across all industries to secure their futures by addressing their skills needs now.

“I would encourage businesses – large and small – to be ambitious and innovative in their vision for how the fund can help them grow, from creating new apprenticeship programmes to setting up specialist training academies.
Ms Galliers said AoC were fully supportive of their underlying purpose of “unlocking even greater investment” by employers in training.

But she reacted saying: “But, and I am afraid there is a ‘but’, these pilots are funded by top slicing from the adult skills budget. And this is not the only initiative vying for our money.

“The emerging demands around Local Enterprise Partnerships and City Deals could mean that as a sector we have less flexibility and less resource and spend too much of our time chasing funding pots.”

Government investment in EOP for rounds one and two now totals £250 million.

The other 34 successful round one projects were announced in September. These included Nissan’s programme to bridge the skills gap for more than 3,600 technical staff, new recruits and supply chain workers involved in producing new models and working with evolving technologies.

David Way, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service, supported the scheme.

He said: “While I am delighted to see many more employers offering apprenticeships every week, we welcome this important employer-led approach. This will help to achieve our ambition to see accelerated growth and higher quality standards for apprenticeships.

“The Employer Ownership Pilot will encourage a fresh and creative approach to stimulating employers to offer more opportunities to young people. This initiative will enable even more employers to collaborate and lead to the further expansion of apprenticeships. This is vital for ensuring employers of all sizes and in vital growth sectors invest in and benefit from apprenticeships.

“We look forward to working closely with UKCES, BIS and all of our employers in developing and delivering high quality apprenticeships.”

The round two prospectus is now available online at www.ukces.org.uk/employerownership and the deadline for bids is February 28, 2013.