AELP launches manifesto

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has produced a ten-point action plan aimed at “driving an economic recovery based on skills acquisition and jobs”.

The association mini manifesto was launched today — day one of its annual conference — and calls for government to keep up spending on education, employment and skills at a time when budgets are “squeezed”.

It follows Business Secretary Vince Cable’s recent appeal to the Treasury for the forthcoming government spending review to invest more in training “if we are going to get the economy going”.

Among the cases made in the manifesto are for young people to be “work ready” by the time they leave school; and for targeting more resources at apprenticeships and the new traineeships programme.

It also urges government to tackle the issue of NEETs by focusing on real work experience with employers; and more coherent procurement of skills and employment programmes across the business, education and work departments.

And with the spending review just weeks away, the association further recommends progress in funding skills programmes that reward good quality providers who successfully engage with local employers, including the introduction of a level-playing field on funding for independent training organisations and FE colleges.

Association chair Martin Dunford OBE said: “It is vital that scarce government funds are rigorously targeted on apprenticeships and traineeships as the highest priority skills provision and that this targeted funding is properly made available to those providers with the demand from employers and best able to deliver successful outcomes.

“The level playing field necessary for this to happen is undoubtedly better balanced than in the past but we are still not there yet.

“We cannot continue to have providers of any type underperforming – yet retaining funding – while others are unable to obtain the resources they need to meet the immediate demand from employers, potential apprentices and those needing a traineeship to avoid joining the unacceptably high cohort of ‘NEETs’.”

The manifesto also contains bullet-pointed subsections on developing high-quality vocational choices for young people and supporting those most in need to achieve and sustain employment.

Another subsection on meeting the needs of all employers to support the effective delivery of work-based learning warns of moving away from a national skills funding system, which many have predicted with the ‘single funding pot’ recommendation of Tory grandee Lord Heseltine. His idea, for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) to bid for money from the pot, could get the green light from Chancellor George Osborne’s spending review later this month.

“LEPs and City Partnerships are important parts of the skills environment in terms of setting local priorities and bringing partners together,” it says in the association’s manifesto.

“However, the skills system needs a national system of funding and contracting to avoid fragmentation and confusion.”

Further subsections are on continuing to improve training delivery and improving outputs and results, and developing the workforce of the future.

And a bullet point under the final subsection of working with government to drive effective and efficient investment in the skills system says: “The current funding rules for 24+ Advanced Learning Loans affect apprenticeship programmes more than any other.