Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo
Session 2007/2008
First Report

Committee for Employment and Learning

First Report on
Training for Success

TOGETHER WITH THE MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE
RELATING TO THE REPORT AND THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

Ordered by The Committee for Employment and Learning to be printed 28 May 2008
Report: 34/07/08R Committee for Employment and Learning

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Membership and Powers

The Committee for Employment and Learning is a Statutory Departmental Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement and under Standing Orders 44-46 of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department for Employment and Learning and has a role in the initiation of legislation.

The Committee has power to:

The Committee is appointed at the start of every Assembly, and has power to send for persons and papers and records that are relevant to its inquiries.

The Committee has 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and a quorum of 5. The membership of the Committee since 9 May 2007 has been as follows:

Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Deputy Chairperson)

Mr Alex Attwood                 Mr Basil McCrea
Mr Paul Butler                     Mrs Claire McGill
Ms Anna Lo                        Mr Robin Newton
Mr Nelson McCausland        Mr Alastair Ross*
Mr David McClarty

* Mr Alastair Ross replaced Mr Jim Wells on 29 May 2007

Table of Contents

List of abbreviations used in the report

Report

Executive Summary

Key Conclusions and Recommendations

Introduction

Consideration of Evidence

Appendix 1:

Minutes of Proceedings

Appendix 2:

Minutes of Evidence

Appendix 3:

Written Evidence Submitted by Witnesses

Appendix 4:

Additional Submissions

Appendix 5:

Research Papers

List of Abbreviations used in the Report

ANIC Association of Northern Ireland Colleges

CEF Construction Employers Federation

CEIAG Careers Education Information, Advice and Guidance Strategy

CITB Construction Industry Training Board

CPD Central Procurement Directorate

DE Department of Education

DFP Department of Finance and Personnel

EMA Educational Maintenance Allowance

ETI Education and Training Inspectorate

FDI Foreign Direct Investment

FE Further Education

GVA Gross Value Added

IQ:RS Improving Quality : Raising Standards

LSDA(NI) Learning and Skills Development Agency (Northern Ireland)

NIAO Northern Ireland Audit Office

PAC Public Accounts Committee

PTP Personal Training Plan

SSA Sector Skills Agreement

SSC Sector Skills Council

Executive Summary

Training for Success replaced Jobskills as the Department for Employment and Learning’s (the Department) primary professional and technical training programme in September 2007. Jobskills had been in place since April 1995. The central theme of the new programme is to promote professional and technical based training as a highly valued alternative to academic education. In addition, Jobskills had been the subject of significant criticism by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) and subsequently by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The PAC was critical of Jobskills across a range of issues, including:

Given the significant criticisms levelled at Jobskills, the Committee for Employment and Learning considered it important that its replacement, Training for Success, should be the subject of early review and scrutiny. The Committee recognises that, like any new major policy programme, Training for Success will require time to be established and to bed-down. However, the Committee considered that conducting such a review as the programme rolls out would assist the Department with its own review mechanisms in identifying potential problem areas and areas of good practice. The objective of this early review was therefore to:

“Monitor and scrutinise the early stage roll-out and delivery of the Department for Employment and Learning’s new Training for Success programme and recommend any policy or process changes which it considers will improve the programme delivery.”

A methodology based on oral and written evidence gathering was used as the basis for the Committee’s review programme. Written and oral evidence was gathered from key business sectors and other stakeholders.

The Committee recognises the need for a wide range of strands and programmes to be delivered to young people. The Committee considers it important that the complete spectrum of young persons’ needs and abilities are fully recognised within the training programme. The Committee considers that Training for Success provides the structure to allow for this comprehensive coverage. However, the Committee also considers that there are a number of factors that have led to problems and difficulties early on in the programme.

Within this review, the Committee was reluctant to focus heavily on the scrutiny of procurement issues. However, it became apparent very early in the process of reviewing Training for Success, that contract procurement was an issue of major concern for many of the stakeholders connected with the programme. Concern with contract procurement was raised with the Committee during evidence sessions throughout the entire period of the review and the Committee makes a number of recommendations for future procurement.

The Committee welcomes the Department’s focus on quality improvement, in particular the development of its quality improvement strategy ‘Success through Excellence’. The two-strand approach involving self-evaluation against agreed criteria set by the Education and Training Inspectorate and the formal inspection regime is considered an appropriate model that should encourage continuous improvement. However, the Committee is concerned that early warning and shorter-term risk analysis relating to specific suppliers requires important consideration by the Department. While the Committee recognises that Training for Success suppliers required appropriate lead-in time to become established, the Committee is concerned that the inspection and monitoring regime at the initiation and outset of Training for Success was not appropriately structured to allow for the detection of sub-standard training provision and problems with capacity and capability.

The Department has informed the Committee that as of the end of April 2008, nearly 6,000 young persons were registered under Training for Success. The Committee understands that this is a decrease of some 25% on Jobskills. The Committee also understands that the decrease in registrations is concentrated in the JobReady strand and that registrations in apprenticeships are up by 12% relative to Jobskills. The Department has indicated to the Committee that the occupancy levels are currently as expected for a major new programme such as Training for Success. The Committee is concerned that the current apprenticeship occupancy levels would suggest that the Department may have difficulties in reaching its target of 10,000 apprentices by 2010.

The Committee concurs with evidence from a number of key sectors, such as engineering and construction, that there is a general decreasing supply of apprentices. The Committee considers that the promotion of apprenticeships should be a central tenet of early and consistent career advice.

The Committee noted stakeholder concern around a number of key operational aspects of Training for Success and has made a number of recommendations on them. These are:

The Committee also has particular concerns with respect to the construction, automotive and retail sectors and is recommending specific Departmental interventions.

Key Conclusions and Recommendations

  1. The Committee commends the Department for its hard work in restructuring professional and technical training taking cognisance of the Westminster Public Accounts Committee’s criticisms of the Jobskills programme. The Committee further commends the Department for meeting demanding deadlines to ensure the timely introduction of Training for Success.
  2. In light of the complexity of the programme and timescales for the Department’s delivery, the Committee recommends that the Department keeps Training for Success and its constituent parts under continual review with the aim of improving the programme and ensuring that the Department delivers only the highest quality training provision in line with economic development needs.
  3. The Committee recommends that the Department in conjunction, where appropriate, with Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) within the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP):
  1. The Committee considers that the arrangements in place for medium and longer term quality improvement via the interagency approach (the Department, the Education and Training Inspectorate and the Learning and Skills Development Agency (Northern Ireland)) working with training suppliers through informal and formal mechanisms as an appropriate model. The Committee calls on the Department to make available, in synopsis format, formal inspection and quality improvement reports to the Committee as part of its ongoing reporting on the performance of Training for Success.
  2. The Committee seeks assurances that there is a comprehensive programme of inspection and monitoring of risk-assessed training suppliers in place. The Committee seeks further assurances that there is complete agreement and clarity of responsibilities and roles between the Department and the ETI with respect to the provision and scheduling of risk-based inspection and monitoring.
  3. The Committee recommends that the Department conducts a review of its training contract management processes. Within this review, the Committee recommends that the Department makes provision to allow for the consideration of contractors’ general financial standing. In addition, the Committee recommends that criteria used to assess potential breaches of contract are applied as early as possible and significantly strengthened to allow for a more critical evaluation of a supplier’s capacity and performance.
  4. The Committee calls on the Department to ensure that all trainees have completed a Personal Training Plan (PTP) by the end of their second month of joining Training for Success. The Committee further calls on the Department to ensure that IT systems are improved significantly to allow for the production of up-to-date intelligence on the occupancy performance of Training for Success.
  5. The Committee is concerned that the current apprenticeship occupancy levels would suggest that the Department’s target of 10,000 apprentices by 2010 is not going to be met. The Committee calls on the Department to put in place specific promotional and marketing measures, including direct employer engagement, to ensure that participation in Training for Success is maximised and that the levels of participation are geared to the precise needs of key business sectors. The Committee further calls on the Department to collate appropriate data and research in order that a full assessment of the decline in participants in the JobReady strand can be produced.
  6. The Committee recommends that the Department reviews the criteria used to allocate young persons between Level 2 and Level 3 with a view to ensuring that the criteria are robust and accurately reflect a young person’s ability and aptitude. The Committee further recommends that the requirement for the Employability Skills component is reviewed.
  7. The Committee calls on the Department to consider bespoke funding for specialist early support and provision, such as that provided by Include Youth, to enable those young persons with particularly difficult needs to gain the appropriate levels of confidence and skills necessary for them to progress to the mainstream JobReady strand of Training for Success.
  8. The Committee calls on the Department to place apprenticeship promotion and information at the centre of the new Careers Education Information, Advice and Guidance Strategy (CEIAG).
  9. The Committee recommends that the Department removes apprenticeships from Training for Success. The Committee further recommends that apprenticeships are developed and promoted as distinctive, high value and high quality programmes. The Committee also calls on the Department to ensure that there are clear pathways and progressions from Level 3 to Level 4 and 5 programmes and that there is translational recognition of all programmes.
  10. The Committee calls on the Department to formally place the Sectors Skills Agreements in a pivotal position to strategically adjust and align Training for Success.
  11. The Committee recommends that the Department introduces and enforces, via contracting arrangements, a minimum rate of pay for apprentices similar to the system currently applied in England.
  12. The Committee understands that the Department is considering the introduction of a non-means tested Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) that would not impact on young persons’ means tested benefits. The Committee welcomes the Department’s consideration of this issue and considers that moving to an EMA would be a fairer system and would encourage participation from young persons from lower income households.
  13. The Committee recommends that the Department reviews the system by which training organisations are supported with respect to travel costs with a view to ensuring equality of treatment of training organisations irrespective of their hinterland. The Committee further recommends that the Department introduces a travel cost scheme that is equitable for young persons irrespective of what programme they are undertaking within Training for Success.
  14. The Committee recommends that the Department undertakes a feasibility study to assess the opportunities for removing the age and minimum hours restrictions currently applied within Training for Success. Within this study, the Committee urges the Department to be creative in structuring Training for Success to recognise the business needs of key developing economic sectors such as retail, tourism, hospitality and leisure.
  15. The Committee recommends that the Department reduces the existing heavy front-end classroom based training under the JobReady strand and introduces a more evenly distributed classroom based training profile.
  16. The Committee calls on the Department to consider potential methods of utilising public and community sector organisations within Training for Success, particularly in geographical areas lacking suitable private sector employers. The Committee further calls upon the Department to assess what steps and actions can be taken to minimise disparities between Further Education (FE) course delivery and employer availability.
  17. The Committee recommends that, where a young person has been unable to complete an apprenticeship with an employer, a tailored contingency programme is developed to allow for accredited completion of the apprenticeship. The Committee further recommends that the Department considers specific business sectors that would be appropriate for the piloting of programme-led training provision.
  18. The Committee welcomes the Department’s establishment of the Disability Sub-Group on Training for Success and looks forward to receiving its initial report and recommendations at the end of June 2008. However, the Committee calls on the Department to consider the Sub-Group’s report as a preliminary stage and to establish formal appropriate ongoing mechanisms to review the alignment of Training for Success to the needs of young persons with a disability.
  19. The Committee recommends that the Department removes the 5 year rule on GCSEs and that the resources currently delivering this provision are reallocated and targeted to those most in need of literacy and numeracy education. In addition, the Committee recommends that the delivery of essential skills is, as far as possible, integrated into the professional and technical training being undertaken by the trainees.
  20. The Committee concurs with the Department that the construction sector should not be treated any differently than other sectors with respect to incentives for employer engagement in apprenticeship and training provision. However, the Committee calls on the Department and construction sector stakeholders to focus attention and, where required, seek expeditious agreement on the following issues:
  1. The Committee recommends that the Department:
  1. The Committee looks forward to working collaboratively with the Department in ensuring appropriate ongoing review mechanisms are in place to allow for the necessary programme adjustments and improvements as Training for Success progresses. The Committee calls on the Department to work with the Sector Skills Councils, the Workforce Development Fora and other key stakeholders in ensuring ongoing improvement to Training for Success.

Introduction

Background

  1. Training for Success replaced Jobskills as the Department for Employment and Learning’s (the Department) primary professional and technical training programme in September 2007. Jobskills had been in place since April 1995. Training for Success was developed within the context of the Department’s “Success through Skills” strategy.[1] The central theme of this strategy was to promote vocationally based training as a highly valued alternative to academic education. In addition, Jobskills had been the subject of significant criticism by the Northern Ireland Audit Office[2] (NIAO) and subsequently by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).[3] The PAC was critical of Jobskills across a range of issues, including:
  1. In moving to review Jobskills, the Department was also cognisant of other external factors that were impacting on the skills and training environment, such as the development of the Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and lowering levels of unemployment. The redesign of professional and technical training was progressed with a consultation exercise on Training for Success which ran from July until September 2006.[4] Training for Success includes three strands:

a. JobReady. This contains four components aimed at addressing an individual’s particular barriers to employment. The key change from the previous programme is the requirement for phased placements following completion of appropriate training.

b. Level 2 Apprenticeship. Level 2 Traineeship was the main subject of the PAC criticisms. The key change from the previous programme is the introduction of the requirement for employment from day one, hence the introduction of an apprenticeship programme at Level 2.

c. Level 3 Apprenticeship. This remains mainly unchanged from the previous programme.

  1. Given the significant criticisms levelled at Jobskills, the Committee for Employment and Learning considered it important that its replacement, Training for Success, should be the subject of early review and scrutiny. The Committee recognises that, like any new major policy programme, Training for Success will require time to be established and to bed-down. However, the Committee considered that conducting such a review as the programme rolls out would assist the Department with its own review mechanisms in identifying potential problem areas and areas of good practice.

Objective and Terms of Reference

  1. The objective of this early review was to:

“Monitor and scrutinise the early stage roll-out and delivery of the Department for Employment and Learning’s new Training for Success programme and recommend any policy or process changes which it considers will improve the programme delivery.”

  1. In meeting this objective, the Committee addressed the following terms of reference:

The Committee’s Approach

  1. A methodology based on evidence gathering (oral and written) was used as the basis for the Committee’s review programme. Written and oral evidence was gathered from:
  1. Submissions received and minutes of evidence are annexed to this report.

Consideration of Evidence

The Introduction of Training for Success

  1. The current structure of Training for Success is summarised below.
  1. The Committee recognises the need for a wide range of components and programmes to be delivered to young people. The Committee considers it important that the complete spectrum of young persons’ needs and abilities are fully recognised within the training programme. The Personal Development component of JobReady is aimed at young persons who may have severe personal difficulties, who are not in education and who are not yet ready for training. These young persons have significant needs requiring the highest quality service provision. The Committee considers that the training and learning provision the Department delivers through the various components of JobReady towards apprenticeships are generally geared to recognising young persons’ needs and abilities.
  2. Skills for Work is aimed at young persons with no qualifications who may have literacy and numeracy issues but who also have the potential to move forward towards employment. Employability Skills is aimed at young persons who are very able, who want to be apprentices and who can start a programme, but who have not yet secured employment. The Pre-Apprenticeship programme is designed for young persons who have not obtained five GCSEs but who want to embrace a skills programme. Initially the young people attend college or another training organisation on a full-time basis. After 13 weeks the young person attends an employer for two days a week and after 26 weeks they can go to employers for up to three days a week.
  3. The Committee recognises the difficult task faced by the Department in introducing the necessary wide range of provision within Training for Success within a very limited timescale. The Committee commends the Department for its hard work in restructuring professional and technical training taking cognisance of the Westminster Public Accounts Committee’s criticisms of the Jobskills programme. The Committee further commends the Department for meeting demanding deadlines to ensure the timely introduction of Training for Success.
  4. In considering evidence within this review however, the Committee considers that the timescales for introduction inevitably led to problems and difficulties in the structure and operation of Training for Success. In light of the complexity of the programme and timescales for the Department’s delivery, the Committee recommends that the Department keeps Training for Success and its constituent parts under continual review with the aim of improving the programme and ensuring that the Department delivers only the highest quality training provision in line with economic development needs.

Procurement

  1. Responsibility for the procurement of contracts lies with the Department in conjunction with the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) within the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP). Within this review, the Committee was reluctant to focus heavily on the scrutiny of procurement issues. However, it became apparent very early in the process of reviewing Training for Success, that contract procurement was an issue of major concern for many of the stakeholders connected with the programme. Concerns regarding contract procurement were raised with the Committee during evidence sessions throughout the entire period of the review. While recognising the central role played by the CPD, the Committee considers it important that a number of issues are considered by the Department with respect to the awarding of future contracts. The Committee has particular concerns around the following four areas.

(a) The Committee noted that there was evidence of lead contract bidders claiming business relationships with other third-party suppliers with respect to the delivery of training services. While this may be normal practice in contract bidding, there is evidence that the relationships, both with respect to premises and staff, claimed in tender submissions were not always substantiated with appropriate written documentation and agreements. The Committee considers that alleged oral agreements between bidders and other suppliers is unsatisfactory and can lead to an erroneous impression of the lead bidder’s capacity to deliver what is required within the contract. Given the importance of these contracts to the delivery of key training to young persons, the Committee is concerned that the claims of contract bidders were not subject to more rigorous scrutiny at the stage of tender evaluation. The Committee would therefore question if there had been sufficient probing and rigorous qualitative assessment of bidder claims with regard to capacity and capability to deliver at the standard required. The Committee considers this of particular importance with regard to sub-contracting arrangements within bids.

(b) The Committee noted and welcomed the fact that ‘previous track record’ was a key criterion in the award of contracts. However, the Committee received evidence suggesting that a number of locally based contract bidders with established proven track records with the Department were unsuccessful in the tender process. The Committee recognises that the onus is on the contract bidders to fully describe and prove their competencies across all of the tender criteria. However, the Committee considers that there may be opportunities for the Department to provide feedback to each of the bidders through a post-tender evaluation process. Such an exercise would identify shortcomings which may be addressed through an education programme to develop the skills and capacity of local suppliers. This would enable local suppliers to participate more competitively in the tendering process. The Committee considers that this would be appropriate when tendering competitions are of a scale that requires advertising in the European Journal. The Committee considers that a more ‘select’ tendering procedure may be a more appropriate model for particular sectors where local provision has been provided to a widely recognised high quality standard.

(c) The Committee, while recognising that different suppliers will be more suited to particular levels of training provision, is concerned that the splitting of contracts between the various levels has resulted in operational and funding difficulties. In particular, FE colleges were reasonably successful at securing Level 2 contracts but not so successful at securing Level 3 contracts. This may result in young persons completing Level 2 within an FE college and then having to transfer to another supplier to complete Level 3 training. The Committee is concerned that this causes potential confusion and upheaval for young persons. In addition, the Committee is concerned that the funding balance between colleges and other suppliers does not fully reflect the resource investment involved in Level 2 provision.

(d) The Committee is concerned that the geographical distribution of contracts has also caused confusion and logistical difficulties for young trainees. The geography of provision is dependent upon the nature and extent of the contracts won by particular suppliers. Unless a supplier has secured a Northern Ireland wide contract, there are restrictions on the geographical areas from which a supplier can recruit trainees. The Committee is concerned that this position will result in either key training opportunities not being available due to lack of viable numbers, or young trainees having to travel significant distances to attend appropriate courses.

  1. The Committee recommends that the Department in conjunction, where appropriate, with CPD:

Quality and Contract Management

  1. The Committee welcomes the Department’s focus on quality improvement, in particular the development of its quality improvement strategy ‘Success through Excellence’[5]. The two-strand approach involving self-evaluation against agreed criteria set by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) and the formal ETI inspection regime is considered an appropriate model that should encourage continuous improvement. The Committee commends the Department for establishing its internal team dedicated to seeking quality improvements across Jobskills, New Deal, Training for Success and Further Education programmes. The Departmental team schedules biannual visits, more frequently if required, to ensure quality compliance. The Department can suspend or remove contracts if delivery is viewed as being deficient. This system of rolling inspection includes new suppliers. The Committee further welcomes the involvement of the Learning and Skills Development Agency (Northern Ireland) (LSDA(NI)) and in particular its capacity to provide high quality, including where appropriate, external expertise across the complete range of the skills portfolio. The Committee also welcomes the Department’s application of the Improving Quality: Raising Standards (IQ:RS) inspection model. The Committee supports the collaborative working of the Department, ETI and LSDA(NI) in ensuring appropriate advice and support and tailored quality improvement is made available to current training suppliers. The Committee also recognises that the inspection regime is currently recognising the pressures on the FE colleges under the new merged arrangements introduced in August 2007.
  2. The Committee considers that the arrangements in place for medium and longer term quality improvement via the interagency approach (the Department, ETI and LSDA(NI)) working with training suppliers through informal and formal mechanisms as an appropriate model. The Committee calls on the Department to make available, in synopsis format, formal inspection and quality improvement reports to the Committee as part of its ongoing reporting on the performance of Training for Success.
  3. The Committee however is concerned that early warning and shorter-term risk analysis relating to specific suppliers requires important consideration by the Department. While the Committee recognises that Training for Success suppliers required appropriate lead-in time to become established, the Committee is concerned that the inspection and monitoring regime at the initiation and outset of Training for Success was not appropriately structured to allow for the detection of sub-standard training provision and problems with capacity and capability. The Department stressed that a risk-based approach to monitoring and inspection was in place early in the roll-out of Training for Success. The Committee considers that the evidence received from the Department and from the ETI with respect to early stage and risk-based monitoring and inspections of Training for Success suppliers to have been unclear.
  4. The Committee seeks assurances that there is a comprehensive programme of inspection and monitoring of risk-assessed training suppliers in place. The Committee seeks further assurances that there is complete agreement and clarity of responsibilities and roles between the Department and the ETI with respect to the provision and scheduling of risk-based inspection and monitoring.
  5. The Committee considers that the problematic and ultimately failing contract held by Carter and Carter Group plc in the area of automotive training illustrates significant problems with respect to the need for appropriate early-warning systems. Despite repeated stakeholder evidence and concern to the Committee and the Department regarding the quality of training being provided by Carter and Carter Group plc, there was a refusal by the Department to recognise that there may have been serious management issues at an early stage in the life of the contract. The Committee recognises that the Department drew a distinction between Carter and Carter Group plc’s financial position at a corporate and international level and its ability to provide the training requirement within its specific contract agreement under Training for Success. The Committee also recognises that the Department had obligations to Carter and Carter Group plc with regard to respecting issues of commercial confidentiality during what was clearly a very sensitive and difficult time for the company.
  6. However, the Committee does not accept that the corporate financial position of Carter and Carter Group plc, including the suspension of share trading, should have been divorced from the Department’s assessment of its position to deliver on the Training for Success contract. The Committee considers that Carter and Carter Group plc’s corporate financial status at that time, coupled with significant localised stakeholder criticisms of the training being provided under Training for Success, should have led to earlier intervention by the Department. The Committee considers that this intervention should have included a robust review of Carter and Carter Group plc’s contract including a more critical evaluation as to whether or not the company was in breach of its contract. The Committee considers that the situation that resulted in Carter and Carter Group plc’s withdrawal from the contract on the 1st March 2008 to be extremely damaging to the young trainees affected, and to Carter and Carter Group plc’s own local employees. The Committee considers this particularly disappointing given that concerns and issues were being raised on the company’s delivery as far back as October 2007. The Committee therefore considers that, following any early assessment of problems with a supplier, there is a channel for immediate Departmental intervention and action including potential termination of contract.
  7. The Committee recommends that the Department conducts a review of its training contract management processes. Within this review, the Committee recommends that the Department makes provision to allow for the consideration of contractors’ general financial standing. In addition, the Committee recommends that criteria used to assess potential breaches of contract are applied as early as possible and significantly strengthened to allow for a more critical evaluation of a supplier’s capacity and performance.

Programme Occupancy and Levels of Training

  1. The Committee recognised that with Training for Success being a new programme, there may be an expectation of some degree of delay and problems with data in respect of the uptake of the programme. However, the Committee is extremely concerned that the production of appropriate occupancy data was significantly delayed. The Committee considers that the provision of relevant data and intelligence is fundamental to the management of Training for Success. The Committee considers this to be extremely important in order to allow for appropriate departmental internal monitoring and subsequent adjustment of the programme at an operational level. Equally important, the Committee considers this information is critical in order to assess the performance of Training for Success against the macro economic environment which is at the centre of the Programme for Government.
  2. The Committee recognises that the Department experienced some IT problems with regard to data generation. The Committee also recognises that completion of the new Personal Training Plans (PTPs) was also a delaying factor. The Committee considers the PTPs to be a very positive feature of Training for Success. However, the Committee was concerned that many suppliers had failed to complete the PTPs within the original timescale. In addition, even with the Department allowing for extensions to the deadline for the completion from mid-December 2007 to 20th January 2008, there was evidence that many suppliers had failed to complete PTPs for their trainees. The Committee was extremely concerned to learn that by the end of February 2008, 17.4% of trainees still had no PTP. The Committee recognises that adequate time should be taken to allow for trainees to develop PTPs that are appropriately tailored and suited to their precise needs. The Committee however considers that it is a key contractual obligation of the supplier to ensure this is conducted accurately and expeditiously for the benefit of the trainee, the supplier and the Departmental programme managers.
  3. The Committee calls on the Department to ensure that all trainees have completed a PTP by the end of their second month of joining Training for Success. The Committee further calls on the Department to ensure that IT systems are improved significantly to allow for the production of up-to-date intelligence on the occupancy performance of Training for Success.
  4. The Department has informed the Committee that as of the end of April 2008, 5,895 young persons were registered under Training for Success. The Committee understands that this is a decrease of some 25% on Jobskills. The Committee also understands that the decrease in registrations is concentrated in the JobReady strand and that registrations in apprenticeships are up by 12% relative to Jobskills. The Department has indicated to the Committee that the occupancy levels are currently as expected for a major new programme such as Training for Success. The Committee recognises that registrations for a significant new programme will be impacted upon by a variety of factors. However, the Committee is extremely concerned that, at a time of concentrated cross-departmental efforts to create jobs and wealth from both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and indigenous business growth, the Department’s key vocational training programme is not attracting higher levels of participation. The Committee is concerned that the time pressure to introduce Training for Success worked against essential marketing, promotional and other preparatory programmes. The Committee is concerned that some sectors, particularly non-traditional sectors, have reported a lack of basic information on Training for Success. The Committee is also disappointed that there has been no direct targeting and liaison by the Department with the ‘top 100’ local companies with respect to Training for Success. While the Committee recognises that this activity is resource intensive, the relatively low participation rates at the early stage of the programme are an issue of concern that requires urgent attention. The Committee recognises and welcomes the Department’s employer-led strategy and focus. The roles of the Sector Skills Councils and the local Workforce Development Fora are critical to ensuring employer needs are articulated. The Committee considers however that further work is required with employers to ensure that the early-stage roll-out of Training for Success achieves increased participation rates.
  5. The Committee is concerned that the current apprenticeship occupancy levels would suggest that the Department’s target of 10,000 apprentices by 2010 is not going to be met. The Committee calls on the Department to put in place specific promotional and marketing measures, including direct employer engagement, to ensure that participation in Training for Success is maximised and that the levels of participation are geared to the precise needs of key business sectors. The Committee further calls on the Department to collate appropriate data and research in order that a full assessment of the decline in participants in the JobReady strand can be produced.
  6. The Committee is concerned that 2,899 (93%) of apprenticeships are at Level 2 while only 222 (7%) are at Level 3. Sectoral evidence to the Committee also highlighted concern with this concentration of apprenticeships. The Committee concurs with key sectoral evidence suggesting that this concentration was worrying given the drive for high value-added employment opportunities and potential for expansion of existing employers. The Committee notes with concern that there is only 16 Level 3 apprentices within the engineering and manufacturing technologies sector. In evidence to the Committee, representatives from the engineering sector expressed concern that a focus on Level 2 apprenticeships was not sufficient for the needs of that sector. The Committee concurs with this analysis and considers that Level 3 apprenticeships are the basic requirement for key sectors such as engineering and utilities. At the broadest economic level, the Committee considers that an early failure to align Training for Success precisely to the current and projected needs of local businesses, particularly businesses with high Gross-Value-Added (GVA), will have very damaging consequences to future economic development opportunities.
  7. Within JobReady, the Committee was surprised to see that only three young persons were participating at the Employability Skills level. The Committee would question if this is an appropriate component within the overall Training for Success programme. The Committee concurs with evidence relating to the Personal Development and Skills for Work components of JobReady. There is concern that some young persons are finding it difficult to complete a full technical certificate within the 52 week training period in a college or training organisation. There is also concern that, unlike the Pre-Apprenticeship provision, there is no natural progression pathway for the young person.
  8. The Committee concurred with evidence that suggested that for some young persons most removed from mainstream education, there may be a need for a very special kind of early intervention to allow them to even progress to the JobReady strand. For example, young persons in or leaving care may not have the necessary self-esteem or levels of confidence to enter the JobReady strand at a comfortable level. The Committee recognises that it would be extremely difficult to structure a training programme to ensure coverage of each and every young person. However, the Committee considers that potentially minor adjustment to the existing structure could deliver significant benefits for many particularly vulnerable young persons.
  9. The Committee recommends that the Department reviews the criteria used to allocate young persons between Level 2 and Level 3 with a view to ensuring that the criteria are robust and accurately reflect a young person’s ability and aptitude. The Committee further recommends that the requirement for the Employability Skills component is reviewed.
  10. The Committee calls on the Department to consider bespoke funding for specialist early support and provision, such as that provided by Include Youth, to enable those young persons with particularly difficult needs to gain the appropriate levels of confidence and skills necessary for them to progress to the mainstream JobReady strand of Training for Success.
  11. In addition to what the Committee considers to be relatively low levels of occupancy in Training for Success, the Committee has further concerns regarding the longer term status of apprenticeships. The Committee concurs with evidence from a number of key sectors, such as engineering and construction, that there is a general decreasing supply of apprentices. The Committee considers that the promotion of apprenticeships should be a central tenet of career advice. The Committee recognises that the responsibility for careers education and advice is the joint responsibility of the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Education (DE). The Committee considers the current strong emphasis on university education may not be helpful to young persons who may be more vocationally or technically proficient. The current image of apprenticeships is not as attractive as a university education. The Committee recognises that changing the image of apprenticeships will be a difficult task and will require cross-departmental working to ensure appropriate career messages, promoting the benefits of professional and technical training, are delivered at an early stage and then consistently throughout childrens’ and young persons’ education. The Committee wishes to see apprenticeship training achieving status comparable to higher education and professional qualifications.
  12. The Committee calls on the Department to place apprenticeship promotion and information at the centre of the new Careers Education Information, Advice and Guidance Strategy (CEIAG).
  13. The Committee recommends that the Department removes apprenticeships from Training for Success. The Committee further recommends that apprenticeships are developed and promoted as distinctive, high value and high quality programmes. The Committee also calls on the Department to ensure that there are clear pathways and progressions from Level 3 to Level 4 and 5 programmes and that there is translational recognition of all programmes.
  14. The Committee considers that the Sector Skills Agreements (SSAs) have a central role to play in informing the comprehensive debate on training and apprenticeship delivery. The agreements bring together employers, government, unions and suppliers and therefore represent the best opportunity for stakeholders to work towards delivering a common set of objectives. The Committee considers it extremely important that the strategies within the SSAs are fully aligned to local infrastructure and demand as expressed via the Workforce Development Fora. The Committee calls on the Department to formally place the Sectors Skills Agreements in a pivotal position to strategically adjust and align Training for Success.

Operational Aspects of Training for Success

  1. The Committee noted stakeholder concern around a number of key operational aspects of Training for Success. These are:

Trainees’ wages and allowances

  1. The Committee recognises that a key aim of Training for Success was to ensure that young persons were not exploited or treated as ‘free labour’. This was a central criticism of Jobskills. The Committee welcomes the employment from day one of Level 2 and Level 3 apprentices and the stability and commitment that this should provide. However, the Committee is not convinced that potential for exploitation has been totally removed. The Committee understands that some apprentices are being paid a £40 per week wage. This is the same amount as the allowance paid to young persons participating in the JobReady strand. With such a low wage and potentially no further contribution to travel and subsistence costs, the Committee considers this totally inadequate. The Committee recognises that this is a difficult issue to monitor and control, particularly with minimum wage requirements not enforceable until an apprentice reaches the age of nineteen. The Committee also recognises that the Department is working to bring employers on board at a time of relatively low unemployment. However, the Committee wishes to see quality and value returned to apprenticeships and considers that failure to remunerate at a fair level will actively work against the status and profile of apprenticeships. The Committee considers the current model in England of some £80 per week to be a potential comparator. The Committee recommends that the Department introduces and enforces, via contracting arrangements, a minimum rate of pay for apprentices similar to the system currently applied in England.
  2. The Committee considers it important that young persons participating in the JobReady stand of Training for Success are also provided with adequate remuneration during their training. The Committee is concerned that there is currently a disparity between allowances for young people in education and those in unwaged training. Via the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), young persons in education are means tested and currently paid at £10, £20 or £30 per week plus three £100 bonuses dependent on household income. EMA is not payable where household incomes are in excess of £31,850 per annum. The weekly minimum attendance for young people in education is 15 hours. In contrast, young persons in the JobReady strand of Training for Success are required to attend for a minimum of 35 hours per week and receive a non-means tested Training Allowance of £40 per week plus bonuses of up to £200. Unlike the EMA however, this Training Allowance is taken into account when assessing entitlements to means tested benefits. The Committee was surprised that this issue had not been progressed further given that it had been extensively discussed within the Department’s initial consultation on Training for Success.
  3. The Committee understands that the Department is considering the introduction of a non-means tested Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) that would not impact on young persons’ means tested benefits. The Committee welcomes the Department’s consideration of this issue and considers that moving to an EMA would be a fairer system and would encourage participation from young persons from lower income households.

Travel costs

  1. The Committee understands that while the Department contributes to travel allowances for young persons participating in the JobReady strand, no such allowance is paid to apprentices. The onus is therefore on the employer to fund young persons to travel to colleges. The Committee also notes that for young persons participating in the JobReady strand, suppliers can face significant short-falls in travel costs in getting young persons to training locations. This is particularly problematic for FE colleges with a potentially high volume of trainees. This is likely to vary between suppliers dependent on their trainee catchment area and is clearly more likely to impact on suppliers drawing trainees from more rural areas. The Committee was concerned to learn that one FE college was losing on average some £800 per week on travel costs.
  2. The Committee recommends that the Department reviews the system by which training organisations are supported with respect to travel costs with a view to ensuring equality of treatment of training organisations irrespective of their hinterland. The Committee further recommends that the Department introduces a travel cost scheme that is equitable for young persons irrespective of what programme they are undertaking within Training for Success.

Adult (all-age) and part-time apprenticeships

  1. The Committee heard extensive evidence that the lack of provision for adult (aged 25 and over) and part-time apprenticeships currently within the structure of Training for Success was a major drawback. This is particularly the case for non-traditional sectors such as retail, hospitality and leisure. The Committee concurs with evidence that the restriction of Training for Success to those persons aged up to the age of 24 is a barrier. The Committee considers that the current economic background is shaping demand for up-skilling and re-skilling. It is also the case that conversion course training to react to investment opportunities could also have a significant part to play in future local economic development. By placing an age restriction on trainees, the Committee considers that Training for Success is not fit for purpose in delivering the continuous training renewal and improvements required as the local economy seeks significant private sector growth.
  2. The Committee also considers the lack of provision of apprenticeships for part-time workers is not only limiting the potential for development in particular growth sectors but could also be perceived as indirectly discriminatory against women in the workplace. With women dominant in the retail and hospitality sectors for example, apprenticeship opportunities are being denied to a sizeable proportion of the workforce. The Committee recognises that the structuring of apprenticeships around part-time employment may present operational difficulties. However, the Committee notes that many part-time employees are on minimum-hours contracts and are therefore usually working in excess of these. The Committee therefore considers that a degree of flexibility around the current Training for Success minimum of 35 hours could open up significant apprenticeship opportunities. The Committee understands that responses to the Department’s consultation on Training for Success considered that flexibility for part-time delivery could be managed across the programme.
  3. The Committee recommends that the Department undertakes a feasibility study to assess the opportunities for removing the age and minimum hours restrictions currently applied within Training for Success. Within this study, the Committee urges the Department to be creative in structuring Training for Success to recognise the business needs of key developing economic sectors such as retail, tourism, hospitality and leisure.

In-house training versus work placements

  1. The Committee concurs with evidence that the requirement for 35 hours of in-house training per week, for the first six weeks within the JobReady strand, may be excessive. The Committee is concerned that the heavy front-loading of classroom based training may be placing significant pressure on tutors and trainees alike. Young persons participating within the JobReady strand are not likely to welcome further extensive classroom based time. The Committee considers that a reduction in classroom time, particularly in the earlier stages of the 52 week programme, would lead to greater trainee retention and ease pressure on staff. The Committee recommends that the Department reduces the existing heavy front-end classroom based training under the JobReady strand and introduces a more evenly distributed classroom based training profile.

Accessibility to employers

  1. The Committee recognises that the local economic geography will mean that there is the potential for young persons being unable to access suitable employers. This is particularly problematic for rural areas. The Committee also recognises the costs to employers of employing an apprentice from day one to the completion of their apprenticeship programme. However, the Committee is concerned that lack of access to suitable employers will prevent young persons from progressing on a chosen career path and will lead to missed personal and business opportunities. The Committee, while recognising potential difficulties with regard to dual funding, considers that public sector and community sector organisations could potentially contribute to providing employment opportunities, particularly in areas where there may be a dearth of appropriate private sector employers. In addition, the Committee is concerned that young persons, who may have been with a particular employer but have subsequently lost their position, are unable to complete their training programme. The current downturn in construction leaves traditional apprentices in this sector particularly vulnerable to redundancies and therefore incompletion of their training programmes.
  2. The Committee is also concerned that there may be important ‘mismatches’ between courses that an FE college has the contract to deliver and the availability of employers to provide suitable work placement opportunities. This can work both ways with potential oversupply relative to the employment base, or missed opportunities for courses to be provided where there is a good supply of employers within a particular sector. The Committee considers that appropriate close liaison between the Sector Skills Councils and the Workforce Development Fora should mitigate against local disparities of supply and demand.
  3. The Committee also considers that there may be a wider issue around the sole focus on employer-led training. In addition to employer-led programmes, the Committee considers that there is value in the consideration of bespoke programme-led provision. This would ensure the provision of training coverage in times of economic downturn in readiness for periods of growth. In addition, it would offer opportunities for training programmes around emerging business areas that do not currently have the critical mass required to generate employer-led provision, for example in the bio-technology sector. The Committee considers that such provision would advance Northern Ireland’s competitive position and place it in a stronger position to be pre-emptive to investment opportunities for emerging business sectors.
  4. The Committee calls on the Department to consider potential methods of utilising public and community sector organisations within Training for Success, particularly in geographical areas lacking suitable private sector employers. The Committee further calls upon the Department to assess what steps and actions can be taken to minimise disparities between Further Education (FE) course delivery and employer availability.
  5. The Committee recommends that, where a young person has been unable to complete an apprenticeship with an employer, a tailored contingency programme is developed to allow for accredited completion of the apprenticeship. The Committee further recommends that the Department considers specific business sectors that would be appropriate for the piloting of programme-led training provision.

Training for persons with a disability

  1. The Committee is concerned that the specific critical training needs of young persons with disabilities could be lost within the wide ranging objectives and scope of Training for Success. This concern has been borne out by early Departmental monitoring research that suggests that some 14% of Training for Success participants have some form of learning difficulty or disability. In addition, this research suggests that many of these young persons have considered themselves not to be appropriately supported within the programme. The Committee also notes that this issue has also been the subject of debate within the Assembly.[6] While the Committee welcomes the Department’s establishment of the Disability Sub-Group on Training for Success, it is concerned that this group may not have been constituted as was originally envisaged and that the time available to allow for much needed work in this area may have been limited. The Committee therefore welcomes the Department’s establishment of the Disability Sub-Group on Training for Success and looks forward to receiving its initial report and recommendations at the end of June 2008. However, the Committee calls on the Department to consider the Sub-Group’s report as a preliminary stage and to establish formal appropriate ongoing mechanisms to review the alignment of Training for Success to the needs of young persons with a disability.

Essential skills

  1. The Committee has two concerns regarding essential skills within Training for Success. Firstly, the Committee recognises that many young persons entering Training for Success, particularly the Personal Development component of JobReady, are facing significant barriers with respect to basic literacy and numeracy skills. The Committee notes that this is potentially placing significant pressure on the training suppliers to deliver important personal development education to young persons. Secondly, the Committee notes that unless a trainee has attained a grade ‘C’ in GCSE English or Mathematics or equivalent within the previous five years, then they are required to attend for a minimum of 40 hours in each subject. The Committee considers that this is unfair on the young person who is suitably qualified and unfair on the employer in having to release the person for what is a substantial amount of time. The Committee considers that time resources may be better utilised and directed towards those young persons with more challenging literacy and numeracy requirements. With many of the young persons having been disaffected by their earlier mainstream school experiences, the Committee also concurred with sectoral evidence that young persons may respond more positively if essential skills are delivered more directly within the context of their professional and technical training.
  2. The Committee recommends that the Department removes the 5 year rule on GCSEs and that the resources currently delivering this provision are reallocated and targeted to those most in need of literacy and numeracy education. In addition, the Committee recommends that the delivery of essential skills is, as far as possible, integrated into the professional and technical training being undertaken by the trainees.

Sectoral Specific Issues

  1. The Committee considers that, in addition to the issues discussed above, there are a number of specific sectoral issues that require particular attention from the Department in moving forward the provision. There are two key sectoral areas of particular concern to the Committee at this early stage of Training for Success: the construction and automotive sectors.

Construction sector

  1. The Committee is concerned that there have been problems in communication between construction sector stakeholders and the Department with regard to the design and potential areas of adjustment and improvement to Training for Success. The Committee, at times, received some confusing and contradictory evidence concerning the operation of Training for Success within the construction sector. The Committee does not consider that it is appropriate to propose firm operational recommendations for this sector. Rather, it considers that the Department, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) and other relevant stakeholders should work closely together to ensure that the provision is designed and tailored to meet the needs of this sector. The Committee considers that the sector’s requirements and the current structure of Training for Success are not far apart. However, the Committee recognises that there is significant general concern around construction apprenticeships. Specifically, the Committee shares the concern of the CEF that 40% of Training for Success participants are in construction apprenticeships. The balance in favour of the JobReady strand is of concern. This position has the potential to be further exacerbated with the downturn in demand in the construction sector. The Committee is concerned that the current downturn in demand for construction services could have a significant negative impact on the capacity of employers to provide appropriate apprenticeship and training provision.
  2. The Committee concurs with the Department that the construction sector should not be treated any differently than other sectors with respect to incentives for employer engagement in apprenticeship and training provision. However, the Committee calls on the Department and construction sector stakeholders to focus attention and, where required, seek expeditious agreement on the following issues:

Automotive sector

  1. The Committee’s primary concern regarding training provision within the automotive sector centred on the contract failure of Carter and Carter Group plc and the potential for significant gaps in provision. Even in advance of the contract failure, the Committee had taken evidence suggesting that the model established via Training for Success had potential problems in delivering for the sector. The Committee concurred with much of this evidence including:
  1. The Committee is concerned that excellent existing potential, given appropriate support and investment, has been significantly damaged by the initial contracting arrangements of Training for Success in this important sector. The Committee is also concerned that training for this sector showed particular problems with respect to travel distances for young persons wishing to undertake Level 3 automotive apprenticeships. The Committee noted what it considered to be an interesting model of delivery of manufacturer-led automotive training in Scotland. An Assembly Research Paper on this model is attached at appendix 5.
  2. The Committee recommends that the Department:

Specific issues from other sectors

  1. The Committee noted evidence from the retail sector highlighting that the major retailing organisations have not, as yet, bought into Training for Success preferring their own in-house training models. Smaller retail organisations have found it difficult to obtain appropriate information to allow them to fully engage in the programme. This was also true of the leisure sector. The Committee considers that the retail sector offers very significant opportunities for the development of quality managerial careers and is a key growth area going forward.
  2. The Committee was pleased to note evidence from some sectors reporting extremely positively on the current structure of Training for Success. In particular:

Future monitoring

  1. The Committee welcomes the ongoing work the Department is undertaking with regard to reviewing Training for Success. In particular, the Committee understands that the Department has undertaken qualitative focus groups with Training for Success stakeholders and quantitative surveys with Training for Success participants. In addition the Committee understands that the Department has met with specific sectoral groups to discuss issues, many of which have been raised via the Committee’s programme of scrutiny on Training for Success. The Committee looks forward to working collaboratively with the Department in ensuring appropriate ongoing review mechanisms are in place to allow for the necessary programme adjustments and improvements as Training for Success progresses. The Committee calls on the Department to work with the Sector Skills Councils, the Workforce Development Fora and other key stakeholders in ensuring ongoing improvement to Training for Success.

    [1] Success Through Skills, The Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland: A Programme for Implementation, DEL, February 2006.

    [2] NIA 47/03, HC 762 Session 2003/04, 7th July 2004.

    [3] Jobskills: Tenth Report of Session 2005-06, HC564.

    [4] Training for Success: Professional and Technical Training, Consultation Document, DEL, July 2006.

    [5] ‘Success Through Excellence - A Quality Improvement Strategy for the Further Education and Training System in NI’

    [6] Official Report, 16th October 2007, Training and Employment Places

Appendix 1

Minutes of Proceedings

Wednesday, 20th June 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alistair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr John Torney (Principal Clerk)
Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Miss Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA

The meeting opened at 10.31am in public session.

Apologies.

Apologies are detailed above.

9. Any Other Business.

Mr Attwood requested that the Committee receive a briefing from the Department on the process followed with regard to the awarding of contracts for the delivery of the Department’s new ‘Training for Success’ programme.

The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.05pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 4th July 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Alistair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr John Torney (Principal Clerk)
Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Miss Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA

The meeting opened at 10.30am in public session.

Apologies.

Apologies are detailed above.

3. Chairperson’s Business.

Agreed: Members raised the issue of provision of procurement of training contracts relating to the Department’s new Training for Success programme and agreed that the Department provide a briefing on this process.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.44pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 25th July 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA

In Attendance: Mr John Torney (Principal Clerk)
Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Miss Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

The meeting opened at 10.30am in public session.

Apologies.

Apologies are detailed above.

6. Training for Success – procurement of training contracts.

The Committee received a briefing from Departmental officials Mrs Catherine Bell, Deputy Secretary, and Mrs Nuala Kerr, Director of Skills and Industry Division, on the procurement of training contracts for the delivery of the Training for Success programme. The briefing was followed with a question and answer session.

Agreed: The Department will provide the Committee with an update on the progress of contractual arrangements by early September.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.31pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 12th September 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr John Torney (Principal Clerk)
Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Miss Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA

The meeting opened at 10.37am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

6. Any Other Business

Agreed: Members noted a letter from Mr Alex Attwood MLA suggesting a potential Committee inquiry into the awarding of contracts by the Department as part of Training for Success. The Committee also agreed that relevant stakeholders be contacted by the Committee and made aware that their views may be sought with regard to the policy scrutiny of Pathways to Work and Training for Success.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11.34am.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 19th September 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr John Torney (Principal Clerk)
Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr Jonathan Young (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA

The meeting opened at 10.31am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

4. Departmental Briefing on Training for Success – Procurement of Training Contracts

The Committee received a briefing from Departmental officials Catherine Bell, Deputy Secretary, and Mrs Nuala Kerr, Director of Skills and Industry Division, on the procurement of Training for Success contracts. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) Briefing on Training for Success

The Committee received a further briefing on Training for Success from NIPSA officials Dooley Harte and Alison Millar. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

8. Any Other Business

Agreed: Members agreed to discuss the Committee’s approach to further consideration of the Training for Success programme at its meeting on the 26th September.

The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.30pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 26th September 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr Jonathan Young (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA

The meeting opened at 10.35am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Matters Arising

Training for Success

Agreed: The Committee agreed that the Chairperson write to the Department seeking clarification on a number of issues and that a draft plan and work programme for the monitoring and scrutiny of the Training for Success programme be prepared.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.32pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 3rd October 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr Jonathan Young (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mrs Claire McGill MLA

The meeting opened at 10.32am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

7. Committee Monitoring and Scrutiny of the Training for Success Programme

Agreed: Members discussed and agreed a monitoring and scrutiny programme addressing the rollout of the Department’s new Training for Success Programme.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.37pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 10th October 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr Jonathan Young (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA

The meeting opened at 10:34am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

4. Departmental Evidence Session from DEL’s Quality and Performance Branch on its Quality Improvement Strategy

The Committee received evidence from the Departmental representatives Catherine Bell, Deputy Secretary, and Nuala Kerr, Director of Skills and Industry Division, on developments in relation to the Department’s contracting arrangements in relation to the Training for Success Programme and on the Department’s Quality Improvement Strategy. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

7. Committee Monitoring and Scrutiny of the Training for Success Programme

The Committee noted a letter from the Chairperson to the Minister formalising the Committee’s monitoring and scrutiny programme and a letter from the Minister to the Chairperson on the suspension of trading of Carter and Carter shares.

Agreed: The Committee agreed a draft press release on the proposed monitoring and scrutiny work programme be issued.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:10pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 24th October 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA

In Attendance: Mr John Torney (Principal Clerk)
Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr David McClarty MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

The meeting opened at 10:35am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

3. Chairperson’s Business

Agreed: Members agreed that the correspondence received from The Donnelly Group in relation to Training for Success be forwarded to the Department and that the Chairperson write to the Donnelly Group expressing the Committee’s concerns on the issue.

4. Session from the Education and Training Inspectorate

The Committee received evidence from Education and Training Inspectorate representatives Marion Matchett, Chief Inspector, Paul McAlister, Assistant Chief Inspector, Gerry Murray and John Baird, Managing Inspectors, on the overall work of the Inspectorate with particular reference of the Committee’s programme for the monitoring of Training for Success. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

6. Any Other Business

Agreed: Members agreed that a number of providers of Training for Success be invited to out-of-committee meetings to brief Members on their programmes and approach to training provision. Those to be invited include the Electrical Training Trust and PMST.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:19pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 7th November 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)
Mr Jonathan Young (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA

The meeting opened at 10:35am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Matters Arising

Agreed: Members agreed that the issues of contracts with training providers and the inspection of training providers by the Education and Training Inspectorate be raised at the Departmental briefing on Training for Success at the Committee meeting on 28th November.

The Deputy Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1:05pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 14th November 2007
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA

The meeting opened at 10:33am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Matters Arising

Agreed: Members noted and agreed to a request from NIPSA for sight of correspondence relating to Training for Success training provision.

7. Training for Success

Members noted an update paper from the Clerk on the issue of Training for Success.

Members also noted a proposed informal meeting to be held with the Summit Skills on 16th January.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:20pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 28th November 2007
Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)
Mr Jonathan Young (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA

The meeting opened at 10.32am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

5. First Departmental Monitoring Report on Training for Success

The Committee received a briefing from Departmental officials Catherine Bell, Deputy Secretary, and Des Lyness, Training Programmes / IFI Branch, on the Department’s roll-out of the Training for Success Programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

Agreed: The Committee to receive a further Departmental update in mid – January 2008.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 2:02pm.

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Wednesday, 9th January 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA

The meeting opened at 10:33am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

10. Any Other Business

Agreed: Members noted correspondence from the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) with respect to the Training for Success Programme and agreed to invite the CEF to brief the Committee on 23rd January.

12.42pm The meeting moved into closed session.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 16th January 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Basil McCrea MLA

The meeting opened at 10:37am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

4. Briefing from the Learning and Skills Development Agency, Northern Ireland (LSDANI)

The Committee received a briefing from Trevor Carson, Director of the Learning and Skills Development Agency Northern Ireland (LSDANI), and Justin Edwards, Associate Director of the Learning & Skills Network (LSN), on the work of the LSDANI and on the early stages of the Department’s Training for Success Programme and their work and planned work within the programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

5. Briefing from the Sector Skills Councils

The Committee received a briefing from representatives of the Sector Skills Councils David Hatton, SEMTA, Gillian Winters and Jim McIlveen, Engineering Training Services, and Ronnie Moore, Energy & Utility Skills, on the early stages of delivery of the Department’s Training for Success Programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

6. Briefing from SummitSkills

The Committee received a briefing from Bill Cherry, SummitSkills, Derek Thompson, Chief Executive of Electrical Training Trust (ETT), David Dennison, Managing Director of DM Engineering, Jim Gourley, General Manager of Plumbing and Mechanical Services Training (PMST), Derek Poole, Managing Director of CHC Group Employer and Chair of PMST, and Peter Williamson, Electrical Training Trust Board Member, on the early stages of the delivery of the Department’s Training for Success Programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1:00pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 23rd January 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA

The meeting opened at 10:35am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

4. Briefing from the Construction Employers Federation on Training for Success

The Committee received a briefing from representatives of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) Ciarán Fox, Federation Manager, and John Armstrong, Managing Director, on the early stages of the Department’s Training for Success Programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:06pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 30th January 2008
Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA

The meeting opened at 10:32am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

5. Second Departmental monitoring report on Training for Success

The Committee received an update briefing from departmental officials Catherine Bell, Deputy Secretary, and Nuala Kerr, Director of Skills & Industry Division, on the Department’s roll-out of the Training for Success Programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:53pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 6th February 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA

The meeting opened at 10:34am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Matters Arising

Agreed: Members discussed the situation in relation to the provision of training by Carter & Carter Plc in the Training for Success programme and agreed that additional information by sought from the Department.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:33pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 13th February 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA

The meeting opened at 10:36am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

2. Matters Arising

Members noted the Construction Employers Federation’s Response to the Department’s Consultation on Training for Success.

The Committee noted a paper, prepared by the Committee Office, on the current position at Carter & Carter Group Plc.

3. Chairperson’s Business

Agreed: Members agreed that the Clerk should meet with Departmental officials on the Committee’s concerns relating to Carter & Carter Group Plc and report back to the Committee.

4. Briefing from Sector Skills Councils on Training for Success

The Committee received a briefing from the following representatives of Skillsmart Retail on the Department’s Training for Success programme.

Tory Kerley, NI Manager of Skillsmart Retail

Judith Meyrick, Programme Manager of Skillsmart Retail

Lynn Livingstone, Training Manager at Tesco

Andrew Porter, General Manager of Creighton’s of Finaghy

The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

The Committee also received a briefing from representatives of Skills Active: Siobhan Weir, NI Manager of SkillsActive, and Oliver Wilkinson, CEO of Share Centre, Lisnaskea, on the Training for Success programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:55pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 27th February 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA

The meeting opened at 10:33am in public session.

1. Briefing from Sector Skills Councils on Training for Success

10:36 Mr McCausland joined the meeting

The Committee received a briefing from the following representatives of Automotive Skills on the Department’s Training for Success programme.

Martin Hutchinson, Automotive Skills National Manager (Northern Ireland)

Raymond Crilly, Finance Director of TBF Thompson

Terence Donnelly, Managing Director of Donnelly Group

The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

Mr Spratt declared an interest of previous business involvement with the Donnelly Group

Agreed: Members agreed that Assembly Research Services be asked to provide a research paper on the provision of centres of excellence used in Scotland for the automotive industry.

The Committee also received a briefing from Geoff Lamb, Operational Manager for Northern Ireland of Improve Ltd, on the Training for Success programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

2. Briefing from the Association of Northern Ireland Colleges (ANIC) on Training for Success

The Committee received a briefing from representatives of the Association of Northern Ireland Colleges (ANIC) on the Department’s Training for Success programme.

John D’Arcy, CEO of ANIC

Seamus Murphy, Director of North West Regional College

Maura Lavery, Deputy Director of Belfast Metropolitan College

Brian Doran, Director of Southern Regional College

The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the approach to completing its work on the scrutiny of the initial role-out of the Training for Success Programme.

8. Any Other Business

Agreed: Members agreed that the Department be asked to provide an update on the current position in relation to Carter & Carter Plc.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1:17pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 5th March 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA

The meeting opened at 10:34am in public session.

4. Training for Success – Update on Contracting

The Committee received a briefing from Departmental Officials: Dr Aideen McGinley, Permanent Secretary, Catherine Bell, Deputy Secretary, and Nuala Kerr, Director of Skills & Industry Division, on contracting issues relating to the Training for Success programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1:34pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 23rd April 2008
Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairman)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA

The meeting opened at 10:34am in public session.

1. Departmental Update Briefing on Training for Success

The Committee received an update briefing from departmental officials Catherine Bell, Deputy Secretary, and Nuala Kerr, Director of Skills & Industry Division, on the Department’s roll-out of the Training for Success Programme. This was the last Departmental briefing in advance of the Committee’s reporting on the early stage of the programme, scheduled for end of May 2008. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:56pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 30th April 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairman)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA

The meeting opened at 10:34am in public session.

2. Automotive industry training providers briefing on Training for Success

The Committee noted a paper from Assembly Research and Library Services on the Scottish delivery model of automotive modern apprenticeships.

The Committee received a briefing from representatives of the automotive industry: Martin Hutchinson, Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), Sean McCullagh, Chief Executive of Transport Training Services, Ken Philpott, Belfast Metropolitan College, and Basil Barnes, Chair of the Association of Motor Vehicle Teachers, on the Department’s Training for Success programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

3. Briefing from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on Training for Success

The Committee received a briefing from Officials of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU): Peter Bunting (Assistant General Secretary, ICTU), Jim McKeown (UCU Regional Official), and Liam Gallagher (Derry Trades Council), on the Department’s Training for Success programme. The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:37pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 14th May 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairman)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA

The meeting opened at 10:33am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

4. Consideration of Committee Findings on Training for Success

Agreed: The Committee deliberated on its initial findings with respect to its first report into the early stage roll-out of Training for Success. Members agreed that the full draft report be considered at the Committee meeting on 21st May.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:16pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 21st May 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairman)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr Basil McCrea MLA

The meeting opened at 10:39am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

11:55am The meeting moved into closed session

4. Further Consideration of Committee Findings on Training for Success

The Committee considered the Draft report on the scrutiny of Training for Success paragraph by paragraph. The Committee agreed the main body of the report:

Paragraphs 1 – 12, read and agreed;

Paragraph 13, read and agreed, subject to amendment;

Paragraphs 14 – 17, read and agreed;

Paragraph 18, read and agreed, subject to amendment;

Paragraphs 19 – 20, read and agreed;

Paragraph 21, read and agreed, subject to amendment;

Paragraphs 22 – 39, read and agreed;

Paragraph 40, read and agreed, subject to amendment;

Paragraphs 41 – 54, read and agreed;

Paragraph 55, read and agreed, subject to amendment;

Paragraphs 56 – 58, read and agreed;

Paragraph 59, read and agreed, subject to amendment;

Paragraphs 60 – 61, read and agreed;

Paragraph 62, read and agreed, subject to amendment.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the Executive Summary, subject to amendment;

Agreed: The Committee agreed the key conclusions and recommendations;

Agreed: The Committee agreed that Appendix 1 to 5 be included in the report;

Agreed: The Committee agreed that a committee motion be tabled seeking the Assembly’s approval of the report and that the report be embargoed until the Assembly debate.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12:45pm.

[EXTRACT]

Wednesday, 28th May 2008
Room 135, Parliament Buildings

Unapproved Minutes of Proceedings

Present: Ms Sue Ramsey MLA (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt MLA (Deputy Chairman)
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Mr Paul Butler MLA
Ms Anna Lo MLA
Mrs Claire McGill MLA
Mr Robin Newton MLA
Mr Alastair Ross MLA

In Attendance: Mr Rab McConaghy (Assembly Clerk)
Mr Trevor Allen (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mr Collan Cree (Clerical Supervisor)
Ms Jessica Dougan (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mr Basil McCrea MLA
Mr Nelson McCausland MLA
Mr David McClarty MLA

The meeting opened at 10:37am in public session.

Apologies

Apologies are detailed above.

11:14am The meeting moved into closed session

4. Final approval of First Report on Training for Success

The Committee considered the second Draft of the First Report on Training for Success.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the amendments proposed to the report at the previous meeting.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that correspondence relating to the report should not form part of the appendixes.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the Executive Summary;

Agreed: The Committee agreed the key conclusions and recommendations;

Agreed: The Committee agreed that Appendixes 1 to 5.

Agreed: The Committee agreed that an extract of today’s Minutes of Proceedings should be included in Appendix 1 as unapproved minutes to allow for inclusion in the printed report.

The Committee ordered the First Report on Training for Success to be printed.

Agreed: The Committee agreed the proposed wording of the Committee Motion and noted that the debate is scheduled for debate on Tuesday 10th June.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11:57am.

[EXTRACT]

Appendix 2

Minutes of Evidence

10 October 2007

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr David McClarty
Mr Basil McCrea
Mrs Claire McGill
Mr Robin Newton
Mr Alastair Ross

Witnesses:

Mrs Catherine Bell
Mrs Nuala Kerr

Department for Employment and Learning

  1. The Deputy Chairperson (Mr Spratt): I remind those in the public gallery that as they affect the recording equipment, mobile phones must be completely switched off; they should not merely be turned to silent.
  2. Before we start the evidence session on the quality improvement strategy, I will thank Catherine Bell Nuala Kerr for their attendance. The Committee appreciates the fact that the Minister sent it a letter bringing it up to date on the position with Carter and Carter plc. Members are greatly concerned about that issue, so will you bring us up to date on it?
  3. Mrs Catherine Bell (Department for Employment and Learning): Nuala Kerr has been more closely involved with that issue than I, so I will ask her to give the update.
  4. Mrs Nuala Kerr (Department for Employment and Learning): The position is as the Minister’s letter conveys. Trading in shares of Carter and Carter plc was suspended on the basis that its profit forecast for the end of July 2007 was substantially lower than had been originally anticipated. If you recall, there had already been two profit warnings. According to the press, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is the company’s auditors, has been invited to assess the reason that situation has arisen. That signals to the Department that the company has significant financial issues.
  5. However, Carter and Carter plc is not currently in breach of its contract with the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL). DEL has met with the company and received assurances that, in the short term, it expects to be able to deliver the training in accordance with the contract. It is not known what will happen in the longer term.
  6. The Minister’s letter outlines the numbers of young people that are involved in training and that the contract is progressing satisfactorily. As would be expected under the terms of the contract, there will be no change until such time as something significant happens with the company.
  7. The Deputy Chairperson: Is everything running according to plan?
  8. Mrs Kerr: Yes.
  9. The Deputy Chairperson: I am sure that members want to ask questions about the matter.
  10. Mr Attwood: I am surprised that the Department has such a relaxed attitude to the matter — alarm bells should be ringing.
  11. Are you telling the Committee that the Department has assessed, with due diligence, the current position with the contract and that all aspects of it are satisfactory?
  12. Mrs Kerr: Yes.
  13. Mr Attwood: Can you be absolutely definitive that the Department has no problem whatever with the management of or the progress of the contract?
  14. Mrs Kerr: There are two separate issues. The first is the company’s financial situation, and the second is the delivery of the training and the contractual relationship between the Department and the company. At this stage, the Department has no concerns about the contractual delivery; we believe that the contract is being delivered in accordance with our agreement with Carter and Carter plc.
  15. You mentioned that alarm bells should be ringing, and the fact that trading in the company’s shares is suspended indicates that the Department should be concerned. Therefore, we will to continue to monitor the situation. The Department is not relaxed about the situation; we are concerned about the delivery of training in accordance with our agreement with the company.
  16. Mr Attwood: What assessment has the Department made? What advice has it received on the long-term viability of the contract, given that the company has a long-term contract in the North? Who has given advice to the Department about the fact that trading in Carter and Carter plc’s shares has been suspended? The contract is measured over years, not just weeks or months. What enquiries have you made in order to satisfy the Department and the Assembly that the company has any future viability?
  17. Mrs Kerr: The Department has a contractual relationship with Carter and Carter plc, and it has taken advice from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) about procurement to ensure that that company is fully compliant with the terms of the contract. At this stage, the advice is that the company is not in breach of the terms of the contract. Therefore, the Department has a contract with Carter and Carter plc until such time as there is an indication of breach of contract there is no action that the Department can take that would change that situation.
  18. The Department must assess what must be done in the longer term, should Carter and Carter plc fail to deliver on its contract. The Department must consider those issues, and it is taking advice on that.
  19. Mr Attwood: Let me clarify that. Has the Department received advice from DFP — or from any third party — about the viability of that organisation? I know what you are saying about the short term; however, this might not be a short-term problem. It could turn into a medium- or long-term problem, because the contract rolls out over several years. Have you received advice about Carter and Carter plc’s general financial standing, in order for you to at least have a contingency plan, so that, if the worst transpires for Carter and Carter plc, the delivery of training can continue?
  20. Mrs Kerr: The Department has taken advice from DFP about its contractual relationship with the company. Until such time as the company is in breach of its contract, the situation will not change. The Department must also consider a contingency position, and it has taken advice from DFP about that.
  21. Mr Attwood: I have probably taken that line of questioning as far as I can. Where a company has been awarded a substantial contract that will last several years, but its shares are suspended within days of that contract being implemented, it would be best practice for the Department to at least consider whether its due diligence function would require it to seek independent assessment and advice about the viability of the company. Subject to that advice, the Department should determine whether any contingency plans need to be made.
  22. Mrs Kerr: Can I —
  23. Mr Attwood: It seems simply to be good practice. Are you saying that we must wait until the contract fails before even considering contingency plans?
  24. We should watch carefully to see whether Carter and Carter plc deliver satisfactorily all aspects of the contracts that it has been awarded.
  25. Mrs Kerr: Given that the company is a public limited company (plc), certain regulations concerning stock market trading restrict our right of access to and the level of information that we can get. Such information cannot be different from that which is available under stock market rules.
  26. Mr Attwood: With all due respect, Nuala, that is not an answer. You have invoked the stock market requirements and commercial confidentiality — for want of a better word — to say that an assessment of Carter and Carter plc cannot be made. I asked whether the Department or DFP have been given any advice about the future viability of the company.
  27. Mrs Kerr: Our relationship is based on the contract. An assessment was carried out when the contract was put in place, and the Department relied on the information and advice that it got at that point. Given that the Department has entered that contractual relationship, it has now taken advice about the options that are open to it. The Department must have contingency plans should the company fail to deliver on the contract. As things stand, there is nothing that the Department can do outside of that contractual relationship.
  28. Mr Attwood: I want to make one final point. When the contract was awarded to Carter and Carter plc — not by DEL but by DFP — the company’s commercial future was signalled, given that its share price collapsed dramatically. As I recall, subject to the record, we were told that that would not affect the award of the contract. However, within four months of the award of the contract, and within five weeks of its commencement, trading in the company’s shares was suspended. That raises fundamental questions about the procurement procedure that was used in the award of this contract. It appears that, somehow, the commercial viability of the company at any given time was not a material factor in the award of the contract.
  29. The Deputy Chairperson: My recollection was that the share value was high when the award was made. A tragic accident then happened and shares plummeted.
  30. Mrs Bell: That is right.
  31. The Deputy Chairperson: If I recall correctly, that happened after the conclusion of the procurement process.
  32. However, although I know that when the award was made, an assessment was carried, I am unclear as to whether any assessment has been made in the past few days since the most recent situation has arisen. That is the point that Mr Attwood was getting at.
  33. Mrs Bell: I must make a general point first. Departmental officials met as soon as the situation came to light. We have ideas on how to act; however, we can do nothing about them until we see what will happen with Carter and Carter plc. I assure the Committee that our key priority is not the organisation: it is the young people who are getting the training. If anything untoward happens, we will ensure that their training is not affected. That is our prime responsibility.
  34. I understand the Committee’s concerns. We were not best pleased either when we heard about this situation. I thought: please, no more. We are where we are, however, and we will look after the young people irrespective of what happens to Carter and Carter plc.
  35. Mr McCausland: When the contract was awarded, the company’s viability was assessed. Who carried out that assessment?
  36. Mrs Kerr: That was carried out on our behalf by the DFP central procurement directorate.
  37. Mr McCausland: Does that mean that any future assessment of the company’s current viability will be carried out by DFP?
  38. Mrs Kerr: We have a contractual relationship with Carter and Carter plc, and the scope of any action that we can take is conditional on its ability to deliver on the contract. If the company is in breach of the contract, we will have power to act.
  39. Mr McCausland: I accept Catherine Bell’s point about officials having certain ideas as to what they might do if the company went completely out of operation. How far you work up those ideas depends on where you think this thing is going. Therefore, how do you assess the company’s future viability? Who will carry out that assessment? You need to know how far you can take your ideas and when to complete your preparations.
  40. Mrs Bell: You are absolutely right. We are walking a fine line, because we cannot break the contract with Carter and Carter plc either. At the same time, however, we must ensure that the young people who are getting the training are not disadvantaged. It would not take long to implement our contingency arrangements. That is my professional opinion. However, we can do nothing until something happens to change Carter and Carter plc’s legal status. That is the reason that we cannot talk to anyone else.
  41. I am not the expert on the matter, and I defer to Nuala on that. My understanding is that Carter and Carter plc could be bought over. That would put us in a different position. At this stage, however, we have had no indication that that will happen.
  42. Mrs McGill: Mr McCausland asked who assessed Carter and Carter plc’s viability, and the witnesses said that it was DFP. Therefore, I take it that that assessment has been published. Who can see it, and where is it kept? Can the Committee see a copy?
  43. Mr Attwood made a valid point about how the procurement procedure should operate in the future. In this instance, it is not the case that the difficulties and concerns were not flagged up in advance of the collapse — I am not sure whether we could call it that — of the company’s shares.
  44. Mrs Kerr: At this stage, the company has not ceased trading. Although trading in its shares has been suspended, Carter and Carter plc still operates and is doing so in Northern Ireland in accordance with the Department’s contractual arrangements. The Department is bound to that contract in the same way as Carter and Carter plc and, therefore, cannot default on it.
  45. However, as is prudent, the Department has considered its potential options should Carter and Carter plc cease trading or take a major step that would mean that it could not continue to fulfil the contract. The Department must have contingency plans in place should that happen. I accept Mr McCausland’s point that the Department must be clear on how to act and ready to do so quickly in that eventuality.
  46. Mrs McGill: My question about who can see the assessment was not answered.
  47. Mrs Kerr: DFP makes the assessment and holds the information.
  48. Mrs McGill: Does that mean that no one from DEL sees it?
  49. Mrs Kerr: We rely on DFP’s advice and expertise.
  50. Mrs McGill: How does DFP communicate its advice: is it done verbally?
  51. Mrs Kerr: The advice comes with DFP’s assessment when the contract is ready to be issued.
  52. The Deputy Chairperson: Do you receive any paperwork on that process?
  53. Mrs Kerr: As DFP issues the contract, it makes the assessment. DFP confirms to us simply that the company is suitable to undertake the contract: it does not provide any detail of its assessment.
  54. The Deputy Chairperson: We are delving too far into the procurement process. There will be further meetings on that issue.
  55. Mr McClarty: Should a company buy out Carter and Carter plc, would it also buy its contract with the Department? Surely the contract is with Carter and Carter plc, not the new company.
  56. Mrs Kerr: It depends on the outcome, and terms of, any acquisition of shares. If the takeover were made through the acquisition of shares, we would expect the delivery of the contract to continue, regardless of whoever succeeds Carter and Carter plc. However, different outcomes may arise depending on whether there is an acquisition of shares or an acquisition of some other description.
  57. Mr McCausland: You already have some ideas about a contingency plan should such difficulties arise, but how long would it take to put that into operation?
  58. Mrs Bell: It would not take long. Let me put it like this: the young people’s training, which is the priority, would not suffer.
  59. The Deputy Chairperson: I thank you both. I know that answering questions on that subject was not on today’s agenda. You can see that the Committee is greatly concerned about recent events. Will the Department keep us fully briefed on any developments?
  60. Catherine, when you spoke to the Committee on 19 September 2007, you requested an opportunity to brief the Committee on the Department’s quality and performance branch and its quality strategy. My understanding is that you consider that the mechanisms that are now in place will ensure a consistent approach to delivering high-quality programmes. At the same meeting, you said that such a briefing would assure members that the new arrangements will address the weaknesses in the Jobskills programme that have been highlighted.
  61. Although I recognise that quality monitoring applies to all the Department’s work, you will not be surprised to learn that the Committee wants to know how the quality strategy, in particular, will be applied to Training for Success. I am sure that the Department is aware that the Committee has now formalised the monitoring programme for the early stage delivery of Training for Success. For that reason, I have asked that the session be recorded by Hansard, given that we are committed to reporting and publishing the scrutiny programme. I shall pass over to you, Catherine. I am sure that the Committee will want to ask questions after your presentation.
  62. Mrs Bell: Thank you, Deputy Chairperson and Committee. We appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about quality improvement and related contract monitoring. I will deal specifically with quality improvement, and Nuala will deal with contract monitoring.
  63. The Department has now put in place the strategies that guide its work, for example, ‘Success through Skills: The Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland’, and Training for Success, regardless of whether we like it, which is the programme for apprenticeships and the programmes that lead to them. The Department also has Further Education means Business, which is the strategy for the further education sector, and Essential Skills, which is the strategy for literacy and numeracy.
  64. The Department could have all the strategies that it likes, but that is irrelevant if the quality of delivery is not good. Therefore, decided some time ago that quality would be at the heart of its work and that it would give significant weight to quality improvement for the learner and, indeed, for the employer.
  65. The Department has developed its quality-improvement strategy, Success through Excellence. The Committee has received copies. In order to develop the strategy and its subsequent implementation, the Department has seconded an education and training inspector to act as its professional adviser. Therefore, the strategies that guide the Department’s work are in place, and quality improvement is at the heart of that work. The Department will work with the Committee on the next stage of the project, which is the workforce-development strategies for those staff who deliver the programme on the Department’s behalf. At present, all college staff must be qualified to at least level 4, which is roughly degree level, as well as having industrial experience in the business area. They must also become trained teachers within three years of taking up post. The Department also want to build on that, so that there will be a programme of continuous professional development. It is currently considering a similar model for the training organisations that deliver contracts on its behalf.
  66. Several key players on the quality-improvement strategy are crucial to ensuring that there is quality for learners. The ultimate responsibility for improvement lies with the relevant organisations. The inspectorate can inspect every day of the week, but it cannot make a difference if an organisation is not committed to improvement. The Department also has a responsibility because it funds the organisations either through mainstream, further education or contracts with training organisations. The Education and Training Inspectorate has a responsibility because it inspects the programmes on the Department’s behalf and gives an independent assessment. The other group that is involved in quality improvement is the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) for Northern Ireland, with whom the Department has a contract to help it support organisations in the promotion of quality and quality improvement.
  67. There are two main strands to the Department’s attempts to improve quality. The first strand involves its working with the inspectors. Each year, every organisation that the Department funds through for example, Jobskills, Training for Success, New Deal, or, indeed, further education colleges, must submit a self-evaluation report.
  68. That self-evaluation, in which those organisations evaluate their own quality, is based on indicators that have been set up and used by the inspectorate. The organisations are also required, at the same time, to submit an improvement plan to address any weaknesses that they have identified. The inspectorate receives both of those documents on DEL’s behalf and gives us a judgement. However, that is not just a paper exercise. The Department carries out follow-up visits to those organisations to test the improvement plan against what is actually happening. Every organisation that falls within our remit is expected to complete those exercises annually.
  69. The second strand of the quality improvement programme involves the normal inspection regime. The Department and the inspectorate agree a programme of inspections across further education colleges and training providers for 12 months. Inspection focuses on the quality of teaching — or training — and learning, standards achieved, and outcomes. Departmental officials are present when the governing body or management committee of an organisation receives its report in order to hear first-hand what the inspectorate has to say.
  70. DEL, in conjunction with the inspector seconded to it, will then work with the Learning and Skills Development Agency to help the organisation in question draw up an improvement plan to address any weaknesses. The inspectorate assesses the robustness of the subsequent plan to determine whether it will address any weaknesses sufficiently. The inspectorate returns to the organisation within 12 months to 18 months to assess whether the organisation has adhered to the improvement plan and to determine whether it has raised its standards. That is the norm; however, if the Department discovered a badly performing organisation, it would not wait as long as 18 months to act.
  71. When the chief inspector published her report in 2004, 66% of Jobskills organisations received grade 1 or grade 2 assessments, which are very good grades. That figure had risen to 80% by the time that the chief inspector’s most recent report was published.
  72. The Department also has a role on the contracting side, and Mrs Kerr will talk about that. Departmental officials monitor the organisations to ensure compliance with the operational guidelines. Quality is one consideration, but we must also ensure that the organisations follow the rules.
  73. Mrs Kerr: As Mrs Bell has said, our approach to quality improvement is two-pronged. The first is to increase quality, and the other is to ensure that, in managing contracts, we can take action when organisations fail to meet the required standards. Until September 2006, our contract managers were distributed throughout the Department. They were responsible for Jobskills and New Deal providers, for example, but the skills and expertise of the individuals who were involved were fragmented across the Department, and we had concerns about the consistency of the approach.
  74. In support of the strategy, we brought those people together to form a new team, which is responsible for ensuring that the contracts for Jobskills, New Deal, and Training for Success, are delivered in accordance with our intentions and within the terms of the contract. Any contract relationship comprises the contract itself and several guidelines that support its implementation. We discussed that in previous evidence sessions, in which we have examined how individual elements of Training for Success are implemented.
  75. A team of inspectors regularly visits our providers: every organisation that has a contract with us is visited twice in a financial year. Depending on the outcome of those visits, a further visit may be required to ensure that the providers are compliant with the contract. The intention is to ensure that the young person who is being trained receives the proper training in the right environment, that they are present for the proper number of hours, and that the contractor adheres to all the guidelines that we have set out to support the implementation of the contract.
  76. The contractual side of the approach gives us the teeth to allow us to drive up our quality improvement strategy. Therefore, we receive the inspectors’ report and the report from our contract managers, who ensure that the guidelines are being adhered to. We have taken action to remove or suspend the contracts of those organisations that have been asked to improve but have shown no signs of doing so. Mrs Bell talked about the improvements that we have seen, particularly those of the past year, and the implementation of the two elements of the quality improvement strategy.
  77. Mrs Bell: I should say that we also have a financial team that is separate from the inspection unit; however, we are talking only about monitoring the operational guidelines and quality.
  78. The Deputy Chairperson: You mentioned the early stage review on risk management of providers. When does the Department expect to conduct that review? Will the feedback from such a review be made available to the Committee?
  79. Mrs Bell: We are in negotiations with the inspectorate to establish the programme for next year. Obviously, organisations that are new to Northern Ireland will be included in that. The inspectorate works on a programme of rolling inspections and also suggests ideas for inspection to the Department. All that information can be made available to the Committee.
  80. The Deputy Chairperson: What is the Department’s role in and relationship to the Learning and Skills Development Agency? The website is unclear about that.
  81. Mrs Bell: We have been in a relationship with the Learning and Skills Development Agency for some time. The preparation for that started following the incorporation of the colleges in 1999. At that time, colleges left the control of the boards and there was no support for them, either in curriculum or in staffing. The Department of Education examined the support that was given to further education colleges — rather than to training organisations —in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland. Quite a lot of work was done at that time. The assessment was made that if the Learning and Skills Development Agency in England set up an arm in Northern Ireland, its expertise would provide the best possible support. A similar model was adopted in Wales. The English body has changed somewhat, and the organisation there is now called the Learning and Skills Network. However, because the brand was so widely understood in Northern Ireland, we kept the original name — the Learning and Skills Development Agency. We have informed the Learning and Skills Development Agency that although that arrangement was fine in the early days, given that we have now extended the support to our training organisations, it is likely that DEL will go out to contract for this support. Therefore, we will have to bid for the contracts, and whether we win them remains to be seen.
  82. We currently have a memorandum of understanding and a service level agreement with the LSDA.
  83. The Deputy Chairperson: Is next year the earliest that any reviews can take place?
  84. Mrs Bell: Do you mean the reviews of Training for Success?
  85. The Deputy Chairperson: Yes.
  86. Mrs Bell: No. Unlike our policy on any other programme, given that there has been a great deal of controversy Training for Success, we have committed to an ongoing review of it and to making any necessary changes. In fact, we have had discussions with the inspectorate in order that it can help us. The inspectorate will consider not only quality, but it will examine other aspects that it thinks affect the programme. Therefore, we will not wait for a year.
  87. The Deputy Chairperson: The Committee needs a formal line of communication about that. You need to keep the Committee informed of that issue.
  88. Mrs Bell: We will keep you informed.
  89. Mr McClarty: The systems that are in place to maintain quality seem to be rigorous. In the event of an organisation consistently failing to reach or maintain the required quality, what sanctions or penalties are in place? Has the Department had to use those sanctions and penalties in the past?
  90. Mrs Kerr: The contract enables us to take action when an organisation fails to maintain the quality standards. We have the power to end the contract with the deliverer. Indeed, we have done that in the past.
  91. Mr McClarty: Would you — or have you — ever been able to recoup some of the money from the financial aspect of a contract?
  92. Mrs Kerr: We pay on achievement, so the manner in which we pay against contracts or against milestones has not arisen. Therefore, we pay when a contract has been delivered to a certain specification. The Department has the power to recoup money; however, as yet, that situation has not arisen.
  93. Mr Newton: A great deal has been made about the contractual arrangements with Carter and Carter plc, and you have told us how that situation is being monitored. Although Carter and Carter plc has been mentioned, several other contracts exist, and I imagine that the same observational monitoring occurs with all the organisations that have been awarded a contract. I presume that monitoring occurs across the board, regardless of whether an organisation experiences financial problems, or, indeed, as David has just mentioned, whether it is about the delivery of quality. I do not want Carter and Carter plc to think that it is being singled out in any way, shape or form. As you have rightly pointed out, that company is not in difficulty and there is currently nothing financially wrong with that company.
  94. One of the big criticisms of the Jobskills programme was the cost of the job that was delivered. It was thought that only 13% or 14% of the people who entered that programme actually got a full-time job at the end of their training. The cost of that was thought to be approximately £26,000 for every job that was gained. I am not sure whether those figures are exactly right, but they are not too far off the mark.
  95. What does the Department expect the job cost or success of Training for Success to be? Would you expect each trainee to gain full-time employment across the range of levels?
  96. Mrs Bell: First, the apprenticeship programme means that the apprentice will be employed from day one.
  97. Mr Newton: Would you expect that 100% of the apprentices would get or maintain full-time employment at the end of their apprenticeship?
  98. Mrs Bell: The Electrical Training Trust, which is our flagship programme, has a success rate of over 80%.
  99. Mr Newton: Therefore, 80% would be the benchmark.
  100. Mrs Bell: If we in Northern Ireland are serious about upskilling and about maintaining a skilled workforce, the apprenticeship programme must have exactly the same status for a young person as studying for A levels, or, indeed, going to college to complete a further education course.
  101. Therefore, we must aim at a 75% to 80% success rate. That is where quality improvement in the organisation, the Education and Training Inspectorate, the Department for Employment and Learning, our contracting managers, and LSDA are so important.
  102. We have explained that there are four strands in the other programmes, which have been designed for those young people who are furthest from the labour market and who face significant barriers. The cost of them getting a job will be a significantly higher than we would expect for young people who do not have a job and who are not ready to take up an apprenticeship but who could get a job after a year’s training and work experience at regular intervals. Although I do not have the figures on that at present, I can forward them to the Committee at a later date. Training for Success is not a one-size-fits-all programme; that is the mistake that we made with the Jobskills programme.
  103. Mr Newton: That would be useful information to have.
  104. The Deputy Chairperson: As there are no other indications that any other member wishes to speak —
  105. Mr Attwood: I apologise, Mr Deputy Chairperson. Would it be possible to furnish the Committee with an anonymised copy of the standard contract that is awarded to the training organisations? I am sure that there are variations on that contract, but can the Committee have a copy of what you consider to be the most appropriate model?
  106. Although Carter and Carter plc is still trading, have you asked the Education and Training Inspectorate — even at this early stage — to inspect the way in which the company is fulfilling the terms of the contract?
  107. Mrs Bell: We have asked the Education and Training Inspectorate, as a matter of priority, to carry out informal inspections. They have inspection days when specialists, or district inspectors, go out to organisations. We had a full day’s session with the inspectorate, and we have asked it to pay particular attention to new organisations.
  108. Mr Attwood: How will that pan out over the next weeks and months as regard the new organisations and Carter and Carter plc in particular?
  109. Mrs Kerr: The contract is another aspect of the matter. Our contract managers have met already all the people who are delivering contracts in order to explain the guidelines and to ensure that those are fully understood so that they know what are expectations are. Therefore, the standard contract and the guidelines make up the contractual relationship.
  110. Our contract managers have been in close contact with Carter and Carter plc, in particular to ensure that at the beginning of the contract it was ready to go. Therefore, we already have a history of discussions and meetings with that company. Close monitoring of the implementation of the contract will continue so that we can be assured of the kinds of numbers that are performing. That, together with the inspections, will decide our view.
  111. As we have said, we have taken a risk-based approach to the programme. Our initial focus will be on those who are new to operating those systems with us — including Carter and Carter plc. It will also include those who have newly acquired contracts, as well as those who have past experience. For example, some organisations had a contract with us under the old Jobskills programme but are now operating under Training for Success. If their organisation is due for an inspection, they will be prioritised. Therefore, we have a programme that matches risk against our inspection regime.
  112. Mrs Bell: We work very closely with the Education and Training Inspectorate, from whom we receive feedback. The inspector who has been assigned to us is based in the Department. Equally, if an inspector has a concern about an organisation — not necessarily Carter and Carter plc — there are several ways in which they can get that information to us. They always write a report for the file. If they had serious concerns about a particular organisation, they would share them with us. However, we would not receive run-of-the mill information.
  113. Mr Attwood: Are inspectors highlighting matters in respect of the new contracts, five weeks into the new regime?
  114. Mrs Bell: No. I am not —
  115. Mrs Kerr: They are not highlighting any material issues. Some small matters are being raised, but they are not hugely significant. Some of the issues relate to the guidelines and how people are interpreting them. We are being given some early indications about the length of time that young people are with employers and how long they are off the job. Therefore, those types of issues have been raised already, and we are dealing with those in individual organisations.
  116. Mr Attwood: Moving to the far end of the contract, under the most recent grading assessment, 20% of trained providers did not get a grade 1 or a grade 2. Given that the Audit Office said that the Department did not impose penalties or sanctions, and given that Mrs Bell said that the Department has not opted to remove or suspend contracts, what measures have been taken against the 20% of providers who did not receive a grade 1 or a grade 2?
  117. Mrs Bell: The Department has taken action against organisations that, after a follow-up inspection, did not show significant improvement. The 20% that I mentioned were not unsatisfactory; I was merely citing grade 1 and grade 2 as the top grades. Regardless of whether an organisation is awarded a grade 1, there is still room for improvement. We expect the inspectorate’s response on a grade 1 provider to detail its areas of weaknesses. There are always weaknesses, and always room for improvement. The inspectorate pays particular attention to the organisations that get below a grade 2. In the first year after an inspection, and before the follow-up, the inspectorate will carry out a number of informal visits to make sure that action is being taken. If, during that time, the inspectorate were to inform the Department that those providers were not taking their situation seriously or that things had got worse, the Department would act — and it has done so in other areas. There is no reason to doubt that it would not take action.
  118. As we say in every document, our prime responsibility is not the organisation: it is the young people or adults going through the organisation. We regard them as the people to whom we are responsible.
  119. Mr Attwood: Whatever measures were taken against those of the 20% who were failing, they were short of suspension or the loss of a contract.
  120. Mrs Bell: The contracts were taken away in the case of two organisations that were not up to standard. I do not want the Committee to think that the entire 20% were unsatisfactory: that is not the case.
  121. Mr Attwood: You will not be able to answer my final question, so please send the information to the Committee. Who, from the 80% of training providers who got grade 1 and grade 2 and who bid for contracts over the recent procurement exercise, were unsuccessful in their contract bid?
  122. Mr Newton: Acting in my capacity as a politician, I remember doing an exercise on Jobskills, and I am sure that you were at the meeting with Will Haire. We were concerned about the lack of input from the top 100 companies in Northern Ireland, and when we surveyed the companies, many of them said that they did not know that they were eligible to take part. In respect of the quality assurance of the programme, most of the top 100 companies will be likely to give a better quality base from which to start. Has any work been done to penetrate that quality of company?
  123. Mrs Bell: It would be wrong of me to say that any specific work had been done on that. When we launched the Training for Success strategy, we attempted to significantly raise its profile by engaging with the Institute of Directors and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). However, unless Nuala knows something about this, I am not aware that any specific initiatives were undertaken with the top 100 companies in Northern Ireland. However, that is not a bad idea.
  124. Mr McCausland: In its 2005 report, the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts outspokenly and repeatedly stated that inspections had shown that the Department had been taken for a ride but that it did nothing about it. Is there any indication that previously failing companies that had not had their contracts terminated are providers in the new regime?
  125. Mrs Bell: I will not give a definitive answer to that question because, as sure as I say that they are not providers, someone will point out one that is. We must check.
  126. Quality was one criterion that we took into consideration. During the tendering process, it would have been lovely to have insisted that companies produce evidence of a grade 1 or grade 2 inspection report. However, that was not possible under European legislation, which required us to open the process to organisations that were not subject to inspections. Therefore, companies were required to produce other evidence to demonstrate their quality. Although I hope that the answer to your question is no, I cannot say that such companies are not involved, but we will find out.
  127. Mr McCausland: It would be excellent if you could come back to us with your findings.
  128. The Deputy Chairperson: There appears to be no further questions. In order to provide feedback, the Committee will ask the Clerk to instigate formal communications with the Department about review processes. I also point out to members that the Education and Training Inspectorate will brief the Committee on 24 October.
  129. I thank Catherine Bell and Nuala Kerr for attending today’s meeting and for answering questions about Carter and Carter plc and about quality improvement. Thank you both very much.

24 October 2007

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Paul Butler
Ms Anna Lo
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Basil McCrea
Mr Robin Newton

Witnesses:

Mr John Baird
Mr Paul McAlister
Miss Marion Matchett
Mr Gerry Murray

Education and Training Inspectorate

  1. The Chairperson (Ms S Ramsey): I welcome the witnesses to the Committee this morning, and I thank them for providing us with papers. This is a key briefing session on the Education and Training Inspectorate’s general role in the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), but, more specifically, on the vital role that it will have on the early feedback on Training for Success, which the Committee is closely monitoring.
  2. Given that Training for Success is part of the formal work stream for the Committee, and given that we will eventually publish a report on it, I have asked for this session to be recorded by Hansard. I remind members and the public to switch off their mobile phones. Mine is already switched off.
  3. I will now hand over to the Education and Training Inspectorate officials, who will give us a 10 to 15 minute presentation. I will then open up the session for questions and members’ comments. Thank you for attending.
  4. Miss Marion Matchett (Education and Training Inspectorate): Good morning everyone. Thank you for the invitation to attend. We look forward to working with the Committee now and in the future, and we are delighted to be here.
  5. For the first 10 or 15 minutes of the meeting we will set our work in context by outlining what we do. The Education and Training Inspectorate provides services for the Department and works closely with three other Departments. Although today we are primarily concerned with the work that relates to DEL, it is important to remember that our work goes across from the Department of Education (DE) and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL).
  6. I will take the Committee briefly through the chief inspector’s report, which we published in April 2007. I will also outline what we have done to bring the findings to the attention of others, and I will describe briefly the DEL’s response to the report. We are conscious of the volume of reading that the Committee has to do, and therefore we have not provided copies of the report or the executive summary. However, we are delighted to leave copies of those documents with the Committee or make them available if members wish to have them.
  7. If it is acceptable, I will take the Committee briefly through the paper and leave time for members’ questions, which are more important.
  8. The Chairperson: That is fine. Thank you.
  9. Miss Matchett: The chief inspector’s report covers inspection of almost 1,500 organisations, some of which are the responsibility of the three Departments that I named.
  10. Turning to page 2 of our paper, three main issues arise that cut across the responsibilities of the three Departments. The first is: trying to ensure that the Department is helping all learners to reach their full potential, and looking at the programmes that the Department undertakes in order to do that. We have named the second key theme “connecting better for learners”. Organisations that support learning, training and development need to work better together to ensure that they provide a range of opportunities for young people. That relates to the difficulties that many young people are presenting in colleges and training organisations. Connecting better is about urging training organisations to work better with community groups and for departmental groups to work together in the interests of young people. The third theme is about leading at a time of change. It is about the many issues that face those who are leading organisations through change and the issues with which they must deal at the front line.
  11. As shown on the third page of our paper, the chief inspector’s report looked at the positive and the less positive messages from inspection. We gave credit to the sectors that do a particularly good job, and we looked for improvement in areas that do not. We looked in particular at special educational needs and at what is being done to help those young people who are not achieving as they should or who are presenting with difficulties. The worrying trend in learner achievement is the many young people who are presenting to training organisations and to colleges with health- and mental-health-related issues. We considered what the colleges and the organisations can do to help. We looked at how colleges and training organisations contribute to educating the whole person, which refers to making those young people able to be contributors to society and the economy, and making them feel that, when they leave their college or training organisation, their education is only beginning — they can become learners for life.
  12. On the theme of connection, the report examined the importance of providing coherent services for young people. We looked at how the Departments are managing high-level initiatives and how the different organisations that provide learning and development collaborate and work together in the interests of young people.
  13. Under the third theme, we looked at the definition of roles and responsibilities at a time of change. We looked for: clarity and direction in the programmes; agreement as to desirable learning outcomes in the organisations that were inspected; and what we believe planning for successful learning looks like.
  14. The chief inspector’s previous report of almost three years ago identified recurring themes that need to be addressed. We looked at: diversity and mutual understanding; special educational needs; improving achievement; leadership and management; information and communication technology (ICT) and information and learning technology (ILT); and improving learning and teaching. When the report was published in April 2007, we examined what we had said almost three years ago, and we tracked any progress and improvement. We asked what the sectors, groups and Departments had done since the previous report was published.
  15. Paragraph 3·6 of our paper describes how we looked at the additional challenges that the sector is currently facing. We also raised issues that relate to: pastoral care and child protection; the further improvement of education and training; governance arrangements; demographics and sustainability; educational provision for those aged 14 to 19; and careers education information, advice and guidance.
  16. The last part of paragraph 3·7 deals with what the inspectorate is doing in order to bring the main findings of the report to the attention of others. We viewed the publication of the report in April as merely the beginning of the process, and, since then, we have shared the report with the DEL executive board and with those who support learning and teaching in the further education (FE) and training sectors. Indeed, we will be in Limavady tonight, where we will begin a series of six conferences that will take place throughout the Province and in which we will share the main findings of the chief inspector’s report with lecturers, teachers and trainers. Therefore, we are bringing the findings to others and sharing with them the improvements that we think need to be made.
  17. Annex 1 illustrates the key findings that relate to the work for which DEL has responsibility. In our inspection reports, we present our findings in two distinct ways. First, we look at the positive features of the system, and secondly, we examine what we call “areas for development”. The generally positive comments that we have made about education and training are listed at the top of the table in annex 1. The section entitled “areas for development” describes the issues that we have raised with the DEL board and with those who support learning and teaching in the further education and training sectors.
  18. Key recurring themes and matters that need to be improved in education and training are discussed in annex 2 of the paper. Under the heading “Diversity and Mutual Understanding”, we state that there is a need for more effective teaching strategies and more co-ordinated support. FE and training must address equal opportunities and cultural diversity more effectively, and those who are preparing to become teachers and lecturers need to have more contact with those who are of different community backgrounds.
  19. We have looked at the progress that has been made in special educational needs over two years. However, there is a need for FE providers to liaise with schools on the transitional arrangements for those young people who are transferring from post-primary schools into college. Further education providers must also consider alternative education provision (AEP) for those young people who attend neither schools nor college.
  20. The second issue that we raised under the heading of “Special Educational Needs” is the need for more professional development for those teachers who work with young people who face difficulties and barriers to learning.
  21. The inspectorate has raised the issue of improving achievement with all three Departments. Improving achievement is facilitated by intervening early to ensure that young people do not enter the system at a disadvantage. Parents, families and communities are encouraged to intervene at an early stage to ensure that children succeed from their earliest days so that by the time that they reach further education and training, measures will already exist to help them become successful.
  22. In order to improve education and training, we recommend that colleges and training organisations monitor and evaluate provisions better and evaluate how well interventions are working. For example, we are examining how well programmes that have been set up to improve student achievement are performing, and we are asking again for better inter-agency co-operation, particularly for those young people who are from disadvantaged communities. There must also be greater flexibility between sectors, that is, for those who move from school through to AEP, to training and to further education.
  23. In the leadership and management section of our paper, we have noted that there has been some improvement in the quality of planning in the colleges since the previous report. However, leadership and management in the New Deal programme is neither what we want it to be nor is it as good as it should be. We will encourage those organisations to move towards self-evaluation and self-reflection, leading to improvement.
  24. Although significant funds have been given to ICT and ILT, the programmes for and the provision of those tools are not sufficiently embedded. The excellent practice that we have seen in some places must be disseminated to other colleges.
  25. As regards improving teaching and learning, we would like to see better provision for the individual needs of some of the young people and an improvement in the quality of some of the provision.
  26. The last section of our paper, annex 3, examines the additional challenges that have emerged since the chief inspector’s previous report was published. The quality improvement strategy is DEL’s response to the request — and the requirement — for improvement in education and training. That section examines what the Department has done since the inspectorate commented on the need to improve quality. I understand that the strategy has already been presented to the Committee.
  27. On the issue of governance, it is the inspectorate’s view that governors, who give their time on a voluntary basis, need more support and training — particularly in areas of legislation, equality, disability, and for those who work with vulnerable adults — in order that they will be well placed to support the improvement of colleges and training organisations.
  28. We examine the effect that the demographic decline in the general population has had on some colleges and training organisations. We also examine the effect that newcomers — people who come into the workplace from elsewhere — have on the population and the opportunities that their arrival provides for colleges and training organisations.
  29. We are looking at some developments on careers provision for those who are aged 14 to 19. We are examining the relationship and links that exist between DE and DEL in the work for 14- to 19-year olds, and we are asking for greater co-operation and coherence in the learning programmes for individual young people.
  30. The final section concerns careers education and guidance. We have found wide variation in both programme content and the time that is allocated to them. Many young people do not have access to an appropriate mix of careers education and guidance. There is inadequate co-operation and co-ordination. However, the Committee will be familiar with the new joint policy, which looks at career education, information, advice and guidance. We also highlight the need to have more accurate labour-market information about the areas that can support employment and training for young people.
  31. The final part of the paper, annex 4, gives the Committee a brief overview of the inspectorate’s work and organisational details. Our organisation profile shows that, as I said, we work across three Departments, and we also provide managing inspectors who work with and manage the inspectorate. We have given the Committee the names of all our colleagues in the inspectorate, and, just for members’ information, all the people who work in the inspectorate are home based, by which I mean that our colleagues live and work throughout the Province. Many of them have regional or specialist responsibilities for particular areas of the curriculum.
  32. Paul McAlister is our assistant chief inspector, and he is a member of DEL’s executive board. Two managing inspectors work in that Department. That sort of arrangement also exists in the other two Departments, and that means that we can provide specialist support to the Department in the development of its policies but, more importantly, in the evaluation of the outcomes of policies.
  33. I am conscious, Ms Ramsey, that I have gone through our paper fairly quickly, but we thought that it would be more helpful if we allowed time for members’ questions. We will be happy to provide further information and details on any points that I have raised, particularly on the reports.
  34. The Chairperson: Thank you for your presentation and for the paper that you sent to the Committee; it was very useful. I will ask about several issues, and I will then open the discussion to my Deputy Chairperson and other members.
  35. You will have heard me talk earlier about Training for Success. Did the inspectorate play any role in the development of that programme following the criticism that was levelled at Jobskills?
  36. Miss Matchett: I will ask Gerry to answer that question; he has been involved in the detail of the Training for Success programme. We will concentrate today on the early stages of the evidence gathering today, and Gerry will outline how we have been involved and what we plan to do.
  37. Mr Gerry Murray (Education and Training Inspectorate): We are conscious of the criticisms of the Jobskills programme, and I am involved in the committees that considered its replacement, which is Training for Success. However, the implementation of that policy remains strictly DEL’s responsibility. The level 1 programmes were the result of pilot initiatives that were driven by the inspectorate. For example, the previous access programme, which was level 1, did not suit all trainees, particularly those with low levels of literacy and numeracy.
  38. Therefore, the pilot access programme was based on personal development and sought to help the progress of the cohort of young people who were unlikely to achieve NVQ level 1. The new programme recognised that there was a cohort of young people who were unlikely to be successful under the original Jobskills specification. That influenced the Training for Success model at the NVQ level 1 programme. We now have a new personal development programme that mirrors closely the pilot Jobskills Access programme, and we also have a skills programme the objective of which is that young people should aim towards attaining NVQ level 1. The inspectorate was influential in that respect.
  39. The apprenticeship programmes that have emerged require young people to be based in the workplace and to have been offered a job before they were permitted to start. That involved workplace learning and assessment and a framework including essential skills. The inspectorate has supported those programmes and still does.
  40. The level 2 pre-apprenticeship programme has emerged. That is a one-year programme for those young people who have been unable to find employment immediately. That perhaps would have been a different situation than the inspectorate may have envisaged.
  41. However, it is early days, and Training for Success is an attempt to address the issues that arose round Jobskills.
  42. The Chairperson: OK. We will wait to see what happens, and we will come back to that.
  43. Miss Matchett: I want to pick you up on your point about the Committee waiting to see what happens. The inspectorate’s advice will be based on our observation and evaluation of those programmes that are on the front line. We are in the same position as the Committee, in that we will need evidence. We will have to make visits, write reports, and carry out inspections before being in the position to be able to say how well the programmes are working.
  44. The Chairperson: On that point, it may be useful to take on board that this Committee is going to scrutinise the process. I would appreciate your sending any relevant information to the Committee.
  45. The other major significant change in FE was the merger of the colleges. Is there any feedback on how that is working?
  46. Mr Paul McAlister (Education and Training Inspectorate): My point on the mergers is, to an extent, an echo of what Marion said about having to wait and see. As the Committee realises, the colleges have just merged, and, in fact, it could be said that the mergers are still happening. Although senior posts have been filled, there is still a degree of integration of organisations in following the new area-based college corporate status that they aim for.
  47. Therefore, the inspectorate will not be in a position to comment on how well the mergers have gone until we have observed practice in the new area-based colleges. In recognition of the pressures that are on the staff and on the organisation, we have scaled down dramatically the inspection programme in FE this year, because we acknowledge that the colleges have much work to do with staff without having to be accountable for a developing situation. After this year, however, there will be institutional and specialist inspections and surveys that will provide feedback on the effectiveness of the new colleges’ work.
  48. Mr Spratt: Marion has said that there has been some improvement in the New Deal programme in a majority of the FE colleges. However, she also said that the New Deal programme is not as good as it should be and that leadership and management of the programme has deteriorated. That is worrying. Could you elaborate on those comments?
  49. Mr Murray: New Deal programmes are contracted to 26 consortia. The numbers that are involved in some of those consortia are very low. In the past year, and the year prior to that, there was a visible decline in quality of the provision of the New Deal programmes. That is due to the fact that the cohort entering New Deal has more complex problems, such as literacy and numeracy difficulties. The management of the 26 consortia, which was set up seven or eight years ago, is dealing with a much more difficult cohort. The difficulty is that leadership and management skills are needed, but some organisations find that they are not available.
  50. Therefore, leaders and managers find it increasingly difficult, in large colleges and in some of the community providers, to cope with that increasingly complex cohort, many of whom are starting on New Deal programmes for a second or third time. That is the crux of the problem. A cohort keeps returning to New Deal programme, and they are people who, increasingly, need more help. Therefore, one gets a more intense group of people each time and as each year goes on. Many community groups were set up to deal with large numbers of unemployed people, perhaps, seven or eight years ago. The complex cohort is therefore the crux of the issue. The ability of the leaders and managers to deal with such problems, to self-evaluate, and to devise improvement plans is at the crux of their effectiveness in leading and improving a programme.
  51. Miss Matchett: Increasingly, our focus in inspection means that we are looking at leadership and management as a key issue. We want to help move organisations forward and help them to improve. We see leadership as a key factor in improvement. Unlike in the past, sections of our report will now directly focus on how well an organisation is placed to advance the improvement plan. The issue with New Deal is that some people are not sufficiently well placed to take forward the improvement plan for young people.
  52. Mr Butler: Thank you very much for your report. Annex 3 deals with additional challenges. I know, Paul, that the annex also refers to courses that are being offered to the 14- to 19-years-old age bracket. I taught previously in a further education college. There has been a lot of criticism over the years about apprenticeships and other courses that have been delivered in FE colleges to that age group. The question has been asked about what, exactly, students get out of those courses when they leave college. Do they get a job?
  53. There has been a lot of criticism over the years; courses such as City and Guilds and NVQs have been taught in the past, and other courses have been delivered in FE colleges. I know that you are focusing on what you expect of post-primary schools and FE colleges. However, there is the criticism that a lot of kids who undertake those courses do not actually get jobs. They may get a job in the first year of leaving college, such as an apprenticeship. Do you understand what I am getting at? You are looking at the FE colleges, particularly those in which 24 subjects are offered, and 27 between — I always forget what the different age groups are. I agree with what you say about the gap between post-primary schools and FE colleges not having been closed sufficiently.
  54. There has been criticism. In this age of trying to match skills to the economy, many kids are leaving further education colleges with a cynical attitude to gaining any qualifications. Do you follow my point?
  55. Miss Matchett: That is an important point. I will talk about the general work that the Education and Training Inspectorate is doing, and John will talk about points emerging from FE colleges. Increasingly, we recognise the very issue that you have raised, and the inspectorate now carries out area-based inspections, which look at provision for young people in particular localities. Our most recent inspections were in Newry and in Coleraine. We asked students what it is like to be a learner in a school, in a further education college, in a community group, or in youth provision. The reports that we publish are about provision for learners in any given locality — they are not simply about specific colleges or schools. We hope to examine the experiences of young people in community groups. We are conscious of the question that was asked about transition, so John will discuss what happens to young people when they leave college.
  56. Mr John Baird (Education and Training Inspectorate): With regard to our inspection framework and how it is developing to match the Department’s strategic aims in terms of meeting skills needs, our inspection framework has begun to evolve and to focus much more on opportunities and focus much more on that key aim. We stood back from the inspection regime to let the new structures bed in, but that is not to say that we are not working with the colleges in ensuring that the Department, the inspectorate and the colleges move towards that goal. The sector skills councils work with the Department and the qualification frameworks they develop for the industries, and the sectors that they represent will be on the agenda this year and beyond. That is the work that we will build into the inspection framework to reflect upon whether those colleges are delivering on the qualification that the local economy and even the global economy need. We must be focused on what the sector skills councils develop in terms of qualification frameworks.
  57. Mr Newton: I thank Miss Matchett for the report; it is easy to understand, and there is a great deal of clarity in it. John mentioned employer engagement, but how do you address the quality of training that is offered to apprentices who are on placement? That has not been mentioned in the chief inspector’s report.
  58. The Education and Training Inspectorate works with the Department for Employment and Learning, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department of Education. What is your observation of how those Departments’ strategies work on a day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis to deliver that quality of employer engagement, particularly if a demand-led approach of training has been opted for?
  59. Mr Baird: From the FE side and the training side, I have mentioned already that our inspection framework is focused on improving quality and raising standards. We have reviewed the framework to ensure that it has a much sharper focus on employer engagement on the economic agenda. Marion mentioned that the Education and Training Inspectorate, in tandem with the Department, is encouraging all the colleges, as they move towards their area-based provision, to be more self-evaluative. The inspectorate will then examine those assessments and decide on the colleges capacity to deliver on that.
  60. Our evidence will be mirrored on the work already developed through the training programmes: the same inspection framework for both FE and work-based learning will have the same key focus on attempting to ensure the focus is on employer-based aspects of the programmes. The employer-based aspect that Robin Newton mentioned is as good as it can possibly be. If it was not, we would say so. We grade the arrangements accordingly, and if they are not good we deliver those hard messages.
  61. Mr Newton: Is there a danger that the individual’s training will have been completed by the time that you have completed your evaluation?
  62. Mr Murray: There are different inspection models for work-based training that involve cumulative contracted programmes with large organisations, and they are evaluated over time. A particular training provider might offer complex programmes such as Jobskills and New Deal, or we might look at the organisations, such as Bombardier Short Bros, which is providing high standards of training, that provide only one form of apprenticeship programme. Furthermore, district inspectors from the Education and Training Inspectorate visit their respective districts and compile information on the situation. In addition to the individual inspections, the scrutiny inspections involve evaluating the self-evaluations and development plans of training providers. DEL is contractually obliged to participate in that, and the inspectors are also involved. District inspectors set a valuation report and development plan: they scrutinise, grade and judge that before reporting back annually to every provider in Northern Ireland. Therefore, the internal inspection process, which is matched to the external, is continual. However, one must be careful. Training providers can change dramatically, and the continual monitoring process is necessary.
  63. Our inspectors monitor, evaluate and assess apprenticeships in the workplace. As well as the different forms of inspection, there are large survey inspections, one of which is ongoing in construction. Clearly, monitoring, evaluating and gathering evidence and engaging with employers in the workplace are fundamental parts of our inspections.
  64. Miss Matchett: All the indicators that we use in our inspections and in our monitoring visits are in the public domain. Therefore, the organisations that are being evaluated and inspected will be aware already of the quality indicators. It is an open and, as Mr Murray said, regular process.
  65. The second part of Mr Newton’s question referred to the different Departments’ strategies and our work with them. I will concentrate on our work with the Department for Employment and Learning as it will be of most interest to the Committee. The chief inspector’s report that was published on 24 April covered the period up to 2006, and, due to its interests in improvements, soon after that the Department for Employment and Learning asked the inspectorate to examine what the Department had done since then.
  66. Last week, Mr McAlister reported to the DEL board on what has been happening since April 2007 with the issues that were raised and with DEL’s proposed improvement agenda. The board formally requested that report, and the Department for Employment and Learning has requested that we provide a similar annual progress report, even though the chief inspector’s report is published biennially.
  67. The Chairperson: Can the Committee receive a copy of that report? I am keen to see any recommendations that you might make to the Department.
  68. Miss Matchett: Mr McAlister presented the report to the DEL board last week.
  69. Mr P McAlister: Our protocol says that I should speak to the permanent secretary of the Department before agreeing to your Committee receiving a copy of the report. I do not anticipate a problem, but I was requested by the board to account for the work that we had done in helping promote improvement, and that is the context in which the report was given. I will have to clear with the permanent secretary whether she is happy that the report is given to you, but I do not anticipate any problems.
  70. Miss Matchett: It might be helpful for you to know that when we met with about 300 support staff who support improvement in education and training — including in schools and further education colleges — the representative from the Department for Employment and Learning informed the attendees of what the Department had done as a result of the findings of the chief inspector’s report. As Mr McAlister said, we picked those issues up at the board meeting of senior departmental staff.
  71. Mr Newton asked about strategy and about what happens in the Department. The Department takes inspection findings very seriously, and, in fact, it would like to receive them more regularly than would some of the institutions that are inspected. The Department is determined to improve, and that can be evidenced by the fact that its strategies include the word “success”. It is about improving success and outcomes for young people. Therefore, our relationship with the Department is based on monitoring progress, identifying areas for improvement, and working towards further improving the strategies.
  72. Mr B McCrea: I sense that the wheels are going round but there is no forward motion. Inadequate literacy and numeracy skills were among the areas for development that your report mentioned. What standard are you setting? New guidelines about achieving level 2, as opposed to level 1, in English and numeracy are soon to be published. Figures are bandied about that suggest that 25% of people here cannot read and write effectively. What is the problem? How should that problem be addressed? Dealing with inadequate literacy and numeracy is a fundamental task of this Committee. In that context, you made a general point about educational under-attainment.
  73. What is the difference between leadership and good management? I am sure that we all have our own views on that, but I am interested to know your views and how you intend to measure it, given that you will have to report on it.
  74. Finally, there is a fundamental problem in matching skills and educational attainment with what the needs either of the economy or of our young people. I know that that encompasses other matters, such as careers advice, but I am not overly convinced that sector skills councils have the necessary focus to be able to match up those needs. Do you have an adequate set of standards or criteria on which you can assess whether there is forward motion, or, as Mr Newton said, will young people feel that it is not worth being trained for a job because it will make no difference to their lives?
  75. Miss Matchett: You asked three questions, the first of which was about literacy and numeracy, the second on leadership, and the third was about skills and preparing young people for work.
  76. I began by saying that the report covers three Departments and that the literacy and numeracy element that we pick up is not specific to the work of the Department for Employment and Learning. The literacy and numeracy issues on which we pick up begin much earlier than when young people go into further education or training. If you remember, we had this conversation with another Committee. We are considering how young people can succeed earlier in literacy and numeracy in a way that places them in a much stronger position to take advantage of the courses and the programmes that are offered in further education and training. We are in no doubt that literacy and numeracy standards need to improve, and I believe that the Department of Education officials who made a presentation to their Assembly Committee would fully accept that.
  77. Mr B McCrea: You are having to judge what the real issues are in relation to literacy and numeracy. For example, an international report on the matter was published in 2002. Even with that report, I am still not sure what people mean when they say that we have a problem. What is the problem? Is it improving? It must be measurable in some way. I agree that the issue is a cross-departmental one, but this Committee will look towards addressing remedial matters.
  78. The Chairperson: For members’ information, there will be a briefing on that matter on 7 November 2007.
  79. Mr B McCrea: That is super; brilliant. Thank you, Chairperson. I am not sure that I have any further questions; that has clarified matters for me.
  80. Miss Matchett: I am in your hands, Ms Ramsey. Would you like —
  81. The Chairperson: Please go ahead. I was just informing Basil that we were going to have a briefing.
  82. Miss Matchett: Mr McAlister will pick up the specific theme of literacy and numeracy. I was just trying to impress on the Committee that the chief inspector’s report is not solely a matter for the Department for Employment and Learning; the literacy and numeracy aspects of the report are about helping children to succeed much earlier, intervening much earlier, and considering community numeracy and literacy programmes that help young people to succeed earlier in their education. You have talked about waiting until children are older before dealing with those issues; that is not in line with our thinking. Our thinking is that early intervention —
  83. Mr B McCrea: I do not want to annoy the Chairperson, but I understand the arguments, and we are all in agreement about them. You work for an inspectorate the job of which is to report on levels of literacy and numeracy, what you would like the level to be, and what your starting level is. I do not want to go on to it, but at some stage I will need to know the baseline figures, what improvements there have been, or what more is required.
  84. Miss Matchett: That is no problem.
  85. Mr P McAlister: I emphasise that addressing the literacy and numeracy difficulties of young people is a complex task and is one that teachers face every day. Our inspections have drawn attention to the fact that teachers and schools alone will not solve society’s literacy and numeracy problems. We say that to each of the Departments that we advise. Obviously, we give specific advice to the different Departments, and if this were the Committee for Education, we would discuss the advice that relates to primary and post-primary education.
  86. However, it is clear that even in their early days at school children need to experience what international researchers have sometimes referred to as “failure-free education”. That will enable children to see themselves as successful learners. Therefore, we need to create — and hopefully, the revised schools curriculum will work towards this — the space for young people to find a sense of success early on. We also need to create the space so that teachers are not under too much pressure to deal with other factors. That will enable them to focus on individual children.
  87. The baggage, quite frankly, that many individual children are bringing to school — baggage that is beyond the field of education — is having a huge impact on educational attainment and progress and the effectiveness of the school in achieving those for those children.
  88. Our reports have highlighted the need for the education authorities to marshal the other agencies that can help to deal with an individual child’s situation. Those agencies might include the social services or the type of specialist help that is needed for children who, for example, are on the autistic spectrum, or children who have the specific reading difficulties that are associated with dyslexia.
  89. The inspectorate has played its part in task forces that have considered those specific problems. There have been North-South professional exchanges on issues such as behaviour, autism, and dyslexia. Those issues have a major impact on what is happening in the classroom, and on the teacher’s time that needs to be spent focusing on difficulties such as literacy and numeracy.
  90. That was a fairly general statement. However, to be honest, it is such a complex issue that unless a huge report is being considered, we will always have to talk in fairly general terms.
  91. The first point is to recognise that it is a complex issue. Secondly, it must be recognised that the revised curriculum in the school sector is attempting to address the matter. Thirdly, education on its own will not address the issue and we need to ensure that — as Marion mentioned earlier — there is a focus on collaboration and working across boundaries. There must be as good a level of collaboration as possible between the educational agencies and those other agencies that set up children for success, be it in education or in other aspects of life.
  92. Miss Matchett: If it would be helpful, we can give the Committee information on the quality indicators that we use when we are examining literacy and numeracy issues. Those are in the public domain, and schools, colleges and organisations have access to them. Indeed, John Baird has already mentioned the framework for inspection.
  93. To go back to an earlier statement, if children are not successful at school, they are prevented from being successful elsewhere. We agree that success at school is the key to success for many young people in later life, and that is the reason that we have fought so strongly for measures to deal with that. That is also the reason that we have such an interest in examining literacy and numeracy issues throughout the Departments with which we work.
  94. However, as I have said, if it would be helpful, we are happy to provide the Committee with what we call the indicators that we use when we are considering programmes and provision that contain an element of literacy and numeracy.
  95. The Chairperson: OK. That would be a help.
  96. Miss Matchett: Is the Committee happy for us leave the other two questions that we were asked?
  97. Mr B McCrea: I am happy to do that, given that we have to move on. Perhaps, however, we might just —
  98. Miss Matchett: We are happy to come back to Mr McCrea’s questions about leadership, if time allows.
  99. The Chairperson: We will take Nelson’s question first, and we can then come back to those questions.
  100. Mr McCausland: I thank the witnesses for their presentation. Annex 2 of the submission discusses key recurring themes, one of which is diversity and mutual understanding. With regard to both ethnic minority communities and the indigenous cultural diversity of Northern Ireland, will you expand on the three points that are listed under that heading?
  101. Mr P McAlister: The first point refers to the need to have more effective teaching strategies and more co-ordinated support. That would ensure that teachers recognise that diversity in our society is increasing and that teaching is not the same today as it was 10 or 15 years ago, for example. There is also a need for more co-ordinated support and work between organisations, for example, between the colleges and the other agencies that are available to advise on areas of diversity and mutual understanding.
  102. Mr McCausland: What other agencies are you thinking of in particular?
  103. Mr P McAlister: For example, an ethnic minority languages subgroup exists in the Northern Ireland Race Forum, and that advises different Departments and agencies not just on languages, but on cultural differences. Such advice deals with making someone who has a different cultural background feel at ease and helps to raise awareness of particular areas of focus within a culture. It is important that people who are entering our education system can feel part of that system and that every effort is made to make them feel that way.
  104. Mr McCausland: Does that also apply to the indigenous cultural traditions in Northern Ireland?
  105. Mr P McAlister: I expect so. By virtue of the fact that those traditions are indigenous, people should have an understanding of them and seek to increase that understanding.
  106. Miss Matchett: We publish our questionnaires and other inspection-related matters in several different languages, and we make that information available when we consult parents. At the moment, we publish in some languages in order to address the issues of particular communities and localities. Therefore, we very much recognise the need to engage with parents and to talk to children and young people about their experiences of training and working with colleges. We put a strong emphasis on those matters as part of our inspection process.
  107. Mr P McAlister: We have carried out surveys among different groups of people for whom English is a second language and among those who take classes for speakers of other languages. We have made recommendations on the basis of those survey reports, and those are being addressed by the Department.
  108. With regard to indigenous languages, which Mr McCausland mentioned, we would have —
  109. Mr McCausland: I was thinking more of indigenous cultures rather than languages.
  110. Mr P McAlister: We report on and gather evidence from inspection of what is being taught in an educational setting, In the past, we have certainly given credit when schools or other educational providers have used the culture of their area to support learning, to give a context for learning, or have brought a sense of the importance of learning to a particular area. We recognise such approaches where we feel that they enhance learning. However, sometimes it is difficult to capture the impact of culture in a way that can be evaluated. We tend to pick up on cultural input only where it helps learning.
  111. The Chairperson: Do you want to return to Basil’s questions?
  112. Miss Matchett: Yes. Basil asked about the difference between leadership and management. Definitions of leadership and management are legion.
  113. Mr B McCrea: I also asked how the Education and Training Inspectorate will measure that difference.
  114. Miss Matchett: In our inspections, we observe learning and teaching, and we have discussions with senior members of staff about their contribution to the outcomes that the young people have attained. Again, our quality indicators for leadership and management are in the public domain. We will share those indicators with the Committee, if that is helpful.
  115. There are many definitions of the difference between leadership and management, which, once expressed, generate a debate with those who do not agree. The definition by John Kotter, who teaches at Harvard, is one that I have found the easiest to remember. That definition states that managers manage complexity and that leaders manage change. I do not know whether members are in a position to decide whether that is a helpful distinction. Sometimes it is difficult for people to determine that difference when performing their roles. We are happy to share with the Committee the quality indicators that we use.
  116. For us, the most important point is that a leader has a clear sense of purpose about their organisation, a clear focus on successful outcomes for young people, and an obvious interest in working in the college, and with others in the surrounding community, to enhance the opportunities of young people and the contribution that they can make to the economy and to society. Therefore, we regard leadership as a much more inclusive process and one that moves an organisation to where the leader thinks it needs to go. However, as I mentioned, there are many definitions, and we will share with the Committee the quality indicators that we have developed in what John has called the framework for inspection.
  117. Mr B McCrea: On a serious point, whatever way that leadership is defined, it is where it is at, and defining it is difficult. My definition of leadership is not as illustrious as the Harvard one, but if the way ahead is assured, good management is needed to ensure that that is delivered efficiently and effectively. Where the way ahead is not assured, leadership builds consensus on it. I am sure that that definition could be added to an inspectorate’s document somewhere — I know that Marion has a Harvard definition; now she has mine.
  118. The Education and Training Inspectorate must find a way to measure the differences between leadership and management. The Committee needs the inspectorate’s help to tell us whether we are going in the right direction. We cannot just say that leadership is a good thing; we must say how we intend to proceed.
  119. Miss Matchett: The quality indicators that we use are concerned with how leadership relates to: the development plan of a college; the quality-improvement agenda of a college; the management of the learning resources; the links with key stakeholders; the economic engagement; external and internal communication; governance; and the quality of opportunity for staff and learners. We are happy to share those indicators with the Committee. As I have said, they are in the public domain and can be accessed by colleges and other organisations.
  120. Mr B McCrea: I would like to see those. Will the Chairperson indulge my third and final question?
  121. The Chairperson: You are dropping hints that there will be a leadership contest. [Laughter.]
  122. Mr B McCrea: Hansard should stop recording.
  123. A key factor, which other Members have mentioned, is that the skills output of our educational system does not really match the requirements of our children. We hear about sector skills councils, but they really work only for very large employers because they have control — I heard Bombardier mentioned. Most businesses in Northern Ireland are small- or medium-sized enterprises, some of which may be just emerging. How will we manage producing the skills that we need, not only now but in the future?
  124. Mr Baird: Your point about the sector skills councils is correct, but we will build that into the context of our inspection programme in the further education system.
  125. We will examine what those colleges will do for the local economy. If they are not addressing, through the curriculum, the needs of their own local economy and the skill needs of the area, we would make those types of evaluations and comments, and that would hopefully affect the provision that a particular college makes in its curriculum for that geographic or economic area. Given that it is early days, few sector skills councils have their qualification frameworks in situ. We hope that a more focused curriculum and programme of training qualifications comes from those, which both training providers and FE providers can take and begin to address what those skills are. If we find, in any particular inspection activity, whether it is for training or FE, that they do not match that, we will report that to the Department, and we will also report on the leadership and management aspect of it.
  126. Mr B McCrea: When answering my previous two questions, Miss Matchett said that the indicators used for leadership and management are in the public domain and that she would send those to the Committee. Will the standards that that the Education and Training Inspectorate apply to skills matching be produced in a similar fashion for education and training? When will those standards be available? You have to judge against a criteria so that you can say that it is working. I want to know what the criteria are, how they were arrived at, and whether you are confident that they are working.
  127. The Chairperson: Mr McCrea is the only man I know who can turn three questions into 33.
  128. Miss Matchett: Would it be helpful if we were to give the Committee a copy of our inspection framework? That shows the questions that we ask during inspection and those on which we have to report back to the college and to DEL.
  129. The Chairperson: Yes, that would be helpful.
  130. Mr B McCrea: Yes, and I am sorry, Chairperson; I did not mean to struggle in your indulgence.
  131. Mr Murray: The Education and Training Inspectorate carries out surveys with specialist teams of inspectors for specific areas. For example, a survey was recently carried out on IT, and that surveyed the problem of the considerable decline, to approximately 200 trainees, of IT apprenticeship programmes in Northern Ireland. The role of the sector skills councils was considered, and they would perhaps argue that a modern apprenticeship scheme is not the best way of meeting needs. Inspections are carried out with specialist inspectors, who are up to date in their field. We consult with employers and sector skills councils, and we make our own judgements. However, it is difficult to match provision in ICT with employer needs and anticipate future demands for NVQs in IT.
  132. Mr McCrea also raised the point about what will be needed five years from now. We are currently carrying out a major construction survey. In a sense, that will be a complex survey because it considers the Jobskills programme, Training for Success and the needs of employers and industry federations. Many vested interests and key players in the field will be asked what they need, whether they can anticipate what skills will be needed, and what the retention rates will be. The Education and Training Inspectorate does that effectively and regularly.
  133. Ms Lo: If an organisation already has the charter mark for Investors in People (IIP) status, do you take that rigorously into account when carrying out a management and leadership inspection? Would you consider that the organisation had achieved a certain mark and therefore would not have to achieve much over that standard?
  134. Miss Matchett: Any organisation can seek external accreditation. Indeed, our organisation has just completed its second assessment for a charter mark, so I am entirely in agreement with the measures that organisations take. We have a framework that we tend to use for all the organisations that we inspect. However, we also take a proportionate approach to inspection, in which, for example, depending on its previous inspection, each organisation does not have the same type of follow-up inspection. We drive our inspection strategy based on the inspection outcomes from the previous inspection. We have a follow-up inspection programme that looks at the issues that were identified, the improvements that are needed, and what is to happen. We put our grades in the public domain. The inspection grade determines the type of follow-up inspection that is necessary. Again, we can share that information with the Committee. For example, there are six grades of inspection quality standards — grades 1 to 6 — and qualitative statements for each grade, ranging from significant strengths to significant weaknesses, and these are in the public domain.
  135. The inspectorate’s activity depends entirely on the outcomes of previous inspections, and, although we are keen to talk with colleges or organisations about the quality measures that they are involved in, our inspection framework is proportionate to the findings from previous inspections.
  136. The Chairperson: We have asked Hansard to produce a record of the proceedings because this presentation is important and, further to our scrutiny of Training for Success, it will be informative.
  137. Mr Attwood: Returning to an earlier point and mindful that you were present when the Chairperson discussed further concerns about Carter and Carter Group plc, which, earlier this year, was successful in being awarded a contract in the Training for Success procurement exercise, what is the inspection regime for such organisations? Is there an early warning system that would highlight any failure to comply with a contract? When will you be in a position to provide an initial inspection report to the Department? Have you carried out any inspections in the seven or eight weeks since the contract was awarded? I have other questions, but I would like you to answer that first.
  138. Miss Matchett: Was that a single question? [Laughter.]
  139. Mr Attwood: It was.
  140. The Chairperson: From next week, I will be separating Mr Attwood and Mr McCrea.
  141. Mr Attwood: There was a single theme and many questions.
  142. Miss Matchett: I will deal with the theme, and Paul McAlister will answer the questions. An inspection is based entirely on evidence that has been gathered from direct observation. Given that evidence is based on what people actually do and is drawn from first-hand observations of learning, teaching and successes, that activity is unique. Although people may raise concerns, we do not draw speculative conclusions. We must have objective, first-hand and independent evidence, of which, accordingly, we are then able to advise the Committee, should it ask.
  143. Paul will describe the inspection regime.
  144. Mr P McAlister: I assume that you are focusing specifically on providers that are based outside Northern Ireland because they do not have a track record here. Those providers should be on the inspection schedule for the coming year, and our business-planning process has started for 2008-09; therefore, we will include those inspections. In addition, any organisation that provides training for DEL is expected to submit self-evaluation and improvement plans that identify their current quality rating and include proposals to improve it. The inspectorate will scrutinise those plans in the same way as it examines those of the training organisations, as Gerry Murray mentioned earlier. Gerry may wish to pick up on and give more detail of what is involved in that scrutiny.
  145. Mr Murray: DEL imposes a contractual requirement on all training providers to submit an annual self-evaluation report and improvement plan. Undoubtedly, that obligation will apply to those providers that have been successful in gaining a contract, including Carter and Carter Group plc. In addition, our individual district inspectors will engage with such organisations, usually as part of a planned programme of visits.
  146. Therefore, visits will be made to Carter and Carter Group plc and to all training providers in Northern Ireland. Those visits will provide running progress information. However, it is early days. There are various stages of monitoring in addition to the external inspection that is outlined.
  147. Mr Attwood: Is it the case that between now and April 2008, the only hands-on inspection that will take place with regard to Carter and Carter Group plc, or any other training provider, arising from contracts that were awarded earlier in 2007, will be those that are provided by district inspectors? Aside from the evaluation and improvement plans that are produced in-house by training organisations, will the only hands-on, on-site inspection by the Education and Training Inspectorate be provided by the district inspectors as opposed to central inspectors? The Education and Training Inspectorate has indicated that it has prepared its inspection schedule for 2008-09. I am interested to know what will happen between now and 2008.
  148. Mr Murray: There is an ongoing inspection programme for 2007-08. It started in April 2007, which was the beginning of the current business year. It was planned with DEL at a case conference in February, where the final decision was taken on which organisations should be inspected and the risks that those organisations posed.
  149. During the past six or seven weeks, the Education and Training Inspectorate has inspected three organisations, two of which have taken on Training for Success trainees. However, those trainees are mixed in with Jobskills trainees, who make up the bulk of the trainees in those organisations. Early indications are that the Training for Success trainees, who are probably the minority, are engaged in induction programmes and are, therefore, in the early stages of training. It would be difficult to stand back and give an evaluation of the Training for Success programme based upon that.
  150. I have no doubt that Carter and Carter Group plc will be on the inspection programme for several years. However, the inspectorate does not have previous experience of gathering self-evaluated quantitative data in Northern Ireland. It is very much a matter of what evidence they have used to make their judgements and to present them during the course of the year.
  151. Mr Attwood: I am a little confused. From what officials said when the matter was raised last week, I understood that there was to be an inspection programme.
  152. The Chairperson: I have just written a question on that matter. Has the Department asked the inspectorate to carry out any inspection based on the Committee’s scrutiny of Training for Success?
  153. Mr Murray: Not for the 2007-08 inspection programme. That has been scheduled for several months, but district inspections will take place that will include Training for Success activity.
  154. Mr Attwood: Subject to what officials might say — and this is not a comment about the inspectorate — it was my understanding, from what was said last week, that there would be an inspection regime. The Committee did not bore into how that would look, but officials said that there would be a regime because issues had been flagged up.
  155. Miss Matchett: I want to explain the inspection programme. Each year, the inspectorate meets the Department during the business planning process, which is generally signed off in January. The programme then begins in September. However, there is flexibility in that if the Department decides that something is a priority, it can request that an inspection be carried out. Although the plans have been completed, and the inspectorate begins inspections in September, the organisations that are inspected are often changed at request. For example, Mr Attwood mentioned that certain issues had been raised. It is quite likely that if issues were raised with the Department, it would raise them with the inspectorate and make a request.
  156. Mr Baird: I do not wish to speak for the Department, as that is not the inspectorate’s role. However, the Committee is probably aware of the Department’s quality and performance branch, which has responsibility for internal monitoring of contracts. Officials may have been referring to ongoing compliance issues right across Training for Success providers. The branch’s dedicated contract managers and assistant contract managers regularly work with all contract providers in order to ensure compliance. Therefore, the Department conducts its own internal audit on compliance.
  157. Mr Attwood: I understand that. However, in last week’s briefing, the officials relied on figures that had been provided by the inspectorate on the success of training organisations and how they had improved over the past two or three years. Although the Committee did not bore into the matter, I got the sense that part of the architecture of inspections of Training for Success contracts would be various training organisations during 2007. That was my understanding, but we will be able to clarify the matter.
  158. The second question relates to an announcement that the Minister for Employment and Learning made in the Chamber last week, during which he specified that a number of mechanisms would be established to assess training and opportunities for young people who have disabilities and special needs. Given that your submission flagged up the recurring theme of training for such people, are you aware of the Minister’s proposals, which outlined how to review training opportunities for those young people?
  159. Mr P McAlister: I am aware of it in so far as, in advance of his statement, the Minister asked me about the extent to which the inspectorate would focus on the quality of provision.
  160. Mr Attwood: That is my question. Will you assess how those proposals can be advanced, taking account of their relevance to you?
  161. Mr P McAlister: I am not in a position to assess how proposals will be implemented; however, I can comment on how we would evaluate their outworking. In the coming weeks, there will be survey of learners with specific learning difficulties and disability (SLDD) — we love acronyms. Certainly, in the next few weeks, there will be a survey of SLDD provision.
  162. The Chairperson: For the Member’s information, I included a question on that matter in the letter that I sent to the Minister for Employment and Learning about the scoping study issue.
  163. Mr P McAlister: That survey will report on that matter. The Department for Employment and Learning has asked for the survey to be built into our business plan so that it will have the information that it needs. That survey will take place, and I understand that matter will be revisited.
  164. A question was asked earlier about whether the Department for Employment and Learning asked us to carry out specific work for Carter and Carter Group plc. We work under a service-level agreement, and in the past when other priorities have come up we have been asked whether we could defer a particular piece of work in order to focus on something else. It is possible that senior officials in the Department for Employment and Learning intend to ask us to make that change.
  165. Mr Attwood: Finally, I will defer to your judgement on this matter, but over the summer I spoke to senior FE managers who indicated that the various merged colleges are at different stages of preparedness for that merger; in other words, some were hesitant and some were enthusiastic about it. For that reason, I am surprised that you have deferred reviewing the merged colleges. I appreciate that they could become overloaded; nonetheless, they are at different stages of readiness — at an advanced stage and a not-so-advanced stage — and therefore are presumably at different degrees of openness to inspection. Certain managers have indicated to me that there are more problems with the mergers than appears.
  166. Miss Matchett: The decision on when to scrutinise organisations that are merging is always important, and in this case, several different organisations with management teams are coming to work together. The inspectors may say that the organisations need a little time to begin to work well together before a formal inspection process, resulting in a published report, is implemented for organisations that are beginning to learn to work and grow as a corporate body.
  167. We have accepted that in this complex situation we will continue to organise district and specialist visits, but that we shall not undertake an institutional, or organisational, inspection during the first year.
  168. Mr P McAlister: The key point is that institutional inspection is not occurring. Other inspection activities, for example, the SLDD and other aspects of provision are being considered. We are also inspecting FE training locations. It is important to realise that for an inspection to be useful, it must be conducted in a way that gives the organisation an opportunity to account for their roles, responsibilities, and work.
  169. In circumstances in which those roles and responsibilities are not clearly identified and are still being worked out in a changing situation, we are aware that we could add to, rather than highlight or ease, any difficulties that they have. Although we are confident in the professionalism of our colleagues, we acknowledge that inspection creates some stress for the individual whose work is under scrutiny. I say that as a teacher and principal who has been inspected. Given that, we must also realise that considerable stress is involved in a merger. We must make a judgement about each case; our interest is the learners. If we impose more stress on the professionals who are charged with giving the best possible deal to learners, and we are not convinced that our inspection will necessarily give the right people with the right roles and responsibilities the opportunity to account for their work, we must put the learner first — our inspection can take a different form. As John Baird said earlier, we work closely with the colleges, but not through the model of institutional inspection. We have made that judgement, and we are confident that that decision has been made in the interests of learners. I do not know whether John wants to add to that.
  170. Mr Baird: I have nothing to add, other than to say that I work with the colleges, and there are several institutional pieces of work that are being taken forward at the moment.
  171. One key area, which you mentioned, is the different level of preparedness of the colleges. We have worked with the Department on the new outworkings of the college development planning processes. We have also worked with the Department on the infamous common inspection framework that we keep talking about. The merger has been linked to that. All the FE district inspectors will be working with all the senior management teams across the new colleges to work with them and see where they think they are in that process.
  172. It is a big task, and from our point of view, it is very resource intensive. It is probably more resource intensive than a series of six individual inspections might be in some cases. Some of the managers might think that it is no different to our inspection regime. Already, one principal has said to me that he does not see much difference in the work that is involved. We are working with the colleges to inform ourselves; we need to develop our own inspection models that fit appropriately to what those new structures look like from next year and beyond. The models that we have at the moment and that are effective for those aged 16 and over, are perhaps not as good as they could or should be. That is the reason that we have taken that route to assess where they are going. We can therefore evaluate against the new structures.
  173. Mr Spratt: Paul, you said that you are on the DEL executive board. Given that, do you take concerns about reports to that board? Can you add items to its agenda? We have had many briefings over the past number of months; indeed, we may have already had a briefing on that. However, I would like to be apprised of who sits on the executive board of the Department for Employment and Learning, so that we can have a look at its work.
  174. I would like to find out about some of the things that you have shared with us today. I also want to find out whether there is a follow-through process that ensures that recommendations are acted on at executive level and through to the Minister.
  175. Mr P McAlister: I have the opportunity to contribute to the agenda of every board meeting, and, in fact, I presented a report to the previous DEL executive board meeting, in which I stated that our inspectors got great job satisfaction knowing that the reports that they had crafted and the evidence that they had gathered is acted upon. The Department for Employment and Learning is particularly good at liaising. I will spare the blushes of John Baird, but he was seconded to DEL from the inspectorate to set up a quality-improvement strategy to ensure that the directors who are in charge of different areas of responsibility clearly understood the message of those inspection reports. There is a time gap between the inspection and the publication of the report; therefore, the official who is responsible is often ready to act on the messages of the inspection within days of the report’s publication. DEL is particularly good at taking the messages of the report and challenging us on what certain points mean in a language that they understand; sometimes we are accused of using inspectorate speak. That is helpful for us, because it creates a dialogue, and, over time, the Department understands our quality indicators and how we comment on aspects of provision.
  176. Mr Spratt: I did think about your spake, because, in annex 1, you used the words “positive features” and “areas for development”.
  177. Miss Matchett: We used to talk about “strengths” and “weaknesses”, but some people had difficulty with those terms, so now we talk about “positive features” and “areas for development”. However, I assure you that those words still mean strengths and weaknesses.
  178. Mr B McCrea: I suggest that we go back to using the words “good” and “bad”, or “success” and “failure”.
  179. The Chairperson: Thank you for your paper and for your presentation. We may come back to you on some of the issues that you raised. Given that the Training for Success programme has commenced and that the Committee will begin its work on that programme, we may come back to you for further information.
  180. Miss Matchett: Thank you for your time and for your interest in our work.
  181. The Chairperson: I take this opportunity to thank Hansard. I apologise to Hansard staff for the earlier mobile phone interference. My request was that people turn off their mobile phones.
  182. Mr Spratt: It is a bit unfair that some members do not turn off their phones whenever they are asked to do so; some of us turn ours off in the knowledge that they affect the recording equipment. Members should be a bit more considerate — they would be the first to jump if the material that we wanted recorded were not available as a result of interference from mobile phones.
  183. The Chairperson: Thank you.

28 November 2007

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Paul Butler
Ms Anna Lo
Mrs Claire McGill
Mr Robin Newton
Mr Alastair Ross

Witnesses:

Mrs Catherine Bell
Mr Des Lyness

Department for Employment and Learning

  1. The Chairperson (Ms S Ramsey): Good morning, Ms Bell and Mr Lyness. You are very welcome. Your presentation will be followed later by a briefing from the Minister, so we have a busy agenda today. We would like you to provide us with an update and then members will ask questions.
  2. Mrs Catherine Bell (Department for Employment and Learning): Thank you. We welcome the opportunity to update the Committee. As we have said on previous occasions, the Department would be reviewing the Training for Success programme on an ongoing basis; we would not wait for 52 weeks to find out how things were going.
  3. We provided the Committee with information about activities undertaken by our assistant contract managers, our contract managers and the inspectorate. We have also informed the Committee about events organised by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA). Senior departmental officials have visited some organisations to get a feel for how things are going. We have also had meetings with the further education (FE) colleges, the Construction Industry Training Board and the Construction Employers Federation (CEF). Work with the CEF is ongoing.
  4. In addition, we have arranged for training organisations outside the FE colleges to meet with departmental officials, the inspectorate and careers staff on 6 December 2007. That will be an open review with all of the organisations to find out how things are going.
  5. Prior to the introduction of Training for Success, a number of organisations expressed concern about the length of time that young people would spend in the training organisation or college at the beginning of their training. They felt that that would be demotivating. Their thinking was that as those young people did not want to stay at school, nor would they want to stay in a training organisation or college. However, those organisations are now telling us that they appreciate having trainees for a concentrated period, because it helps them to develop a good relationship, to get a good handle on an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and to tailor better a programme for them. That is all positive.
  6. The organisations are also saying that they appreciate the fact that they no longer have to work towards a national vocational qualification (NVQ), because they had to be assessed under operational pressure. Training for Success allows young people to develop an understanding of the professional and technical area, rather than merely ensuring that their skills are up to date. Retention rates are also much better while those young people are in-house, but the training organisations did not expect that to be the case. They expected young people to vote with their feet and leave. Those are all positive results.
  7. However, as one would expect, the organisations have raised some issues with us, which is one of the reasons why we want to meet with them on 6 December. One issue that they have raised is the fact that the trainees are with their providers for 35 hours a week. The providers are telling us that 35 hours a week is hard on the staff and on the trainees. They have also said that each of the programmes, under the job ready element, allows the trainees to go on day release at different times. In one programme, they may be allowed day release once a week, whereas in another programme, they may be allowed it twice a week. That is causing some confusion and unhappiness among the trainees. The training organisations would also like the Department to provide more clarification on the range of qualifications that they can use. We will pick up on those issues at our meeting on 6 December.
  8. Another item that the Committee should be aware of is that Training for Success has introduced, for the first time, the requirement for a detailed personal training plan. Although young people on the Jobskills programme had to have training plans, the Training for Success personal training plan is detailed and takes organisations considerable time to complete. Therefore, we have had to extend the length of time for organisations to notify the Department about their trainees, because they will submit those training plans to the Department. The figures that we supplied to the Committee are on the low side because not all of the organisations have submitted their figures yet.
  9. In addition, we employed the LSDA to run a training session on personal training plans, which was very successful. However, when we began to receive the plans, they were of varying quality. Therefore, we asked the LSDA to run a second training day, which it did earlier this week.
  10. That completes my introduction. Des and I are happy to take questions.
  11. The Chairperson: Thank you. You are aware that the Committee has concerns about Training for Success. Without fear of contradiction, those concerns have been raised at every Committee meeting — or at least some issue about it has cropped up. I take on board that the Department is bringing together the training organisations for an open review on 6 December. Are there plans to bring the students together to ask their views about the programme?
  12. Mrs Bell: Yes. We will be engaging with the young people after 6 December. During our visits to participating organisations, I have spoken to trainees, because they are best placed to tell us their views on the programme.
  13. The Chairperson: Have you any idea when that will happen?
  14. Mrs Bell: It will have to be after the open review on 6 December. The apprenticeship programme does not appear to need any change except that the CEF is requesting a 13-week lead-in period, and we are discussing that with them because the Electrical Training Trust (ETT) does not seem to need that lead-in time. Setting that issue aside, the apprenticeship programme seems to be working fine.
  15. We are in the process of establishing the expert group for trainees with disabilities or learning difficulties. After 6 December, we want to establish a group of practitioners, to include a trainee and a representative of the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), to review each strand of Training for Success and suggest changes. We will make those changes as soon as possible: perhaps reducing the number of hours worked or reviewing the number of days that trainees spend on employers’ premises.
  16. There is concern that the programme aimed to get as many people into employment as possible, and it appears that the figures for the pre-apprenticeship programme are high. At one level, that is good because young people will gain sound underpinning knowledge and training away from operational pressures, and they will develop essential skills. However, we need to avoid falling back into the trap of employers preferring the Department to pay for training but not wanting to fulfil their obligations to employ. We must keep a close eye on that.
  17. The Chairperson: There still appear to be problems on the construction side. Will you highlight those for us?
  18. Mrs Bell: The CEF is asking that instead of an apprentice being employed from day one — as has always been the case and for which the organisation managing the programme receives a substantial grant — he or she should attend a training organisation, such as a college, for 13 weeks. During that time, the CEF wants the Department to pay for the training.
  19. The federation has also said that it then wants a stage-two training programme, and that if a young person has not been employed, that he or she will continue to be paid for up to 52 weeks, during which time the employer can, at any stage, engage them.
  20. The federation also wants to set a rate for the payment of an apprentice once he or she gets employment. The Department is loath to get involved in that because that is not within the remit of Training for Success. As long as a young person is not being paid less than the minimum wage, we can not mandate on rates of pay.
  21. The CEF is saying that it likes the 13-week employability strand and wants that extended to all trainees, including those not employed from day one. However, the ETT appears to be able to handle employment from day one.
  22. The Chairperson: Given where Training for Success has come from, you can understand why the Committee has concerns. You are probably aware that the ETI gave evidence to the Committee, and there seems to be confusion between what it said and what the Department has said regarding inspections. Will you clarify that?
  23. Mrs Bell: The Minister will be replying to an oral question on the issue. When individual inspectors carry out an inspection, they may not be inspecting the full organisation; it may not be an institutional inspection. There are different types of inspections and visits, including district inspections in which inspectors visit an organisation that they have responsibility for. One of the pieces of work that they are doing, and have been doing since September, is to examine organisations’ self-evaluation and quality improvement plans, which address weaknesses that have been identified. That work will completed in December.
  24. Specialist inspectors have visited training organisations, including those that train people in business studies, carpentry and joinery, engineering, motor vehicle mechanics and so on.
  25. A range of inspections, which were already planned and were in the Department’s business plan, will take place between now and December. Furthermore, inspections until 31 March 2008 have been agreed with the ETI. The new programme of inspections will start from 1 April 2008 and is currently being discussed with the ETI.
  26. The Chairperson: Can the Committee be supplied with a copy of the schedule when it is agreed?
  27. Mrs Bell: Yes, although it will have to be kept confidential.
  28. The Chairperson: There was an article in a local paper on Sunday about the letter that we received from the Donnelly Group. That letter raised our concerns. The article states that: “The publication of the letter from Mr Donnelly now shows that the second facility which the civil servants assured the committee had been arranged had in fact not been arranged at all, and still has not been arranged.”
  29. I know that we are working through the issue. However, the reason I am raising it is to demonstrate why the wider community has concerns. We are going to deal with the issue.
  30. The article goes on to say that:

“It is estimated the North needs 270 apprenticeships in motor mechanics this year. About 150 young people are currently training at Mallusk. But there is not a single training place in the north west.”

  1. Again, that was a point that the Committee kept raising. We have been talking about getting closer to communities and young people. However, it seems that apprenticeships and training are being moved further away.
  2. Mrs Bell: I will have to come back to the Committee on that issue.
  3. We have it in writing and in an email that there are two organisations working with Carter and Carter Group plc, which we have followed up. One is Customised Training Services in Strabane, and the other is Rutledge Joblink. I cannot give the Committee any more information than that, but we can follow up with our contract managers to arrange visits to those organisations.
  4. The Chairperson: It is confusing when information comes to the Committee through newspaper articles.
  5. Mrs Bell: The Department will give the Committee a full picture on the location of motor vehicle apprenticeships. As regards the second organisation, I do not know where that information has come from.
  6. Mr Spratt: You mentioned that there was a programme of inspections, and I assume that it is a rolling programme. Given that there are concerns about certain areas, are snap inspections possible? For instance, if problems are identified in specific areas, can inspectors walk in unannounced, so that there is no time for preparation?
  7. Mrs Bell: The process is something that the Committee needs to discuss with the ETI, but when the Department agrees a programme of inspections it is by negotiation, and it is based on risk. That programme will be carried out between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2009. Specialist and district inspectors can go into organisations at any time, unannounced. That is part of their role.
  8. Specific district inspection visits, which look at quality improvement and self-evaluation plans, would usually be arranged with organisations in advance. My background is in inspection, and that is how things operated. District and specialist inspectors do have time to plan their own visits. If the Department were concern about a specialist matter, we would get in touch with a specialist inspector, or the assistant chief inspector, and ask one of them to investigate.
  9. Mrs McGill: I apologise to everyone for being late.
  10. Catherine; thank you for the very substantial documentation, and again I am sorry for missing the initial part of your presentation. When I arrived, you were saying that the numbers taking up Training for Success programmes have increased compared to previous programmes. That is not the information that I have received. Are you content with that?
  11. Mrs Bell: What I said — or intended to say — was that unlike the Jobskills programmes, where the organisations have to provide information to the Department within 13 weeks, Training for Success organisations, because of the emphasis on personal training plans, which we now know are taking a considerable amount of time to complete, do not have to have everything with the Department until 20 January, so we will not have the complete figures until then.
  12. At the moment, it appears that the numbers are lower, but that is because we do not have information from all of the centres.
  13. Mrs McGill: I want to comment on that. I was surprised that it was being said the numbers were up, because I was given figures, and they are down.
  14. Mrs Bell: I am not saying that the figures are up. What I am saying is that the figures are down on those for Jobskills, but that that is not unexpected as all organisations have not sent in their information yet. We do not have a complete picture at the minute. The picture will be complete by 20 January.
  15. Mrs McGill: What is the trend?
  16. Mrs Bell: From the figures that we currently have, it would appear that the trend is downward. However, we do not have the information from all the organisations and, therefore, I cannot comment any further.
  17. The Chairperson: Is it possible that you might have a better idea when the groups are brought together on 6 December?
  18. Mrs Bell: Yes. We could take a straw poll.
  19. Mrs McGill: I understand that the framework for electrical and technical services is provided by a firm in Ballymena and covers all 26 contract management areas. Do all apprentices in the North go to Ballymena?
  20. Mrs Bell: The ETT, which is based in Ballymena, manages the contract on behalf of all of Northern Ireland. We know that that organisation is successful; it has an 80% success rate for apprentices. There is an issue regarding the north-west, and we have just had a consultant’s report on an investigation that has been carried out. I cannot give members the outcome of that investigation yet. We do not know whether the issue is with ETT or with the college. We have carried out a full study, and the Committee will receive a copy.
  21. The Chairperson: When was that completed?
  22. Mrs Bell: I am sorry; my mind has gone blank. I will have to ask Nuala for the details, as I was not closely involved. However, we can certainly give the Committee that information.
  23. Mrs McGill: My question refers to the Chairperson’s point about provision of motor-mechanic programmes for people in the north-west. When I raised the issue initially, I was concerned about people from Derry and Strabane having to go to Mallusk for training. It then appeared that someone in the Derry area — I will not name the company — was providing the service. Is the service being provided in places other than Ballymena?
  24. Mr Des Lyness (Department for Employment and Learning): Although the ETT is based in Ballymena, it subcontracts with FE colleges in the regional areas, and the delivery of the technical training would be carried out there. The final test — the AM2 test — that the young people have to go through would be carried out at the ETT. However, the young people are trained in their local area.
  25. Mrs Bell: There is an issue between the ETT, the north-west and the college. I am not sure where the balance of responsibility lies, and that is why the investigation was carried out.
  26. Mrs McGill: Could the training be carried out at the college in Omagh?
  27. Mrs Bell: That could happen. I do not want to mislead the Committee and say that the training for the ETT is done in the North West Regional College, or in Omagh, or wherever, because that was the subject of the investigation. I will have to come back to the Committee on that.
  28. Mrs McGill: Thank you, Catherine.
  29. The Chairperson: Catherine, you must have been aware that there were problems in order to bring in a consultant to look at the matter.
  30. Mrs Bell: The issue was raised by an MLA. I am talking from memory, and I would need to look at all of the papers.
  31. There appeared to be fewer apprentices in the north-west than in other parts of the Province. However, when we looked at the provision for electrical training at the college there appeared to be many more people taking up that training through mainstream further education than were coming through the apprenticeship route. That is why we carried out the investigation. It had nothing to do with the fact that we thought that anything was afoot. I apologise that I am being vague on the issue, but it is some time since I looked at the matter.
  32. The Chairperson: The Deputy Chairperson and I have tried, at every opportunity, to work closely with the Department, and we have built up a good relationship. The Department and the Minister are well aware of the Committee’s concerns on Training for Success. It would have been common courtesy for the Committee to have had a copy of the report.
  33. Mrs Bell: I do not think that the report has been published yet. We have only a draft copy.
  34. The Chairperson: Can the Committee have a copy of the report as soon as possible?
  35. Mrs Bell: Yes, of course.
  36. The Chairperson: The Committee needs to be made aware if a pattern of problems is emerging. We are looking at this subject regularly, and we will hear information from ground level.
  37. Mrs Bell: Our investigation was not in relation to Training for Success and was not about apprenticeships under the new Training for Success programme. An allegation was made that there were fewer apprenticeships in the north-west coming through from the ETT.
  38. The Chairperson: Similar issues will come to the Committee.
  39. Mr Newton: Catherine and Des, thank you for attending. Members have concerns, and it is right that they should be raised at this meeting. They have already been raised in the press.
  40. I believe that we have moved a long way from the fiasco of the Jobskills programme — and a long way in the right direction. While aspects of the Training for Success programme may well need attention, the underpinning ethos is right, and the approach is going in the right direction.
  41. The economy is demanding higher levels of skills, and it is demanding people with qualifications that are transferable throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, which tend to be at apprenticeship and technician level. Training for Success has brought together several strands and programmes at different levels, from level 1 to level 4.
  42. My first question relates to the need for more time to be spent with people who have essential skills needs, say at levels 1 and 2, and also to provide more stretching work and qualifications for those at levels 3 and 4. Is there merit in distinguishing between those two groups, but always ensuring that there is a pathway from level 1 to level 4? What is the Department’s attitude to that approach?
  43. I am pleased to hear that there are personal training plans — that is certainly a step in the right direction — and that the Department is seeking consistency in the quality of documentation produced. What obligation is on the employer to provide skilled instruction to the apprentice or trainee while they are with the employer?
  44. In my experience, a very willing apprentice, or trainee, can be placed with a person who is skilled at the job, but who is not skilled in the art of teaching the job. I do not know if there are requirements to ensure that skilled instruction is being delivered in a professional way to the trainee.
  45. Mrs Bell: The Department’s view is that apprenticeship needs to be separated completely from Training for Success, and should be called the apprenticeship programme. We wish to discuss that point on 6 December, because apprenticeships have a status and value that we must promote.
  46. The remaining strands — personal development; skills for work at level 1; pre-apprenticeship and employability — should all be branded under Training for Success, with the key aim of either a young person progressing to an apprenticeship if they are able to do so, or progressing into employment, because the apprenticeship programme is taxing.
  47. An NVQ for a technical certificate is broad based, requires essential skills, and is very demanding. However, there is no reason why a young person who, for example, completes a personal development programme, or a skills-for-work programme, and who may not be capable of doing the whole apprenticeship framework at that moment, should not progress into work. The programme needs to be broken into two distinct areas.
  48. On specific skills training by employers; it is the responsibility of the organisation that we contract with to ensure that the employers that they place young people with are capable of providing skilled training. Young people will get skills training during their off-the-job training in a college or a training organisation, but that is where the Department relies on the inspectorate, because it not only visits, and inspects, the training organisations — the colleges, or the other kind of training organisation — but also the apprentices in the workplace, and makes a judgement on the quality of training being given there. However, while its reports refer generally to employers, they do make it clear that it is the responsibility of the contracted training organisation, or body, to make sure that the training provision is of the right standard.
  49. The Department would like to move, and over time I have no doubt that it will move, to a position in which all organisations who deliver training will be trained to the standards set by the Lifelong Learning UK sector skills council. That will not be a big jump for the FE sector, but it will take some time to introduce those standards to other organisations. After that we will need to look at the employers, but it is the responsibility of the contracted organisation to ensure that the employer is up to scratch.
  50. Mr Newton: Perhaps I did not phrase my question terribly well: does the personal training plan contain a document that stays with the trainee during the course? You said that some of the standards are not what you would like, but is there a national standard for the personal training plan?
  51. Mrs Bell: My understanding is that the Department arranged for the LSDA to work with us on that matter. That organisation has the benefit of viewing standards of provision across the United Kingdom.
  52. Mr Lyness: The idea behind the plans is that they set out the young person’s training needs and the milestones that he or she should achieve. The plans stay with the young people while they are on the programme. The LSDA uses best practice to set the standards.
  53. Mrs Bell: During one of our recent visits, a reputable organisation asked us whether they can continue to use personal development planning as they have been using that particular system for some time. We have committed to opening up the subject for debate on 6 December 2007. There must be a minimum standard, and it should be in line with best practice. However, if an organisation has gone some way in developing such a plan, we would like to build on that work.
  54. The Chairperson: For information, the LSDA will provide evidence to the Committee on 16 January 2008.
  55. Mr Attwood: There are various levels of inspection of training organisations. Is there a dedicated inspection of the new providers who have been awarded contracts for the Training for Success programme? The ETI advised us that the schedule for the inspection of training organisations was agreed before the award of the new contracts. The inspectorate told us that those new organisations are not included in the schedule; therefore, dedicated inspections may not take place.
  56. Mrs Bell: Every organisation, whether new or existing, carries out self-evaluation and self-improvement programmes. If an organisation is included in the schedule of inspections between now and April and it offers the Training for Success programme, that programme will be inspected, because it is the organisation that will be inspected. We are in the process of determining with the ETI what will happen with new organisations. However, it is highly likely that they will be inspected in the first raft of the new inspections.
  57. Mr Attwood: The first raft of inspections will take place in April 2008.
  58. Mrs Bell: That is correct. However, if there were cause for concern during an inspector’s district or specialist visit, or if our contract managers identified a cause for concern, there is no reason why we could not ask the inspectorate to carry out a specialist visit or to swap one organisation for another on the list. We work closely with the inspectorate.
  59. Mr Attwood: Given that the Committee has expressed concerns about one or more of the training organisations; as of the end of November, the inspectorate has not been instructed to take on inspections. The inspectorate has written to the Committee to advise that if certain issues were raised with the Department, it would, in turn, raise them with the inspectorate and make a request to carry out an inspection. The Chairperson has referred to a press article. Also, in the light of the issue between Carter and Carter Group plc and the Donnelly Group, I believe that we have reached the point where the instruction should be issued.
  60. Mrs Bell: We can consider that, but the inspectorate has limited resources. The inspection programme between now and the end of March has been agreed on a risk basis. The inspectorate would have to assure us that it is necessary to replace one of those inspections, bearing in mind that our contract managers, assistant contract managers and specialists are out on visits.
  61. Training organisations are being visited quite often. We visited an organisation last week and were told that it has received eight visits since September, three from departmental officials and five from inspectors. Therefore, the issue is not that organisations are not being inspected; it is perhaps that they are not having institutional inspections.
  62. An institutional inspection examines every aspect. Therefore, it is more useful to let the programmes bed down before looking for developing trends.
  63. Mr Attwood: The inspectorate made the same point, but I wonder whether we have reached the tipping point.
  64. Mrs Bell: We will certainly consider what the Committee has said.
  65. Mr Attwood: Does the problem of confirming the number of trainees for Training for Success exist in training organisations across the board? Is it concentrated among new training providers or does it comprise a mixture of new and old? I am asking this because, at the end of August, an established training provider told me that a new provider was desperate to get hold of trainees who had been on its books. The new provider had anticipated, and planned for, being awarded a training contact to begin on 1 September 2007, for which it had been recruiting trainees. The new provider was, therefore, trying to persuade the existing provider to hand over its trainees.
  66. Mr Lyness: No. The difficulties and delay in getting the numbers onto the register were due to minor IT glitches; the real problem is the volume of work required due to the quality of the input that the Department is requesting for personal training plans. We are not aware of any particular trend: the problem exists across the board.
  67. Mr Attwood: Did the Committee get an answer on the situation involving Carter and Carter Group plc and the Donnelly Group? The Donnelly Group advised the Committee that claims that they had an agreement with Carter and Carter Group plc were inaccurate?
  68. Mrs Bell: We responded to that, although I am not sure whether we did so orally or in a written response. Carter and Carter Group plc had an oral agreement with a manager in the Donnelly Group that had not been confirmed in writing with the chief executive. Carter and Carter Group plc has since written to the Department and has sent a written apology to the Donnelly Group. It has now entered into a partnership with the two providers that I named earlier.
  69. Mr Attwood: Are you saying that Carter and Carter Group plc, in its advice to the Department, relied on an oral understanding?
  70. Mrs Bell: Yes.
  71. Mr Attwood: What is your view on a training provider relying on an oral understanding with another organisation?
  72. Mrs Bell: It seems most unwise: it would have been better for Carter and Carter Group plc to have had the contract signed, sealed and settled.
  73. Mr Attwood: I concur with that. I have a final question.
  74. The Chairperson: Sorry, Alex; the situation was raised in a press article, and I did not want to go over it again. I know that there has been an oral question on the subject, but for the purpose of the Committee’s inquiry, the response must be in writing, even if it is in the form of an outline.
  75. Mrs Bell: I apologise because I thought that we had sent a written response to the Committee. I will send it to you.
  76. The Chairperson: You inundate us with papers for some meetings and for others we get none.
  77. Mr Attwood: Did any training organisations, other than Carter and Carter Group plc, rely on oral contracts as part of their application for the award of the contract?
  78. Mrs Bell: I am not aware of any, but I vaguely remember a college, though I cannot recall which one, telling me that a training organisation, not Carter and Carter Group plc, had named it in its bid to the Department. However, the college did not make an issue of it, and I cannot remember the name of the training organisation.
  79. Mr Attwood: The priority areas that have been identified reflect the increasing opportunities in tourism and IT. Bearing in mind that some of the bids in the CSR were not met, could there be a problem in a year or 18 months that there will not be enough people with the necessary skills base to take up the job opportunities that may be on offer?
  80. Mrs Bell: As regards IT, the issue is wider than Training for Success. We have been working extremely hard to raise the profile of the IT industry. The difficulty is that it is not an attractive industry to young people, and not many people are applying to our universities and colleges for higher-level IT courses.
  81. Invest NI, Momentum, e-skills UK and ANIC have developed — and we have supported — a conversion course known as ‘Software Professional’. In that course, people are retrained in software engineering, and it is open to those with a degree in any discipline. The IT industry is closely involved with the course, and all 29 people who took part in the pilot scheme have got sustained jobs in the industry. Around 67 people are taking part in the second pilot scheme, which is ongoing. ANIC is recruiting another cohort to start after Christmas and a third will start after Easter.
  82. The difficulty has been that employers have been reluctant to employ anyone who does not have a degree. Therefore, the numbers of people on IT apprenticeship programmes are not as high as they might be. However, that is the responsibility of employers.
  83. The Department recently had a presentation from an organisation that has had some success in working with young people who do not have high-level qualifications. It has been able to get young people well-paid, sustainable jobs in the IT industry, and we are working with that organisation. Therefore, the Department has paid specific attention to IT issues. We have a future skills action group, which focuses on IT, and we have recently appointed an officer in the Department whose sole responsibility will be to support that industry. In addition, MATRIX, the Northern Ireland Science Industry Panel will be reporting around March on research and development capabilities. We want to use those results to ascertain where we should be targeting our skills; not necessarily our low skills, but IT skills as well.
  84. Part of the difficulty regarding tourism and hospitality is that it is not an attractive industry. The hours and salaries make it difficult to attract young people, in particular, into the industry. However, there are provisions through FE colleges and there is an apprenticeship programme. ANIC is meeting with Howard Hastings from the Hastings Hotels Group next week to ascertain what else can be done.
  85. Mr Spratt: As regards Carter and Carter Group plc and the Donnelly Group, it was suggested during meetings that the Chairperson and I had with unions and other people that some of the successful bidders had named senior people from particular colleges, including the Belfast Metropolitan College — which I think was raised with the Department — during the procurement process. Would it not make sense in future procurement processes for written references to be sought where an individual or group is named as part of a bid?
  86. It transpired that some of the individuals concerned had not been aware that their names had been used in successful procurement processes. Could it built into the process that where a company is naming an individual, it must have some sort of written backup from that individual, the senior person in the college or, where a company such as the Donnelly Group is involved, that there is a clear indication in writing that an agreement has been copper-fastened before they are determined to be successful? It makes good sense and is, perhaps, something that the Department should consider. It should apply in all procurement processes, because such situations cannot continue.
  87. Mrs Bell: We will write to the central procurement directorate on that point. The issue is not specific to Training for Success; it relates to all procurement. I know that consultants put people’s names down, and that could also be tested.
  88. Mr Spratt: There should be definite proof that an individual or organisation knows that their name has been used, and that should be clearly laid down in any process.
  89. Mr Butler: I apologise for being late. I was attending another meeting.
  90. My question relates to Reg Empey’s response to the Committee’s letter about Belfast Metropolitan College being unsuccessful in the tendering process for Training for Success. The college is listed on the list of approved Training for Success organisations.
  91. Mrs Bell: The college may have been unsuccessful at level 3, but successful at level 2. Organisations were successful on some contracts but not on others.
  92. Mr Butler: Following on from that; the Department’s relationship with colleges seems to be that colleges can do whatever they want, and that does not just apply to Belfast Metropolitan College. That college — particularly now that it has merged with Castlereagh College — is one of the biggest providers of courses for skilling people for the economy in Belfast and the greater Belfast area. Nevertheless, it loses out on a contract, and the Minister just says that that is a matter for Belfast Metropolitan College. He has qualified what he said a bit by saying that the Department works with Belfast Metropolitan College. However, the college needs a more proactive approach from the Department — particularly in the greater Belfast area.
  93. PFI has been mentioned, and that may be one of the reasons why Belfast Metropolitan College lost the contract. There is planning for another college in the Titanic Quarter. Belfast Metropolitan College, and the Department, must ensure that it takes the lead in delivering courses in the greater Belfast area. I am disappointed in Reg Empey’s response, and disappointed in the Department’s relationships with colleges, and that matter should be looked at.
  94. The Chairperson: The Committee has raised that concern several times, and I mentioned the link between the Department and colleges in the plenary debates on Monday and Tuesday.
  95. Mrs Bell: Colleges were incorporated in 1998 to give them the freedom to be able to respond more proactively; and statistics from 1998 to date show that they have done that. That happened as a result of the previous Committee’s inquiry into education and training for industry. We responded by carrying out a full review of FE, which led to the FE Means Business strategy.
  96. We have significant controls over the colleges. The first are in accountability and finance, which are very tight. Each time we get an audit report we let the colleges know of the changes that need to happen. We have literally just strengthened other methods of control through the college development planning process.
  97. It used to be the case that funding was based on a college’s being two years in arrears. Funding was also based on growth, meaning that the more students who attended a college, the more money it got. Therefore, although a college may have been growing, it may not have received any extra money because another was growing more quickly.
  98. The bigger problem was that the funding was two years out of date. As of this year, we pay colleges on the basis of the college development plan being in place. That plan is negotiated between the Department, the college’s chief executive and the chairperson of the governing body. Therefore, that document controls what the colleges are doing, and sits alongside the priorities that the Department has set. The Department monitors the plan three times a year. If a college is not meeting its targets, it does not get paid. However, if it exceeds its targets, it does not get any extra money. That is because funding is being based not on growth, but on supporting the local economy.
  99. Therefore, we have strong controls on colleges, through the accountability regime on the financial side and through the college development planning process, which controls and encourages the colleges. As well as the inspectorate monitoring quality in the colleges, the Department also employs staff to monitor them.
  100. The Chairperson: That is all well and good, but I will give you an example: the Committee has been contacted by people who say the crèche in a particular college is about to be closed. The Committee contacted the Department, which told us that the colleges control such matters. You have talked about departmental policies that have been introduced to encourage people to return to study or get involved in study. However, some of those people may be lone parents, and there may be no crèche facilities available for them. It strikes me that there is no balance between the two policies at ground level.
  101. Ms Bell: The provision of such services is a matter for individual colleges.
  102. The Chairperson: That is my point.
  103. Ms Bell: I agree. However, colleges were set up as incorporated institutions. Therefore, the controls that the Department has on them are through funding and negotiation of the development planning process.
  104. The Chairperson: I understand, but when you talk about the social policies that the Department has introduced, I am sure that you appreciate that it strikes the Committee that those are having little impact on the ground.
  105. Mrs McGill: Do you have any information about young people who choose not to stay with Training for Success because they cannot afford to do so?
  106. Ms Bell: Not that I am aware of: information on that has not been fed back to us. A young person who is not employed will get training allowance plus travel costs, if he or she is entitled to them. The means-tested education maintenance allowance (EMA) that applies to students in the school and FE sector allows parents to retain their benefits. The Department is currently considering whether it should introduce the EMA for people who are on training schemes. Their parents’ benefits would not be affected, but the young person would get a £20 or £30 allowance, according to the means test. At the same time, means testing will also mean that some may get nothing, because the EMA is mean-tested. We are working through all those models at the minute.
  107. Mrs McGill: Thank you. I have specific examples involving two of my constituents. One is a young person who left a training scheme, and the other is considering leaving. However, the difficulty for both is the expense involved in taking up such schemes.
  108. Mrs Bell: The training allowance is set at £40 a week, and once trainees spend over £3 a week on travel costs, they will receive travel expenses. If they are employed as apprentices, they are paid through the company. I actually cannot comment any further on that point.
  109. Mrs McGill: Could I speak to you about a specific case afterwards?
  110. Mrs Bell: Yes.
  111. The Chairperson: Catherine and Des, like other members, I believe that if Training for Success is implemented properly, it is the way ahead. However, I am sure that you appreciate that we have concerns and that we must learn from the lessons of Jobskills.
  112. You said that you will be having a meeting on 6 December, so I suggest that the Committee returns to this issue in the middle of January, when you will have the figures and the feedback from your review. Are Members content?

Members indicated assent.

16 January 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Paul Butler
Ms Anna Lo
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr David McClarty
Mrs Claire McGill
Mr Robin Newton
Mr Alastair Ross

Witnesses:

Mr Trevor Carson
Mr Justin Edwards

Learning Skills Development Agency

Mr David Hattton
Mr Jim McIlveen
Mr Ronnie Moore
Ms Gillian Winters

Sector Skills Councils

  1. The Deputy Chairperson (Mr Spratt): I welcome Trevor Carson and Justin Edwards and I thank them for the paper that they have provided, copies of which are included in the members’ packs. This will be a key briefing for the Committee, and will give us an understanding of the work of the Learning and Skills Development Agency Northern Ireland (LSDANI). The briefing will also give the witnesses the opportunity to outline their views on the roll-out of the Training for Success programme and their work and planned work in that programme. LSDANI has a key role in quality and improvement programmes, and is central to training provision.
  2. The Training for Success programme is a formal focus of work for the Committee and a report on it will eventually be published. Therefore, I have asked Hansard to record this session.
  3. Mr Trevor Carson (Learning and Skills Development Agency Northern Ireland): Thank you for the invitation to make a presentation to the Committee. LSDANI was established in May 2003, and is part of the Learning and Skills Network (LSN), which is an independent not-for-profit organisation. Our core remit, as in our contract with the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), relates to quality improvement and covers our services and programmes to support learning providers — governors; first-line managers; middle and senior managers, including principals; trainers and teachers. Our aim is to build the capacity in the education and training sector to embed continuous self-improvement, enabling the quality of the provision for the learner to increase continually.
  4. It is important to point out that in 2003 our work was, initially, solely related to the further education sector. However, since then, it has widened and now includes the work-based learning sector and training organisations. From the start, our support for the Essential Skills strategy covered all of the post-16 education and training sector, including the voluntary, community and training organisations.
  5. DEL’s ‘Success Through Excellence – A Quality Improvement Strategy for the Further Education and Training System in Northern Ireland’ identified a key role for LSDANI to work with the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) and the Department to provide development and support for the sector with regard to the Improving Quality:Raising Standards (IQ:RS) toolkit for improving quality and raising standards used by the Education and Training Inspectorate to inspect further education colleges and training organisations. The purpose is to work collaboratively with both the Department and the Education and Training Inspectorate so that contract managers and providers ensure the best possible outcomes for learners.
  6. We provide advice and support to further education and training providers as well as tailored quality improvement. That service is not only for Training for Success and the further education sector, but is for all training providers, including New Deal.
  7. It is important to point out that LSDANI is supported by staff with local expertise and relevant skills, and we also use local associates. There is a core staff; however, to provide support for six FE colleges and the training organisations, we have to go beyond that, and associates with recent relevant experience in that sector are used.
  8. When necessary, we bring in experts from outside Northern Ireland, but normally we focus on local expertise to provide local solutions. We provide a range of resources, both in hard copy and electronic; for example, our dedicated website goes right across further education and training.
  9. I want to draw the Committee’s attention to four of our key strands of business. We manage, on behalf of the Department, the successful Lecturers into Industry initiative. We recently celebrated, as 250 lecturers have now gone out into industry for structured placements. The purpose of the initiative is to upgrade the lecturers’ skills so that those are relevant for the current economy, and so that the young people they train will be job-ready when they finish their courses. We work across nine vocational areas, and have had contact with, and use of, over 200 employers. Therefore, the initiative builds bridges between industry and the education and training sector.
  10. We have provided major support for the Essential Skills strategy for Northern Ireland through our contract with the Department. Again, that is focused on providers, including Training for Success providers. The new providers that have been used since September 2007 were given a special briefing so that they understood the Essential Skills strategy, because it is not common throughout the UK.
  11. We take a close interest in supplying leadership and management development programmes that lead to organisational improvement, which is important.
  12. Post-inspection support is another key part of our work. After the completion of an inspection of any organisation — a further education college or a work-based learning provider — we speak with the inspector and are then brought in to help effect changes in any areas that require improvement. That is a major part of our work; however, and Justin Edwards will elaborate on that. It is important that our work to assist in improvements should not only be reactive to an inspection, but should help to build an organisation’s capacity for continuous improvement.
  13. Mr Justin Edwards (Learning and Skills Network): I begin by highlighting our support programme for Training for Success, which Trevor Carson mentioned in the latter part of his presentation. That support programme was developed in synergy with two critical documents: ‘Success through Excellence’, which is the DEL strategy for improving the quality of education and training provision, and the Education and Training Inspectorate’s document, ‘Improving Quality: Raising Standards’, which is used to assess the quality of education and training provision. We use both of those documents throughout the range of support services that we offer.
  14. The majority of our provision is proactive, supporting and training organisations in the delivery and improvement of leadership and in improving the quality of training and services that are available to learners.
  15. Our provision is also reactive, and that part of our activities is in post-inspection support. After any form of inspectorate inspection, we receive the inspection reports. We are then able to work with a training provider to improve an organisation’s education and training provision in response to the report. Furthermore, we take information from those reports that highlight good practice, and share that with the rest of the relevant sector to ensure that organisations in it understand where there are pockets of good practice and how they work. In the post-inspection support arena, our core staff lead, and, in cases which require specialist subject or curricular expertise, we bring in associates with experience in those fields.
  16. With regard to proactive support, we run training and development events, aimed at leaders and managers, to improve the capacity of strategic leadership in organisations, as well as events to improve the quality of training. We have focused on pedagogy — the science of teaching and learning — to support and increase the capabilities of trainers; and we have promoted understanding of the ‘Improving Quality: Raising Standards’ framework, so that training organisations become more effective at self-assessment and in self-improving the quality of their services.
  17. We have undertaken study visits, during which we have been able to identify good practices throughout the UK, bring those back and embed them in our programmes.
  18. We undertake benchmarking exercises with providers, in which we ask them to carry out surveys and questionnaires with learners, staff and employers to assess and gather data about how their training provision performs.
  19. Moreover, we commission action-research projects, in which we ask providers to research specific training or delivery topics to make information available to other providers. All the information that we gather from those various activities is then fed into the quality improvement unit in DEL, contract managers and the inspectorate.
  20. The Deputy Chairperson: Thank you for your clear presentation. Do members have any questions?
  21. Mrs McGill: I too thank you for your presentation. The Learning and Skills Development Agency was established in May 2003. Where did you all come from? Who are you? Is there a list of members? What is your background?
  22. Mr Carson: I am happy to field that question.
  23. Mrs McGill: Did a group of you just come together? How did the Learning and Skills Development Agency come about?
  24. Mr Carson: Prior to 2003, the Department provided some support for the further education sector. At that time, I was employed by, and based at, the Association of Northern Ireland Colleges in Lisburn. Support was then on an ad hoc basis, and the Department decided to regularise that into an organisation that would be involved in improvement activity.
  25. At that stage, discussions were held with the Learning and Skills Development Agency in England about setting up a unit, staffed by local people, in Northern Ireland. I applied for a job to head the unit and got it. Initially, we recruited two other development advisers, one person to support the Lecturers into Industry initiative, and some administrative staff to provide the service that had been identified and agreed between the LSDA and DEL.
  26. Mrs McGill: In your presentation you said that support is provided by staff with local expertise and relevant skills. What do you mean by local? I come from West Tyrone. With regard to Omagh, Strabane or Derry, do you refer to local people or to experts who are in that area?
  27. Mr Carson: If we have experts, such as Leo Murphy in Omagh College, we call on them. There may be some local issues. We have a good relationship with both training organisations and the further education colleges. We ask whether, in giving support, we can add anything to enhance the local aspect of our support. We have, for instance, provided post-inspection support at Rutledge Joblink Recruitment and Training in Omagh and Customised Training in Strabane. We have worked with Fermanagh College, and given updates to the new provider’s management team in Strabane Training Services. The core staff has been recruited locally — we all reside in Northern Ireland — and we have 40 associates, most of whom are local and drawn from throughout Northern Ireland. If a specific area of support is required, we try to match their skills with what is required in improvement.
  28. Mrs McGill: Is there a list of members?
  29. Mr Carson: There is a list of employees.
  30. Mrs McGill: I am trying to make sense of it. That is fine. I have a couple of other points. Have you done any post-inspection support on Training for Success?
  31. Mr Edwards: At the moment the inspection takes place in a variety of forms, including … (inaudible) … estimations and inspectorate monitoring reports. At the moment, most of our reaction is to those reports. We are waiting for the early Training for Success inspection reports to come back before we can act on them.
  32. Ms McGill: I have one final question, and I appreciate being allowed to ask it. What is the Teaching Thinking Certificate?
  33. Mr Edwards: It is a programme designed to increase the teaching or training capacity of trainers. It was originally operated by Northumbria University, and was a very successful programme in work-based learning, training provision and further education. It is an intensive course of approximately six weeks that looks at training practices and at how our practices can be adapted to the type of learner who is engaged in industry.
  34. Ms McGill: When someone is presented with this certificate, is that what is written on it — “Teaching Thinking”?
  35. Mr Edwards: Yes. It looks at the thinking methodologies of learners and tries to adapt training practice to those. The certificate represents that.
  36. Mr Newton: I thank the delegation for coming and for the informative material that it has provided. It covers all aspects of their work and structure.
  37. I will ask about one area: the Lecturers into Industry programme. The initiative is extremely worthwhile, in that it engages industry and lecturers together. Industry will benefit and, no doubt, so too will the lecturers themselves. That initiative has taken place on some 250 occasions: over what period of time? Is there scope for expansion in that area?
  38. Mr Carson: They have taken place over the last six years. I can speak authoritatively, because I was involved in setting up the initiative.
  39. For specific reasons, we started by targeting two vocational areas: hospitality and engineering. I had to take a view on the capacity of those sectors to release staff from colleges, because the full-time placements in industry are for between six and 11 weeks and, therefore, require considerable commitment from lecturers, who must be away from college for that period. Some of the smaller colleges did not have the capacity to replace them.
  40. However, by targeting the high-priority skills areas that were identified by the Assembly, we have increased the number of available vocational areas to nine. We targeted high-priority skills areas, as identified by the Assembly. I hope that the six regional colleges will allow further scope and flexibility for more staff to be released, which will increase capacity.
  41. However, it is important to state that the support that we receive from the Sectoral Skills Councils (SSCs) is crucial, because they help to identify appropriate placements in cutting-edge industry and in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). There is therefore value to the industry, particularly to the lecturers who return to college, having increased their skills, and whose trainees therefore benefit from the latest industry-standard training.
  42. Mr Newton: Is it possible to quantify how far you can take the scheme?
  43. Mr Carson: We negotiate with the Department on capacity. Currently, the initiative targets only further education colleges; however, some training organisations have approached us to be involved, which provides some scope to increase capacity. The six regional colleges could facilitate the expansion of the scheme by up to 10% over the next couple of years.
  44. Mr McCausland: This is a small point. At the start of your submission, you stated that the organisation is part of the Learning and Skills Network, which is an independent not-for-profit organisation. Will you give me some information about the network?
  45. Mr Carson: The Department for Employment and Skills in England —
  46. Mr McCausland: Is it a UK-wide network?
  47. Mr Carson: Yes.
  48. Mr McCausland: OK. That is fine.
  49. Mr Attwood: Going back to something said by Claire McGill, I want to confirm that you are not currently in a position to give the Committee any particular advice on how the Training for Success programme is rolling out, or how any of the contractors is performing. Is it too early in the inspection schedule to give the Committee an insight into whether the programme is working?
  50. Mr Carson: Although we do not distribute a questionnaire asking providers for their opinions on how the programme is going, the anecdotal feedback is that most have now settled into it. It is important to note that the Education and Training Inspectorate did not start their inspections straightaway, because that would have been unfair to the providers, but we expect the inspections to start soon. Initially, providers may have been uneasy, but they are starting to get to grips with the Training for Success programme.
  51. Mr Attwood: Across the board, or are there areas in which — anecdotally at this stage — there may be deficiencies?
  52. Mr Carson: We have no anecdotal evidence of any downsides to the programme. People are not keen to tell us about major problems, especially in the early stages. If they experience those, our advice is that they contact the Department.
  53. Mr Attwood: You said earlier, quite properly, that the Assembly and others had identified training priorities, one of which is hospitality and tourism — and I simply use that as an example, because there are other high-priority skill areas. How are the priority skills required by the hospitality and tourism industry put in place by the training system?
  54. Mr Carson: It is my understanding, through our contact with training organisations and the further education colleges, that the specific needs of the hospitality and tourism industries are being addressed. The evidence from our Lecturers into Industry initiative shows that we put people into cutting-edge concerns — big catering companies, hotel chains and visitors’ centres. The post-16 education and training sector is reasonably well-geared to provide appropriate training at appropriate levels. It is important that the people delivering those services ensure that their skills are up to date, because it is a fast-moving and growing industry in Northern Ireland.
  55. Mr Attwood: The draft Programme for Government has set ambitious tourism targets over the next three years. As things are at the moment, is the provision of skills training for an increased tourist market in place? Can we reasonably anticipate, over the next three years, that the skills will be there to meet any increased demand?
  56. Mr Carson: I do not have the details to hand of the enrolment numbers in the hospitality element of the Training for Success programme. I will provide those to the Committee, as they give a better indication. Those skills are delivered by the staff of the training organisations and the colleges. I will have to examine the enrolment numbers before I can give a definitive answer.
  57. Mr Ross: During your presentation, you said that certain expertise is available only outside Northern Ireland. What types of expertise do you have to go outside Northern Ireland to find?
  58. Mr Carson: Occasionally, we draw on the expertise of principals of large further education colleges in England and Scotland, and, to a lesser extent, Wales, that have had a series of grade 1 inspection results. We examine practices in those colleges, and if their principals have something to say to their counterparts over here we would be foolish not to use that expertise. However, we exercise that option only as required. In the light of the college mergers, we saw value in using people such as Dr David Collins of South Cheshire College.
  59. Ms Lo: I want to follow up on Mr Newton’s comments about the Lecturers into Industry programme. I am interested in how that works. Do you inform the colleges of the number of placements available, and they nominate lecturers to the programme?
  60. Mr Carson: It is a competitive situation. We invite lecturers to apply, and if there are 20 applications for 10 places, we have to decide on the best candidates, and take advice from the Education and Training Inspectorate and the Sector Skills Council. An observer from the Department sits in on that process.
  61. We expect the lecturers to identify the skills that they need to refresh, and the type of company in which they want to be placed. The successful applicants will sit down with a representative of the Sector Skills Council to identify a company.
  62. We support and monitor the programme, and the payback comes not only in the improvement in the individual’s skills, but in the wider dissemination of the experience and the good practice. For example, it was not possible to provide certain vocational training for staff at Omagh College of Further Education, which is a relatively small institution, but the college was able to draw on the experience of other persons who had received training. The investment in the initiative has resulted in a greater impact across the board.
  63. Ms Lo: How big is the organisation? How many members of staff does the organisation employ?
  64. Mr Carson: There are currently two senior development advisers and me.
  65. If appropriate, I can provide the Committee with an organisational chart.
  66. The Deputy Chairperson: That would be helpful, as that issue has come up several times.
  67. Ms Lo: How well do the colleges receive your work and work with you?
  68. Mr Edwards: All the activities in which we have been engaged have been well received. We provide a supportive role in the post-inspection and proactive-development arenas, and we are always well received by staff at all levels. We are also well received by the training organisations; I think that we are seen as an independent organisation with a clear remit. Within that remit, we obtain information to allow the training organisations to advance their improvement agenda.
  69. Mr Carson: We seek feedback, both positive and negative. It is important that we provide a service and that we reflect on our performance, because it would be foolish if we, as an improvement agency, were to ask other organisations to improve but did not do it ourselves.
  70. The Deputy Chairperson: Thank you for your presentation. I have no doubt that we will meet again in the future. Thank you for your presentational pack, which contains a lot of information — we appreciate that.
  71. Moving on to our next set of witnesses, I welcome David Hatton from the Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance (SEMTA), Gillian Winters and Jim McIlveen from Engineering Training Services, and Ronnie Moore from Energy and Utility Skills.
  72. This is the first of a number of sessions that we will have to find out the sectoral views of the Training for Success programme. Two of the key sectors are represented today — engineering and energy and utilities. Both sectors are extremely important, not only for the development of local economic manufacturing, but for the water and energy industries, which are high on the Executive’s and Assembly’s agendas.
  73. This is a key briefing for the Committee, as we will hear the sector skills councils’ views on the Training for Success programme. The director of the Sector Skills Development Agency, Laurence Downey, is in the public gallery today, and I thank him for his work in bringing the councils together for today’s meeting. As Training for Success is a formal work stream for the Committee, it will eventually publish a report on it. I have therefore asked that the session be reported by Hansard. Without further ado, I will hand over to Mr Hatton.
  74. Mr David Hatton (Science, Engineeering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance): Good morning. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the Committee. I will give a brief introduction about the importance of our sector, after which I will hand over to my two colleagues, who will discuss apprenticeship training in particular and put it into the context of Training for Success. I am sure that Ronnie will do something similar when he discusses his sector.
  75. I work for the Engineering Training Council Northern Ireland. It was established in 1990, so has been around for a while. It is an employer-led body that comprises representatives of some of the largest employers in Northern Ireland. A couple of smaller companies are also represented on the body, thus reflecting a broad range of interests. The trade union movement is also represented, as is the further and higher education sector.
  76. When the organisation was established in 1990, its mission was to ensure that those who are employed in the engineering industry in Northern Ireland had the opportunity to be trained to the highest international standards. If we cannot train to that level, we will struggle.
  77. I am the chief executive of the Engineering Training Council, and our organisation represents the interests of SEMTA, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies in Northern Ireland.
  78. One of the aims of the sector skills councils is to put employers at the heart of the process of ascertaining education and employment requirements. Engineering manufacture is vital to the economy of Northern Ireland given that innovation, new technology, and continuous improvements in engineering stimulate economic development. Our manufacturing sector contributes around 25% of our gross value added to the Northern Ireland economy.
  79. In order to be competitive, our sector must have higher value added jobs. That means that highly skilled people are required. They can be either new entrants — such as graduates, technicians, and apprentices — or they can be existing employees who have been upskilled. The jobs that are on offer are normally very well paid. I have only ever worked in engineering manufacture, which is currently as buoyant as I can remember, with many of our companies crying out for technically and professionally skilled people. It must also be remembered that unemployment in Northern Ireland is less than 4%, which is nearly a record low.
  80. We conducted an employers’ survey before Christmas, using a small sample of 30 engineering companies that are based across Northern Ireland. That survey showed that 75% of those companies are experiencing considerable skills shortages. That conservative estimate means that almost 300 skilled people are needed to work in fitting, machining, mechanical and electrical maintenance, design, and toolmaking. Every one of the companies that were surveyed believed that the skills-shortage trend will worsen.
  81. Many of those companies also recruit apprentices, and they indicated that they could not recruit the desired number, given that the standard of applicants is much lower than it was previously. What does that mean for our future skills base? If sufficiently skilled staff are not available to our indigenous companies, what chance do we have of attracting inward investment?
  82. In the past, grants attracted companies to Northern Ireland. However, those are no longer the key incentive. The key incentives are an available pool of technically and professionally skilled workers and a high-quality training and development system. Those are imperative for the future success of the companies and individuals that are involved in the engineering sector and for the future of Northern Ireland’s economy. Unfortunately, such a skills base does not exist. That means that there is now a considerable disconnect between the difficult job that Invest Northern Ireland is doing to attract inward investment and our lack of available and appropriate skills.
  83. It is crucial that such vital engineering skills are developed. The advancement of the apprenticeship programme, aligned to excellent careers advice, is critical if that is to be achieved. If companies decided to relocate their manufacturing facilities to eastern Europe or the Far East because they could not find the much-needed skills here, it is unlikely that they would ever return. That could have a devastating effect on our economy.
  84. My colleagues Jim McIlveen and Gillian Winters, who represent Engineering Training Services, will now talk further about the importance of the engineering apprenticeship training in the new Training for Success programme.
  85. Mr Jim McIlveen (Engineering Training Services): Thank you. For the past 10 years, I have been quite heavily involved with the Jobskills programme, which has been criticised for various reasons. However, the programme that I run is very successful and also very cost-effective. In 1997, at the request of the then Government, we piloted an employer-led approach to apprenticeships. Of the 34 people that started on that programme, 80% gained the full qualifications.
  86. The programme has evolved over the past 10 years, and we now have 270 apprentices who are employed with 80 employers throughout Northern Ireland. Those apprentices cover most aspects of engineering work — that is, fabrication and welding, and mechanical and electrical maintenance — and they are also training to craft and technician levels. One of the reasons for the success of the programme is that we have a year-round recruitment policy; unlike most other providers, we do not rely on a September intake.
  87. A recent Education and Training Inspectorate audit identified an achievement rate of 97% in our programme. Our achievement rate, therefore, has increased over the 10 years from 80% to 97%. That audit was our first inspection, and it was successful in that we were awarded a grade 3. However, there is room for improvement, which we are working to achieve.
  88. Our programme offers employers and young people a complete package that includes promotion. We often give presentations in schools, and every week we promote the programme to new employers. We advise on recruitment, aptitude testing and advertising, and we provide assistance with recruitment. Upon implementation of a programme in an organisation, we train people in the company to be, for instance, NVQ assessors and instructors. That is very important, given that many Northern Ireland employers are involved in small operations, employing perhaps between five and 10 people. That then means that they do not have the expertise to deal with fair employment issues. As the employers cover the lion’s share of the training, we provide them with 70% of the required funding.
  89. Apprentices on my programme, some of whom are 16- to 18-year-olds who have just left school, can earn up to £300 a week on commencement. They gain nationally recognised qualifications from which they can progress to degree level and beyond. On completion of the programme, there are unlimited opportunities to progress to higher levels. Young people who have completed my apprenticeship programme have progressed to become managers, teachers and employers.
  90. Previously, our Jobskills programme contract allowed us to take young people through to level 3, and, as I explained, the programme was successful and obtained a 97% achievement rate. We were successful in the tendering process for a level 2 contract, but not a level 3 contract. Unfortunately, engineer employers do not rate level 2; to use an old term, they see that as equivalent to semi-skilled. We have the largest recruitment campaign and provide for the highest number of apprentices in Northern Ireland, with an average of 100 apprentices a year.
  91. One frustrating aspect of the new Training for Success programme is that those who were awarded the level 3 contracts have little or no track record in running apprenticeship programmes. If I may return to the selection criteria that was used in the tendering process, the contracts were based on achieving 35% for programme delivery and 45% for previous track record. However, I am aware that some organisations that won a contract did not have any track record in delivering engineering apprenticeships.
  92. Mr Hatton has requested that the Department for Employment and Learning give him recruitment figures as he wants to know how many young people are on the programme this year. I suspect that those numbers will be low. Had I won a contract for the Training for Success programme, the 80 young people who have been recruited this year would be on a level-3-equivalent apprenticeship.
  93. Prior to the award of the contracts, we had secured approximately 120 engineering apprenticeships. Last April, when the recruitment process was under way, employers informed us that 120 jobs were available. For various reasons, we were able to fill only 80. Indeed, David has already informed the Committee that there may be problems with attracting young people to engineering.
  94. The local providers who were awarded level 3 contracts seem to be focused on the non-employed job-ready programme. That is probably because that is what they are used to — they are not used to dealing with employers and employing young people from day one. In our programme, employers are surveyed regularly, and they all state that they would come back to us to recruit their apprentices.
  95. As David indicated, there has been a noticeable decline in the recruitment statistics for levels 2 and 3 engineering apprenticeships. Possible reasons for that is that first, young people are encouraged to remain at school so that they can go on to higher education, and secondly, they may also have the wrong perception of engineering. That it is quite a difficult issue to deal with, and the Engineering Training Council is currently working on that.
  96. One of the big problems with Training for Success was the way in which the contracts were awarded: providers can recruit only from a particular council area. To give an example of how that may not work, I have a level 2 contract for all Northern Ireland. That allows me to recruit young people and employers from all of Northern Ireland and to use a single provider. There are neither enough people nor employers to use all 26 council areas, so along with Belfast Metropolitan College, I have recruited a group of 16 young people to be trained in fabrication and welding. They have been recruited from Kilkeel, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Forkhill, and one is from Dundalk. They come to Belfast Metropolitan College perhaps once a week for training. The only reason that I am able to do that is because I have a contract for all of Northern Ireland. Belfast Metropolitan College could not do that on its own contract — 16 people on a course is the optimum number that is required to make courses most cost-effective. Belfast Metropolitan College was chosen in particular because young people rely quite a bit on public transport, and it is probably one of the easiest colleges to get to.
  97. When my young people complete their level 2 apprenticeships, they will hopefully move on to level 3. However, at that stage, because Belfast Metropolitan College’s contract does not cover an area outside Belfast, some of the people who are on my programme will have to move on to other providers. That will create difficulties; for example, a course may not be available for the two people who are from the Newry area. I am concerned about what will happen to those young people when they reach level 3 stage. Are any providers available who could continue their training? At the same time, people’s leaving Belfast Metropolitan College to go on to another college will mean a change in continuity, which might affect achievement rates.
  98. My experience tells me that if Training for Success is to be successful, one provider would be required to co-ordinate an engineering programme throughout Northern Ireland. Engineering centres of excellence, to which apprentices would be required to travel and through which practical training would be delivered and technical certificates would be awarded, should be identified.
  99. Engineering Training Services has a proven track record of delivering successfully an employer-led apprenticeship programme that has high achievement rates. Engineering Training Services feels that the quality of delivery is paramount, and that a system such as that which I described would be the most cost-effective way to run the programme.
  100. Ms Gillian Winters (Engineering Training Services): With regards to the quality of delivery, it has already been mentioned that we received a contract for level 2. We are in the process of undergoing a quality and performance audit by Dell, the target completion date for which is the end of business this week. We are scheduled for another audit by the Education and Training Inspectorate at the end of January, and we will hopefully receive feedback on how we are progressing with the Training for Success contract.
  101. Mr Ronnie Moore (Energy and Utility Skills): Energy and Utility Skills is one of the 25 licensed sector skills councils. Obviously, I did not come to give a whole spiel about Energy and Utility Skills itself; I came to talk about Training for Success. That said, I will give details of our remit as a sector skills council. Employers are at the heart of the matter, and about 70% of what we do in the Province, throughout the UK and in the South of Ireland is about employers, making sure that they can speak to Government and that their voices are heard.
  102. I will talk about two matters today: first, I have been given the opportunity to build a brand new apprenticeship for the natural gas industry in Northern Ireland; and secondly, the way in which Training for Success will deal with that. That will be the first apprenticeship that we will have taken on board since the bidding system of spring and summer of 2007.
  103. That is interesting, and I am working with the Department to bring the new apprenticeship on board for September 2008. It will involve a cluster of employers in the greater Belfast area and another in the north-west, from Maghera to Derry.
  104. From the brief notes that I have submitted, members will see that Energy and Utility Skills looks after electricity, gas, water and waste management, and it has a strong input into renewable energy and the environment. We look after large companies such as: Northern Ireland Electricity; Northern Ireland Water; Phoenix Natural Gas; and Furness Energy Partnership, which is the asset owner. In Dublin, we work closely with the training department of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), looking after its skills needs, and also with Bord Gáis. We have a remit across the board, which is useful for networking among companies. A couple of years ago, those companies and ourselves carried out a benchmarking exercise. Energy and Utility Skills has been licensed for just over four years, and I have been operating with the company for nearly the same length of time, having come from the electrical engineering world.
  105. Moving on to Training for Success, Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) has been running modern apprenticeships for many years. It is a fairly self-sufficient company that has introduced good apprenticeship schemes. It ran successfully the Jobskills apprenticeship programme, which was the only show in town for many years, and it had a good level 3 employer-led apprenticeship. I am delighted that the new standards and apprenticeship methods that were adopted under Training for Success are driven by employer need, are employer-led, and are based on employment. A level 3 apprentice has an employer from day one. It is absolutely critical that a young person knows that they belong to a company and that from day one they are getting a salary, not a small grant that makes them feel that they do not belong, do not have a home, and do not really have an employer. With a small grant, apprentices feel that they are on work experience but do not have a real job. The employer-led route for level 3 apprenticeships is therefore the only way. Some employers might find that difficult in that they might not be able to afford to pay a salary in the first year, but that young person is working for the employer and the employer must find a salary for them. Employers must recruit their own young people and ensure that they are taking part in an employer-led scheme. I like that aspect of Training for Success; that can only be a good thing as the programme grows and matures.
  106. Through its modern apprenticeships, Northern Ireland Electricity has its own training centre in the Province. That is an approved centre for Training for Success that is capable of offering level 2 and level 3 apprenticeships in the electricity sector. It offers a NVQ level 3 qualification, which is a City and Guilds award. It also offers a technical certificate, which is obtained through day release at the Northern Regional College in Ballymena or at Belfast Metropolitan College.
  107. Interestingly, Northern Ireland Electricity feels that there are teething problems with Training for Success and that the scheme was introduced too quickly. For example, particular information being needed by certain dates has meant that it has been difficult to get the training management system (TMS) up and running. The Department has extended the date several times to accommodate training partners and approved centres. There is no doubt that there have been teething problems with the programme.
  108. However, Northern Ireland Electricity has told me that the Training for Success scheme has been an improvement and that it will improve as it proceeds. The company likes what it has seen so far, and it is working with the Department to overcome the teething problems. It thinks that, once those problems have been overcome, Training for Success might prove to be a better system than the Jobskills programme. Although Training for Success is in its early days, Northern Ireland Electricity is happy with it, feels that it is going well and that, in the long run, when the scheme matures, it will result in a better process. It is far too early for auditors and quality assessors to move into training establishments because they would not have enough information or time to bed the young people in and get the appropriate information from them.
  109. The new apprenticeship that I hope to introduce in the Province will be the acid test for the sector skills council in which I am involved. Part of a sector skills council’s remit is to make sure that provision in Northern Ireland, throughout the UK and, in my case, the South of Ireland, is absolutely A1.
  110. It is an employer’s job to ensure that kids who go to further education colleges get the best possible training and that they are not wasting their time reading books or papers. I assure the Committee that I work closely with the colleges to ensure that the students get that training.
  111. We are initiating several new apprenticeships. One example is the level 3 apprenticeship for the natural gas industry. The fact that that primarily involves SMEs is one positive aspect of it. It involves mainly a cluster of companies that would employ not many more than between 12 and 20 people. Those SMEs will therefore be clustered and brought on board for the Training for Success programme. Further to that, as the scheme progresses, DEL will also be brought on board.
  112. I am working with the Department to ensure that the bidding process is sorted out. Given that it is now the new year, I expect the Department to put that out to tender shortly so that all parties, whether further education colleges or independent training providers, will have the opportunity to bid for the apprenticeships. I listened to Mr Hatton and his team talking about the problems with the new bidding process, how those problems occurred, and who received apprenticeships — and who did not — during the spring and summer of 2007. Certainly, there have been problems. I am not so naive to think that everything in the garden is rosy. For me, the acid test will be how the new bidding process is handled.
  113. If they wish, the FE colleges and the independent providers may bid for the apprenticeships and then bid to be the managing agent. That agent then draws down the funding. Another positive aspect of the Training for Success programme is that its funding has increased slightly, from the £9,500 that was available under the Jobskills programme to full level 3 apprenticeship funding. An additional £1,500 has been added, and an employer can receive that directly if he or she has an apprentice who has completed a full level 3 apprenticeship.
  114. I am not sure whether the Committee is aware that the funding for apprenticeships is tiered. For example, the gas and electricity sector, in which I am employed, is classed as engineering. Engineering apprenticeships are highly technical, and the NVQ level 3 is difficult. It requires the completion of 17 units along with work for the technical certificate. It receives the highest level of funding, but it needs it. Some time ago, we carried out a study on engineering. It was found that it would cost an employer such as NIE approximately £65,000 to employ an apprentice from day one to the completion of his or her three and a half years’ apprenticeship. Although the Department is providing funding, right across the board, employers are paying for the apprenticeships. That cost includes the training that they provide to the young people, their salaries, and the resources that are required. That costs at least £65,000 for each apprenticeship, and the figure is rising all the time.
  115. It is a costly business for companies to have and to train apprentices. Undoubtedly, however, apprentices are the backbone of a company because they can be shaped and moulded in a manner that suits the company and that will create a sense of loyalty that will make them want to stay with the company. No matter how we look at the apprenticeship scheme, it must continue and be allowed to grow and mature. It is much needed
  116. My remit extends across the UK. I therefore know the apprenticeship rates and the way in which they are run in Scotland, England and Wales. In Wales, an all-age apprenticeship scheme is running, which includes people aged 16 to 60. I am aware that many employers would like a similar scheme to be introduced in the Province. Many of my clients are utility contractors, such P and J McNicholl, the Morrow Group, and KPL Contracts. Those people cannot take 16-year-olds who have come straight from school — it would be too dangerous to take them on to a site. At that stage, they would not have a licence, and many of those contractors start work at 7.30am. How would those young people get to a site at that time in the morning? Therefore, there are difficulties. However, I am trying to bring apprenticeships to contractors.
  117. Contractors have shifted tremendously during the past 10 years. Some contractors, such as Balfour Beatty plc and Airpac Bukom Oilfield Services employ upwards of 30,000 people and are bigger than some of the asset owners with which they work. They would like to start taking apprentices. Therefore, if we could get the all-age apprenticeships up and running — and I have talked to the Department about that — organisations such as utility companies would benefit.
  118. The Deputy Chairperson: I thank you and the other witnesses for your presentations. Members can now ask questions of the witnesses.
  119. Ms Winters: I have a couple of observations from some of our participating employers, one of which is that no funding is currently attracted into adult apprenticeships, making age a problem for employers. Traditionally engineering has attracted males, so we try to encourage females.
  120. Employers have also noticed a substantial increase in the fees for underpinning knowledge: previously, they were invoiced for approximately £350, and that figure has increased to around £3,000.
  121. The Deputy Chairperson: Invoiced by the colleges?
  122. Ms Winters: Yes.
  123. The Deputy Chairperson: Members have indicated that they have questions. This is an important area for the Committee, so I will start with a couple of comments.
  124. We have been concerned with problems surrounding the procurement process of getting out of the old schemes.
  125. Jim, you indicated that you have about 100 apprentices, and that, at the moment, you can move people in only at level 2, which employers consider semi-skilled. You said that, if you could go ahead, you would move people directly into level 3. Is that correct?
  126. Mr McIlveen: Yes.
  127. The Deputy Chairperson: What is the point of moving people in at NVQ level 2 if you can move them in at level 3, which is what the employer wants?
  128. Mr McIlveen: Industry needs it.
  129. The Deputy Chairperson: You said that once people go through the level 2 process you hope that they will move into level 3, but that there is no guarantee. That is a serious concern. Will you elaborate on that, because members have previously expressed concern about some aspects?
  130. Mr McIlveen: The optimum situation for me would be to achieve a level 3 contract. However, I do not bank on that, therefore I work on forming partnerships with level 3 providers, such as the six colleges throughout Northern Ireland. That is in the early stages, but I hope to form a partnership that will take my young people right through to NVQ level 3, including those currently in training.
  131. The Deputy Chairperson: There is a financial cost, as well as people’s time, etc, for putting them through NVQ level 2, but you would like to move them directly into level 3. It sounds like a bit of a waste to do level 2 if they can go directly into level 3.
  132. Mr McIlveen: Let me clarify one point. Irrespective of whether people go into a level 2 or 3 apprenticeship they still have to cover level 2 as a foundation.
  133. The Deputy Chairperson: But you would cover that in a shorter time during level 3. Is that how it is done?
  134. Mr McIlveen: Level 2 has to be done.
  135. The Deputy Chairperson: So there is some sort of shortened level 2?
  136. Mr McIlveen: In the past, with the Jobskills programme, we spent roughly a year to 15 months going through level 2, and the remainder of the time, which is up to four years, going to level 3. The current process allows two years to take them to level 2; the next partner will have a further two years to take them through level 3.
  137. Mr McClarty: Thank you for your presentation, which, although interesting, nevertheless gave cause for concern.
  138. There is obviously a dearth of engineers in the Province, yet companies cry out for them. Therefore, there are huge career opportunities in that area for any young person, male or female. Time was that many young people, on leaving secondary education, or the old technical colleges, went into engineering on low-paid apprenticeships. Now you tell me that apprenticeships can be quite highly paid; however, young people are not attracted in the same numbers. Why is that? Is it because they might have to get their hands dirty? How do we proactively encourage young people into engineering? There are huge opportunities for anyone wishing to make a career out of it.
  139. Mr McIlveen: There is no one answer to that; however, there are several reasons. Young people are encouraged to stay at school — and more so today than ever before. Schools with no previous track record of upper-sixth classes now offer courses in care, business studies, etc, which are not relevant to engineering, and they encourage those young people to go on to higher education. Parents see a child with a degree as one of the better options available, irrespective of the subject. Many young people may not go on to work in the field for which they have been educated.
  140. The perception of engineering is not great. Typically, a year in which we have done a lot of promotion may appear to be successful, then Bombardier Shorts might lay off a couple of hundred workers, and all our work will be knocked to the wayside. On the plus side, however, not all of those 200 workers will have been engineers, and those engineers that have been laid off will be successful in getting new jobs, but that fact is never made public. We have many issues in trying to get the message across to young people.
  141. Mr Hatton: The private sector tends to be made up of peaks and troughs. Jim McIlveen referred to Bombardier Shorts, and, a while back, there were redundancies. However, that company now looks for a host of people, and it hopes to get the go-ahead for the C
  142. Series aircraft. That will have a tremendous impact on the organisation. Bombardier’s order books must be nearly full.
  143. We have checked the Belfast Telegraph on Fridays for the past three months, and many companies — including Bombardier Shorts, FG Wilson Engineering Ltd, Gallagher’s and Michelin Tyre plc, which are superb companies — have been looking for people. It is of great concern that those companies will not be able to get the people that they want. Those companies are investigating programmes, such as apprenticeship training and upskilling, and the possibility of employing foreign workers to fill the gaps. Boards of directors will make corporate decisions to look elsewhere for workers if they cannot find the appropriate people in Northern Ireland, and they will consider resiting to a manufacturing facility in another country, where the appropriate skilled labour might be available.
  144. If that is the situation for our indigenous industry, and if the companies here cannot get the skills that they require, what chance is there for getting inward investment? Invest Northern Ireland must have a terribly difficult job.
  145. We have to wrestle with those issues. The press are very good at writing demoralising headlines — and they may be sitting behind me now. The front page of the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ could have a headline stating that a certain company has let 200 or 300 people go; however, on reading articles and looking at the research, one would find that the number of companies looking for people far outweighs the number of jobs that have been lost. We do not mean level-2 jobs; our sector employs people with a minimum level-3 qualification, and that is where we can compete. If we do not have those higher value-added jobs and people trained to higher skills, then we will not have the jobs. We need to increase skills.
  146. Ronnie Moore mentioned adult apprenticeships, and I have approached DEL about funding for those. Many companies have good-calibre, semi-skilled workers who may have been employed there for quite a while and who have a good track record. There is a tremendous opportunity for upskilling those workers. However, the companies need support to be able to do that. Ronnie said that it costs in the region of £60,000-£65,000 to train an apprentice, and as much to train an electronics engineer. It is a fantastic amount of money; however, I do not look at the training as a cost but as an investment.
  147. Mr McCausland: Coming back to the point that the Deputy Chairperson raised with Jim McIlveen, do you have a contract for level 2 training for the entire Province?
  148. Mr McIlveen: Yes.
  149. Mr McCausland: You also said that you need 16 people to make a course viable. Do other organisations have level 2 contracts for the entire Province or parts thereof? Who has the level 3 contracts?
  150. Mr J McIlveen: I am not aware of any other organisation with a level 2 contract for all of Northern Ireland. I am aware of organisations with contracts in particular council areas. My point was that to run a cost-effective course, people must come in from other council areas, and we must use employers in other council areas. My example was Belfast Metropolitan College as the most central.
  151. Mr McCausland: Taking just one such narrow sector, is it possible to get a breakdown of the numbers of young people taking part, where they go for training and who provides it? It is hard to get a sense of the overall picture, because I do not work in the sector. There seem to be incongruities in the organisation of the scheme.
  152. The Deputy Chairperson: Could that information be provided to the Committee?
  153. Mr Hatton: We must bear in mind that Training for Success is in its infancy, and that we are only six months into the programme. Traditionally, in Northern Ireland anywhere between 200 and 250 level 3 apprentices might have been in training, who would have gone through a range of different companies, colleges and training providers. However, far fewer people are going through Training for Success at level 3. Those numbers must be examined.
  154. About 200 people are doing level 2 qualifications, but very few are doing level 3. If we take Bombardier Shorts out of the equation, very few people are doing level 3 apprenticeships. Those are the people that the sector needs. The people at level 2 might never get to level 3. They might get onto a level 3 course, but they might not be successful. We just do not know. Level 3 apprentices are the key workers in my sector, in Ronnie Moore’s sector, in the electrical installations sector and in construction.
  155. The Deputy Chairperson: The Committee would be interested in the information that Nelson mentioned, along with the number of apprentices at level 3. Perhaps the Department can provide that? The Department is due to deliver statistics on 30 January.
  156. Mr Butler: Thank you for the presentation. One of the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) criticisms of the Jobskills programme was that there was no system to analyse or predict what skills might be needed in the future. That is particularly the case with engineering businesses. There will be another change in the skills sector, because a commission will be set up. Do you agree with the PAC’s view that it was a serious omission that failed trainees and employers, and that people are being given skills that will not be required?
  157. Mr Moore: That goes back to the discussion on level 2 and level 3 qualifications. On the level 2 side —
  158. Mr Butler: Sorry, Jim McIlveen pointed out that the Jobskills pilot scheme was a success. However there is a concern.
  159. Mr J McIlveen: The programme that I ran was not supplier-driven.
  160. Mr Hatton: The Sector Skills Councils will make a big difference in making the training demand-led, as opposed to simply coming up with training provision. Moreover, that will be the whole approach of the Sector Skills Development Agency and of the new Commission for Employment and Skills.
  161. Traditionally in Northern Ireland, the training-supply side offered a whole range of programmes, irrespective of whether there were potential jobs in those areas. We do not agree. Employers must be asked what they need. We need to know clearly what their demands are now and for the next three or four years, then get the training-provision side to meet those requirements.
  162. I followed closely the Public Accounts Committee’s examination of the Jobskills programme. There was much criticism of the programme and some awful problems were highlighted. However, there were still some pockets of very good work. Some of the work that was carried out by organisations — such as those that Ronnie and Jim represent —tried to meet employers’ needs. Those programmes were always employer-led, and now the whole process is moving in that direction. That is as it should be, so that young boys and girls do not sign up to programmes without knowing the possible outcomes. Indeed, after a year or two, it often becomes clear that there are no possible outcomes. That has happened frequently. As we said earlier, people on a level 3 apprenticeship programme know that they will probably be employed right from the start; they know where they are going, what they can earn and the sorts of knowledge and skills that they need to do the job. The opportunities that present themselves in those organisations can be tremendous.
  163. Mr Moore: This matter goes back to the level 2 apprenticeship programmes. Jim is quite right when he says that young people can do a level 2 programme on their way to getting a level 3 qualification, but that happened with Jobskills in the past, too. Thus, as David said, there are some examples that are very good.
  164. Then there are examples of young people obtaining a level 2 qualification and then being kicked out the door as the employer did not want them. That is where the problems began. Those people picked up quite a lot of grant money to reach level 2, but level 2 was no good for employers once the young people were out on the street again. That raises the issue of level 2 and level 3 apprenticeship programmes, and that is perhaps part of the problem.
  165. Mr Attwood: I thank the witnesses for their evidence. It was sober at times, but it has captured some of the key issues around the Training for Success programme and apprenticeships. The evidence has certainly been very helpful.
  166. I agree with Mr Hatton’s point that there is a disconnection in the draft Programme for Government and the draft Budget between trying to attract and develop jobs in the North and the workforce’s having the necessary skills to do those jobs. The Budget lines do not add up. That could, potentially, create a black hole. If jobs develop in the North, or are created from outside through foreign direct investment, I am not sure whether we would have the skills base to service those jobs.
  167. Earlier, we heard evidence from the Learning and Skills Development Agency. To take the tourism sector as an example, the witnesses said that they thought that the training providers for the tourism industry would be able to furnish the employees with the necessary skills to meet future demand. Is that your view? We have heard evidence about one priority skills area, and your sector has various priority skill areas. In your view, are those who are currently providing the skills training providing enough people with enough skills to service future demand? One can consider this issue from the point of view of tourism or from the point of view of the areas in which you are most interested.
  168. Mr Hatton: From my perspective, we certainly fall short on the engineering and manufacturing side. If, for example, Toyota decided to open a car plant somewhere in Northern Ireland, would the necessary skills be available in Northern Ireland? I do not think so. Those skills are currently with the companies. The last thing that I want is for a company to come to Northern Ireland and take skilled people from other companies. That would solve that company’s problem, but it would create another problem further along the line.
  169. We need a co-ordinated approach to apprenticeship, technician and graduate training in Northern Ireland. As far as I can see, there is no co-ordinated approach by which organisations work together. As a member of the Sector Skills Councils, Ronnie works with the larger companies to co-ordinate a programme; for electrical installation, ETT and SumitSkills will probably work to co-ordinate a programme. There is no opportunity to co-ordinate a programme in engineering because too many organisations do different things. If we train the majority of people only to level 2 standard, companies such as Bombardier Shorts, FG Wilson, Gallaher, Michelin and Ryobi, will not be interested. They need people at level 3, and that is the only area in which we can compete.
  170. Mr Attwood: Do the other witnesses share that broad view? Ronnie, you spoke a bit more favourably about how things are joined-up.
  171. Mr Moore: Yes, I did.
  172. Mr Attwood: Do we face a black-hole situation where, in the event of jobs becoming available, there are not enough people with the necessary skills?
  173. Mr McIlveen: Yes, we are. In the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ of 11 January, several engineering jobs were advertised, and those jobs will be filled by people who are already in employment.
  174. Mr Attwood: Gillian, your observations about adult apprenticeships were very useful. In the Budget, DEL bid for a 1000% increase in funding of adult apprenticeships, which is the biggest increase in bid for any area of DEL spending. We have not seen the final Budget and it may have been adjusted — although I do not think so — but it falls far short of a 1000% increase in funding of adult apprenticeships over the next three years. That confirms that there could be a black hole there as well.
  175. My final question relates to what Jim McIlveen said because, as the Deputy Chairperson indicated, the issue of which groups got contracts preoccupies the Committee. Why do you suspect that recruitment has been low in certain critical areas?
  176. Mr McIlveen: I have close working relationships with the main providers, and I talk to people in colleges and other training organisations. The number of level 3 apprentices has dropped dramatically. We were probably the main recruiter of level 3 apprentices, with 100 a year, but can no longer do that. Therefore, the numbers have dropped dramatically.
  177. Mr Attwood: Does anyone else have any evidence of a decline in numbers?
  178. Mr Moore: I have a different story to tell: NIE told me that the number of people who applied for their apprenticeships last year rose for the first time in five years — over 300 young people applied. NIE takes a range of people from 16-year-olds to those at the 25-year-old limit, and some of the young people they take as apprentices already have a BTech qualification and are 19 or 20 years old. We were talking about the downturn in apprenticeships but last year there were more applicants for apprenticeships with NIE than there had been for five years. Does that answer your question?
  179. Mr Attwood: We will see the evidence when the figures come back at the end of the month. However, your view and Jim’s could be reconciled, because I suspect that some of the previous training organisations recruit a high number of apprentices, whereas the new training organisations have difficulty in recruiting because they are not fit for purpose when it comes to the contracts that they received.
  180. Mr Attwood: Those training organisations that are already established are doing well, whereas those that have suddenly emerged —
  181. Mr Moore: I cannot comment on that because I do not have, and do not know, the figures. However, you are correct that established companies and approved centres are embedded in the system and know what they are doing.
  182. Mr Hatton: It has sounded like doom and gloom. However, I am here to present that information, as are my colleagues. That is not to say that we do not have certain methodologies that we would like to put into practice. I am currently examining several of those with the Department’s sectoral division. I have written to the Minister, and he wants to meet a small delegation from our sector. I do not want to go to him and say that the situation is awful, terrible and dreadful: I want to show that consideration should be given to certain actions that could help the situation. It is possible that a major engineering campaign will kick off in 2008 through the Engineering and Technology Board. It will have a co-ordinated approach throughout Northern Ireland that will go from schools right through to employers. Therefore, positive steps are being taken.
  183. The Deputy Chairperson: Thank you. There will be a quick final question from Mrs McGill.
  184. Mrs McGill: Briefly, what is the availability of electrical engineering apprenticeships in the west? What numbers participate? With regard to a question that was asked by Mr McCausland earlier, what are the figures for the Strabane and Omagh District Council areas? Do young people from those areas currently undertake apprenticeships with NIE?
  185. Mr Moore: Yes, I have a good answer to that. It is a good-news story, because NIE advertises its apprenticeships Province-wide. Often, young people from Fermanagh and Tyrone take part. One part of the apprenticeship involves overhead lines — climbing towers and poles. Young people from Fermanagh have a good track record in that type of work. NIE believes that young people from Fermanagh have a good work ethic.
  186. The Deputy Chairperson: Does that mean that the Fermanagh lines often come down?
  187. Mr Moore: I can tell you that NIE is keen to get people from Fermanagh and that part of the world — Tyrone as well, of course — because of their work ethic and their ability at outdoor working.
  188. Mrs McGill: What about Omagh and Strabane?
  189. The Deputy Chairperson: We will not go any further into specific areas. You have your answer, Mrs McGill. Apprenticeships are Northern Ireland-wide.
  190. Mr Moore: The numbers are not big though.
  191. Mrs McGill: I am interested in the specific figures.
  192. Mr Moore: An apprenticeship runs every year, for which there are applicants from right across the Province. Traditionally, as many young people from that part of the world participate as those from Down and Antrim.
  193. Mrs McGill: Can you provide in writing the figures for electrical engineering apprenticeships in Strabane and Omagh?
  194. Mr Moore: Yes.
  195. The Deputy Chairperson: OK. We shall have a breakdown of figures for Strabane and Omagh. I thank all four of you for your attendance. I have no doubt that we will speak to you again in the not-too-distant future. Your presentation was interesting and raised many serious points. The Committee has taken on board the evidence that you have given.

23 January 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Ms Anna Lo
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Basil McCrea
Mr Robin Newton
Mr Alistair Ross

Witnesses:

Mr John Armstrong
Mr Ciarán Fox

Construction Employers Federation

  1. The Chairperson (Ms S Ramsey): I welcome John Armstrong and Ciarán Fox of the Construction Employers Federation (CEF). Thank you for your submission.
  2. Members will recall that the federation wrote to the Committee outlining some issues relating to the Training for Success programme. The construction industry plays a significant role in the programme, and its views are important for our monitoring purposes; therefore the session will be reported by Hansard. I know that its reporters are under pressure, so I thank them for their attendance today.
  3. John and Ciarán will brief the Committee, and then we will open the meeting up for questions. The session will be informal, so members will simply flow with their questions.
  4. Mr John Armstrong (Construction Employers Federation): Thank you for giving us the opportunity to address the Committee this morning. I am the managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, and my colleague, Ciarán Fox, is involved in policy issues. We thought that it would be useful to give you a brief overview of the construction industry and its importance to the economy and of the federation and its views on apprenticeship arrangements.
  5. The construction industry is probably the biggest industrial sector in Northern Ireland, with an output of approximately £3·2 billion, which represents about 14% of the gross value added (GVA) for the Province. More than 80,000 people are engaged in it, so it is hugely important to the economy.
  6. The Construction Employers Federation is the employers’ representative body and trade association for the industry. We are the only certified employers’ organisation for the industry, so we have an important role in developing and setting policy. Moreover, the federation and the trade unions form the Joint Council for the Building and Civil Engineering Industry in Northern Ireland. The Joint Council sets and establishes wage rates and terms and conditions for the industry. We have a particular interest, as do our union colleagues, in the training of young people.
  7. Several years ago, the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) mooted that Jobskills was coming to an end, and the industry was advised that it was an opportunity to come up with a model for providing young people with apprenticeships in construction. Therefore with our union colleagues, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the colleges, which were represented by the Association of Northern Ireland Colleges (ANIC), we came up with a model based on a period of pre-apprenticeship training for young people.
  8. We envisaged that the duration of the pre-apprenticeship would be flexible and that the young people would receive basic instruction and training — particularly in health and safety. The Committee will know that training in health and safety is vital for people who work on construction sites.
  9. It was also envisaged that issues regarding essential skills would be addressed during the pre-apprenticeship period, and there would be an assessment of the individual’s aptitude and capability for a trade. A young person may think that they want to be a joiner, for instance, but with experience and work sampling, they may discover that they are better suited to a different trade.
  10. Critical to our model, the young people would become fully employed by a construction company as soon as they finished their pre-apprenticeship, and they would be paid the appropriate joint council wage rates for apprentices. Not only would that provide a degree of certainty for the young person’s future, but it would give him or her a sense of belonging — something that was lacking with Jobskills, as young people did not feel that they belonged to any company. That contributed to many of the failings of Jobskills.
  11. The model that we suggested to the Department was a construction-specific model, and the Department noted at the time that it would not be looking for a one-size-fits-all replacement for Jobskills for all industrial sectors. In the meantime, we have been frustrated with the implementation of Training for Success, because it does not reflect the model that the industry put forward.
  12. Mr Ciarán Fox (Construction Employers Federation): I would like to go briefly through our paper ‘Monitoring the Implementation of Training for Success: The Construction Industry Perspective’. The Committee’s first term of reference asked whether the providers of training programmes were fully equipped to deliver high-quality training. It appears that they are not.
  13. After 13 weeks of TFS, only 40% of candidates for construction apprenticeships are fully employed as apprentices after 13 weeks. Employment from day one was supposed to be the big policy shift for the new training programme compared with Jobskills, which was a non-employed programme that offered placements. During the 13-week period, the 60% non-employed trainees were supposed to receive 35 hours’ training a week, but — due to financial and staff resources — most training providers found it impossible to deliver that. As a result, training providers offered a variety of programmes for trainees: three days’ training and two days’ placement with an employer; two days’ training and three days’ placement with the employer; or three days’ training with no employment, and the young person is left to do whatever he or she wants for the other two days. Some training providers have taken on a trainee for five days and somehow made things work; however, that has not been applied uniformly, and the consequences are serious. I will talk about them later.
  14. Due to the late implementation of Training for Success and the vagueness of some of the tender documents, the colleges were unsure about what they were being asked to implement until well into the year — as late as June or July. The programme was to roll out from September, but there was a lack of clarity about what colleges were being required to do. That puts them at a disadvantage in providing the highest-quality training or in ensuring that they have the proper resources in place. We have also been concerned about that.
  15. The second term of reference relates to geographical coverage, which is not of particular concern to us. Employers and training providers have not raised that as an issue in construction. Our focus is on whether Training for Success is firmly aligned to the needs of local industry, business sectors, and particularly the construction industry.
  16. I will begin by giving the Committee a view of what happened during the first 13 weeks of the programme. CITB has told us that more than 2,000 construction trainees are enrolled on Training for Success. At this stage of the year, trainees fall into three main categories: those who have been fully employed as apprentices; those who are on a non-employed training programme with a work placement; and those who are on a non-employed training programme without a work placement. As I said earlier, only 40% of construction trainees are fully employed; the other 60% are not.
  17. We are very disappointed with such a low rate of employment, which is due to how Training for Success has been implemented. The change from Jobskills could have been an opportunity to establish an apprenticeship scheme that employers could buy into from the start; however, that has not happened.
  18. One of the big questions for the Committee is whether we are moving back towards Jobskills. The industry really does not want that; it would not be good for young people, and I am sure that the Committee would not want it either. Jobskills was criticised heavily because, in effect, it provided free labour, and we are concerned that, to a degree, that has crept into Training for Success.
  19. In the 13-week period from September until December some training providers released people to employment for up to three days a week and trained them for only two days. That creates a twin-track system, because some employers are taking young people on, giving them fully paid employment for three days and releasing them to college for two days; on the other hand, some employers do not pay a penny. In fact, the young person is being paid £40 a week by the Government to do exactly the same thing. That is fundamentally what we did not wish to see happen, since it is a return to the same idea as Jobskills. If businesses are offered two alternatives, one of which is free and the other costs money, it is easy to assume which one they will take.
  20. It is our understanding that work placements were not supposed to happen during the 13-week period; however, people do not always follow the rules, and placements happened because there were insufficient resources to deal with the young people. It is important to note that those young people had decided that they did not want to follow an academic path. They had been going to school from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm, and they suddenly found themselves in a classroom for 35 hours a week. The colleges could not provide a different environment, and that was their way of dealing with the problem.
  21. The Construction Employers Federation is also alarmed that, as we enter the 13- to 26-week period, under the rules, students who are non-employed can be released to employment for two days a week. Moreover, after 26 weeks the colleges are allowed to release trainees to employment for three days. That is one of our major concerns about the return to a Jobskills-style apprenticeship.
  22. We are also trying to establish the extent of the problem for the construction industry. Over the past year we have been asking DEL how many of the apprenticeships in Northern Ireland over the past few years were in construction. In the South, roughly 70% to 80% of all apprenticeships are construction-related. The initial feedback that we received from DEL gave us figures that were grossly different from those that we received from CITB. DEL told us that there were about 1,000 construction-related apprenticeships; whereas CITB, which got its figures from going round the colleges on two separate occasions, told us that there were more than 2,000 a year on average.
  23. It was very difficult to get an idea of the quantum of construction apprentices. If it was 70%, that is all the more reason that construction should be given a special place in the system to ensure that apprentices are treated properly.
  24. Our next concern is the lack of employer engagement. Training for Success depends on employer engagement; it is no longer training-led but employer-led. Employers take on the young person; they pay them — we hope — from day 1 for five days a week, even though they will be training for one or two of those days. That should have provided us with an opportunity to disseminate information and to encourage employers to take on apprentices. Unfortunately, to our great regret, DEL has not approached us with such information, support and promotion, and, even in June and July, we were unable to tell our member firms what the new arrangements were. That is very difficult for an employers’ organisation. We want to tell people about the benefits of Training for Success, which is a step away from Jobskills — under which people are non-employed — to apprentices being employed, trained, and receiving a proper wage, which makes them feel that they belong to the company for which they work.
  25. There is no standard approach to training. If a young person was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship with a company and be fully employed, in certain parts of Northern Ireland they would train one day a week; in other parts for two days a week. Therefore the industry cannot be sure what programme an apprentice will follow, what modules they follow at college, and how long that will take. There is no consistency, and consistency helps in the promotion of any programme that is rolled out across Northern Ireland.
  26. Our concern is that Training for Success does not match up to the industry’s needs. Apprentices are vital to the success of our industry, so it is important that we raise the standing of apprenticeships to show the public that they are valued. One way to do that is through a proper wage structure. The CEF is the employers’ organisation that agrees the wage structure, along with the trade unions, through the joint council. The wage structure is laid out for each period of the apprenticeship and any achievements in it from the first year through to the achievement of NVQ level 3.
  27. At the moment, DEL provides funding without any requirement to pay a particular wage. Our understanding is that employers can pay an apprentice as little as £40 a week, which matches the money that a young person would get on a non-employed training programme. That is not what Training for Success set out to do.
  28. Although it is not our direct area of interest, the final term of reference asked whether the new arrangements for training provision under Training for Success:

“… adhere to the highest employee and resource management standards?”

We are concerned that Training for Success does not use its financial resources to the best of its ability. I made a quick calculation. Training for Success set out with the premise that it would try to get as many people as possible into employment as apprentices from the start. Consider construction alone: say that half the 2,000 trainees have not gone into paid employment for the 13-week period: training allowance to keep 1,000 apprentices in training at £40 a week over 13 weeks will cost more than £500,000. Had they had gone into employment, they would be doing two days a week training being paid by an employer for the whole time. There should have been more of a drive to get young people into employment. Every person who enters employment saves the Government money, since the Government no longer have to pay a subsidy for the young person.

  1. What steps are being taken now to find employment as an apprentice for the young people who have gone through the 13-week phase without gaining employment? What will happen to those who have not even got a placement? What happens after 52 weeks to the young people who have obtained a placement? Will they have sufficient skills to attract employers? There are many questions. I have tried to keep my discussion paper brief, but there are many other smaller issues that must be addressed.
  2. The Chairperson: Thank you for your presentation. I have a few questions to ask before I hand over to the Deputy Chairperson and the members. The Committee is genuinely concerned about the Training for Success programme and related issues connected to Jobskills. I know that young people have been used as cheap labour. We must strike a balance to ensure that apprenticeships are available, but I know of young people who have been put to one side after 12 or 13 weeks. There is a continuous cycle of young people going in and out of those programmes.
  3. Mr J Armstrong: That is absolutely right, and it is accepted that that is how it was under Jobskills. In many cases, as Ciarán said, apprentices were churned out and regarded as nothing more than cheap labour. One of the positive aspects of the model that we have presented to the Department is that the industry would take responsibility for ensuring that, after pre-apprenticeship training, those young people would be placed with employers and paid the appropriate wages. That is one of the crucial changes in our model. Unfortunately, it has not been adopted.
  4. The Chairperson: I wish to tease out some of those issues because the Committee will produce a report on the Training for Success programme. In your letter of 8 January to the Committee you say that due to difficulties with the governance of ConstructionSkills, which is the sector skills council for the construction industry, it does not represent employers’ views on training and skills development.
  5. Mr J Armstrong: CITB was statutorily established in Northern Ireland under the Industrial Training (Construction Board) Order 1964 to ensure the provision of appropriate or adequate training for those entering or working in the construction industry. The industry pays a levy to the CITB, which subsidises and supports training by way of grants.
  6. Several years ago, the UK Government introduced sector skills councils; the construction council is known as ConstructionSkills. In Great Britain, the equivalents of CITB and ConstructionSkills have almost completely merged. The principle behind ConstructionSkills is that it is employer-led. The issue that you refer to, quite rightly, is that in Northern Ireland the CITB has been put in a very difficult position in maintaining its statutory responsibilities as a levy-raising organisation and incorporating the role of ConstructionSkills. The issues revolve primarily around the lack of engagement with employers. However, the federation is working with the CITB and the Department to resolve the issue. I hope that that has given you an overview of the matter.
  7. The Chairperson: Yes, it has. Your briefing mentions the lack of employer engagement. Ciarán, are you being told on the one hand that there are 1,000 apprenticeships and on the other that there are 2,000?
  8. Mr Fox: If I may, I will address the issue of employer engagement first. An employers’ organisation with 1,000 members has a great opportunity to show those members a new package for apprenticeships that is a move away from Jobskills — something that they always wanted, and that pays apprentices the proper rate. However, we have not been given a pack to send to our members; therefore, we cannot tell them that Training for Success is great and that they should sign up to it, even though it is not exactly what the industry asked for. Training for Success is supposed to be employer-led: the most important body to engage with is the employers. In our submission to the consultation on Training for Success we recommended four principles, and flexibility was one of them. I cannot remember what the others were, but we said that the fourth principle should be employer engagement. Unfortunately, we did not get a response to that.
  9. Training for Success is a change of mindset from the Jobskills programme, which was training-led. However, that culture has not changed. To work, Training for Success must be employer-led, as it will be the employers who take on the apprentices, pay them and ensure that they go through the training properly.
  10. The statistical point was mainly for us to get our heads round how big the problem was. DEL’s figures show that over the past three years only about 1,000 construction apprentices are joining the scheme each year. CITB then told us that the figure was 2,000. We want to know the size of the problem that we have to deal with.
  11. The Chairperson: If you have not had direct involvement from the Department, there is no guidance on wages; it opens the system to abuse. Good, decent employers will take the young person through the scheme, but others will use the scheme to their advantage.
  12. Mr J Armstrong: That is one of our key frustrations. Training for Success could have placed the onus on the industry. It would be an industry-led programme but it would also give us the responsibility of ensuring that appropriate employment was provided for young people.
  13. Our proposal to the Department was that after the pre-apprenticeship period everybody would be employed and would be paid the wage that the joint council laid down for apprentices. In the first six months, an apprentice under the age of 21 should receive £133·77 a week, and on completion of NVQ level 3 it should rise to £352·17 a week. Employers would have to commit to pay those amounts, and it would be our responsibility to ensure that they take on that further responsibility. That is a big opportunity and, so far, it has been missed by the Department.
  14. Mr Fox: In the paper that we submitted to DEL in October 2008, we asked whether employers could be told that they would not get DEL funding unless they paid appropriate wages. Everyone responds well to incentives. Employers should be told that they can get their money from DEL but that they must pay young people proper wages, as opposed to £40 a week. Does giving apprentices £40 a week show that we value them? I think not.
  15. We have not had an answer to that question. There may be some legislative reason why DEL cannot have grants dependent on the amount paid to apprentices, but it is something to consider.
  16. The Chairperson: I have a couple of other points that I will come back to later. Training for Success amazes me every week.
  17. Mr Spratt: Thank you for your presentation. Training for Success also amazes me. Ciarán referred to the procurement process, which is something that we have been exercised about and we have given it some serious concern. He said that there was a vagueness about what was being prepared or about what was being asked for in the procurement process; that those who were successful were unable to provide quality training at the end of the day; and that training for the construction industry was not aligned to its needs.
  18. Can you elaborate on your concerns regarding procurement? That would be helpful to the Committee, particularly as this meeting is being recorded by Hansard. After that, I would like to discuss your consultation, as it was a very good paper.
  19. Mr Fox: The federation was not involved in the procurement exercise; however, we consulted the colleges that are heavily involved in construction. In their feedback to us, the colleges said that they were not sure what they were supposed to provide. They felt that they had no option but to submit a bid for that work, although they were unsure about what they were supposed to provide and whether the costs that they submitted would be enough to deliver the training package.
  20. Mr Spratt: If I understand correctly, are you telling us that what was being asked for in the procurement process was vague and that the colleges did not fully understand what they were bidding for?
  21. Mr Fox: Yes, although I would not put it as strongly as that. It was not that they did not understand at all, but there was a lack of clarity. The colleges had to submit a bid, but they were unsure about certain elements of what they were bidding on.
  22. The process was very rushed. Although the Training for Success consultation was in September 2006, nothing came out of it until the start of 2007, when only the most high-level responses were released. Information came through gradually over the following months, but the tendering process was delayed until late spring, and before long the September term was approaching. At that stage, the colleges had made their bids; however, they were still not absolutely sure about what they were being asked to deliver. According to the feedback received by the federation, the colleges felt that they were not entirely sure how to deliver the required training.
  23. Mr Spratt: Why could the colleges not provide the required quality of training?
  24. Mr Fox: It is very straightforward: the colleges were being asked to provide 35 hours’ training over five days a week for people who were not in employment, and many of the colleges did not feel that it was possible to deliver that. As a result— although it was probably also a hangover from the old Jobskills way of doing things — there were young people in employment for two or three days a week; however, as they were on placement they were on a non-employed strand. That came about because the colleges felt that they could not cater for the trainees for the required time.
  25. Mr Spratt: Therefore the needs of the industry have suffered.
  26. Is the paper that you submitted to the Committee the paper that you supplied to the Department during the consultation?
  27. Mr J Armstrong: No; the paper supplied to the Committee is an up-to-date paper. Our submission to the Department in 2006 was very detailed and involved significant discussions with the Department before and during the consultation and full details of the suggested model. We can supply that to the Committee.
  28. Mr Spratt: That might be worthwhile. The Chairperson mentioned the £40 a week that trainees are paid, which is a pretty basic sum. You said that employers would give the proper rates; how would those compare to the £40 a week?
  29. Mr J Armstrong: The proper rates vary for apprentices under the age of 21 and for those over the age of 21, so I will give you both figures. An apprentice who is under 21 will be paid £133·77 a week for the first six months of their apprenticeship, rising to £179·40 after six months. On the completion of NVQ 3 — in essence, the full modern apprenticeship — the rate of pay increases to £352·17 a week. The only real difference for an apprentice over the age of 21 is that the weekly payment is £179·40 for the first six months, rising to £352·17 on completion of NVQ3. Those rates are laid out in the blue book and are agreed by the joint council as part of the wage negotiations and the wage deal from the industry.
  30. Mr McCausland: You made the case that the construction industry is particularly important to the economy, and what you said is disturbing. Apart from colleges, are there any other training providers?
  31. Mr Fox: In addition to the colleges, there are private training providers.
  32. Mr McCausland: How many private training providers are involved in the sector?
  33. Mr Fox: I am not sure; there might be a handful or there might be 10.
  34. Mr McCausland: How long are the contracts for?
  35. Mr Fox: I do not know; that is a question for the colleges.
  36. Mr McCausland: You said that certain shortcomings have been identified; are those more prevalent in the colleges or in the private training providers?
  37. Mr Fox: We are not aware of any distinction.
  38. Mr J Armstrong: The feedback has predominantly come from the colleges but, as Ciarán said, we are not aware of any distinction.
  39. Ms Lo: Thank you for your presentation. I read through your submission last night and am very concerned. Jobskills was replaced so that young people would not be exploited as had previously been the case. I am concerned about those colleges that are slipping back to the Jobskills model of sending people on non-payment placements. Does DEL inspect or monitor those colleges?
  40. The Chairperson: Before Christmas, the Department said that it would come back to the Committee with a report on the first six months of the Training for Success scheme.
  41. Ms Lo: That is not correct practice. I agree that paying young people £40 a week is not the way to attract them into the industry — £40 is very little after bus fares and lunches have been paid for. We had a letter from some teachers in the colleges about that.
  42. Mr Fox: I am told that for the non-employed stream, travel is paid for by the Government, but I agree with you that £40 a week is very little.
  43. Ms Lo: Indeed it is. From your chart in the papers, they should be paid much more. That is not the way to treat our young people and not the way to attract them into a career in a valuable industry. I am very concerned about colleges and employers exploiting young people. The Committee must talk to DEL about engagement with employers. I agree that the process is too rushed and that there is a lack of preparation. I also agree that the solution should be employer-led — employers should be at the forefront, and DEL officials must get their skates on to work with employers on the matter.
  44. Mr J Armstrong: You have picked up on one of the crucial issues: as I hope we have outlined, construction is a huge and vitally important industry. Under the investment strategy, some £18 billion will be spent; the industry has a social and moral responsibility to train and provide young people with opportunities under that strategy. If Training for Success does not work, there is a danger of an over-reliance on migrant workers. Although migrant workers provide a very useful input, an over-reliance on them means that we are not providing opportunities for our young people, which will create problems for the economy in the not too distant future.
  45. Mr Fox: We have two distinct concerns about colleges. The first is the situation of the past 13 weeks, where colleges did not feel that they had the resources to provide the 35 hours’ full-time training a week and consequently sent people on placements with employers.
  46. Equally, after 13 weeks under the rules of the Training for Success programme, young people can go to an employer two days a week — and that work is unpaid. After 26 weeks, the rules state that they can go to an employer for up to a maximum of three days a week. Therefore it is not just a question of the colleges not being able to deliver the full-time training in the 13-week period: it is what is laid out under the rules of the Training for Success programme for the next two periods.
  47. The Chairperson: Ciarán, you mentioned the need for discussions. The federation is seen as one of the lead organisations in this matter, but it does not have direct contact with the Department? That is a crucial issue.
  48. It is also important to point out that one size does not fit all. Every young person is different.
  49. Mr Fox: Absolutely.
  50. The Chairperson: My nephew is an apprentice. He will get out of bed every morning at 6 o’clock to go to work, but on the mornings that he has to go to college, he does not get out of bed. A balance must be struck: we must ensure that young people get what they are looking for and that their rights are protected, not abused; however, we must also ensure that they get their qualifications at the end of their apprenticeship.
  51. Mr Fox: From the start of the consultation until 2007 we were in constant contact with DEL; we had regular meetings to lay out our fears. In fact, I remember saying at a meeting in late spring of 2007 that we were very concerned about the implementation of this programme, because we did not feel that it would result in anywhere near 100% of young people going into employment. A package must be on offer to employers; the programme must be made attractive to them. The incentive structure has to be right, and the employers must be knowledgeable about their rights and responsibilities.
  52. Unfortunately, those points were not taken on board. Even so, we have continued to work with DEL. We met the Department in September to ask whether a package could be put in place to try to rescue the situation this year. The federation sent a document on 30 October and received a response just last week, which was part of an attempt to move matters forward for this year. We are continuing with our efforts, because we must keep on battling for progress for next year. We recently met DEL and CITB to discuss what structure could be put in place for next year, but there is still the problem of those 1,000 young people who are on the non-employed training strands for this year’s intake. We can continue to work with DEL to find a solution for next year’s intake, and, I hope, achieve a much better rate of employment and retention. However, that is next year — this year still has to be dealt with.
  53. Mr Attwood: Like other Members, I, too, thank the witnesses for their attendance today; their presentation was evidence-based and clear-sighted. Some critical issues have been highlighted, and the Committee must address them with DEL quickly, either in writing or by inviting officials to appear before the Committee.
  54. First, does the federation have problems with recruiting young people into the construction industry in general? Despite your reservations about Training for Success and how young people are being trained, is there an identifiable gap between the numbers that the federation thinks the industry needs and the numbers of people that are available? It was clear from Tuesday’s debate in the House on apprenticeships that there is a gap in some industries.
  55. Secondly, given the proposals in the draft Programme for Government and the draft investment strategy, even if sufficient numbers were being put through training programmes and being trained properly, would those numbers be sufficient to satisfy what the federation thinks the industry demand will be over, say, the next five years?
  56. Thirdly, even if the numbers were satisfactory, does the federation believe that the training that trainees receive will be of a sufficient standard to meet the industry’s needs?
  57. Finally, it is one thing to say that the Department has not issued guidance about wages, and so on — and that matter must be pursued — but there is another factor to be considered is there honestly not an element in construction that does not want to pay the proper wage? As the big construction employers’ organisation, are you telling such employers that they are letting the industry down? What will you do about that?
  58. Mr J Armstrong: There has not been a huge problem with attracting young people into the industry, although Jobskills, which was the old system, was not particularly good at attracting kids. Over the last couple of years, construction has been going through a successful time, particularly in house building, and young people are beginning to see that there are very good career opportunities in construction.
  59. The careers advisory staff of the Construction Industry Training Board do very good work in schools making pupils — even in primary schools — aware of the opportunities available in the construction industry. Other organisations do similar work, so recruitment has not been a huge problem. However, the method of entry has not been particularly attractive, because most young people who want to go into vocational training do not want to sit in classrooms; they want to be out doing the job, so there has to be a shift in emphasis.
  60. Mr Fox: As regards supply and demand, plenty of people seem to want to come into construction. As in any industry, as the market goes up and down, the demand for apprenticeships will fluctuate, and this year the demand may be lower because of the downturn in housing. We have suggested a way to regulate supply and demand flow to clarify matters for young people and employers by asking employers to register their interest over the summer for the type of apprentice that they are looking for. That will create a list of employers’ needs or at least a significant number of them; after all, we cannot reach every corner of the industry. However, we could reach most of them, and that would enable us to guarantee a certain number of places.
  61. Mr J Armstrong: We would like to know whether there is sufficient provision in the Programme for Government and the investment strategy.
  62. Several years ago the public sector carried out a major survey of the construction industry’s capacity and capability of delivering for the investment strategy, and the Construction Employers Federation had an active input in that. To date, the industry has not been stretched, so there is no problem with capacity.
  63. We believe that our proposed apprenticeship model provides a very good training standard for young people. Assessment of their capability and aptitude in the pre-apprenticeship training is vital, after which they will go through a properly structured apprenticeship over a two- or three-year period that will lead to the completion of the full modern apprenticeship.
  64. The final question was whether the industry would buy into that. It is true that the industry has a mixed reputation, and there is a natural temptation in any business to take the least expensive route.
  65. As an employers’ organisation, we are concerned with raising standards in the industry and promoting good opportunities on a level basis. Our message is that if employers want to be with the Construction Employers Federation, they must adhere to those standards. That is an important message, because there will always be a small rump that will take the less appropriate route.
  66. We have 1,000 members across the full spectrum of construction, and we represent 72·4% of the total output of the industry. We accept that we have a responsibility to get the message to employers that they must employ people on a proper basis and pay them proper wages.
  67. Mr Fox: Sometimes people’s hands have to be forced, and the way to do that is by telling them that if they want the grant they must pay the proper wage. That makes a big difference.
  68. We are also working with the Central Procurement Directorate, which is looking at whether apprentices can be brought in through public-sector spending on construction projects, where once again it can made clear that the proper wages must be paid to make the arrangement official.
  69. The Chairperson: You have given us some interesting facts and information. There is another evidence session next week with Department officials, and I am sure that some of those issues will come up then.
  70. Thank you for your presentation. If you have more information, please feel free to inform the Committee.

30 January 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Paul Butler
Ms Anna Lo
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr David McClarty
Mr Robin Newton
Mr Alastair Ross

Witnesses:

Mrs Catherine Bell
Mrs Nuala Kerr

Department for Employment and Learning

  1. The Chairperson (Ms S Ramsey): The next item on the agenda is the second departmental briefing on the Training for Success programme. We are going from the frying pan into the fire. I thank Catherine Bell and Nuala Kerr for coming today and for providing a paper. Members will recall that the first in this series of briefings took place on 28 November 2007. Today’s briefing should bring the Committee up to date on developments since then. The Committee staff have also prepared a paper for members that ties together a range of themes.
  2. I remind members that as today’s briefing will form part of a scrutiny exercise, it will be recorded by Hansard. I will hand over to Catherine and Nuala, after which I will open the session for questions.
  3. Mrs Catherine Bell (Department for Employment and Learning): Thank you, Chairperson. I hope that members will find the paper helpful. One minor amendment has been made to a reference to a meeting between the Committee, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the Construction Employers Federation (CEF). Only CEF, not CITB, should have been mentioned; I apologise for the error.
  4. Our paper sets out the organisations and individuals that we have met over the past weeks and months, particularly in connection with the Training for Success programme, and the results of those meetings. We have also provided members with a list of inspections from 1 April to 31 March.
  5. The Chairperson: I am sorry; in my opening remarks, I should have mentioned that the Department has provided the Committee with information, for which I am grateful. The Education and Training Inspectorate operates on a confidential basis, and I know that Catherine will mention that. I hope that members will take that on board.
  6. Mrs Bell: There is an aspect of confidentiality to the work of the Education and Training Inspectorate. That same arrangement does not apply to the Department.
  7. The Chairperson: That is understandable.
  8. Mrs Bell: We have also included a list of CITB proposals relating to the Training for Success programme.
  9. I will separate out the Job-Ready programme and the Apprenticeships programme, around which there is a great deal of confusion. When the Committee completes its scrutiny and provides us with recommendations, we will separate completely the Apprenticeships programme from the Training for Success programme.
  10. I will make a few comments about the Job-Ready programme and the findings that we have arrived at as we have worked with training organisations and colleges. The Job-Ready programme comprises four strands, the first of which is personal development, which is aimed at those young people who have not been attending school and have been placed in a category known as “not in education or training” — generally, young people who have severe personal difficulties and are not yet ready to embrace professional or occupational training. In my view, those are the young people who need a platinum service, because they were failed the first time round.
  11. The second strand is skills for work, which is for young people who have not achieved any qualifications at school, who have severe literacy and numeracy problems, but, in the opinion of our careers advisers, after wider assessment, are able to undertake occupational training. I want to stress that it is at a very low level; the skills for work strand does not prepare young people for apprenticeships.
  12. The third strand is a pre-apprenticeship programme for those young people who have not yet obtained five GCSEs but who want to embrace a skills training programme. Initially, the young people attend college or another training organisation on a full-time basis; after 13 weeks, they go to employers for two days a week; and after 26 weeks, they can go to employers for up to three days a week.
  13. The final strand is employability. This strand sits with the Apprenticeships programme and is for those young people who are very able, who want to be apprentices, who can start a programme at level 3, but who have not yet secured employment from day one.
  14. One strength of the Job-Ready programme is that, having met with colleges and other training organisations, we know that they all welcome up-front training and the fact that young people will be placed in an organisation for a sustained period. The organisations get to know the young people, particularly in relation to their personal development and their skills for work; they understand their strengths as well as the weaknesses; and they can draw up realistic training plans.
  15. A second strength of the Job-Ready programme is that it focuses on the needs of the young person and not the organisation — it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The third major strength is that we have not specified a qualification towards which young people should work. Unlike the Jobskills programme, where young people had to work for an NVQ, we have said that they can work for a broader qualification, which, over time, could lead them to employment and working towards an NVQ. All organisations have welcomed that.
  16. The downside of the Job-Ready programme, and something that we must consider seriously, is that all the organisations have told us that 35 hours of directed training is too long — and I have mentioned that to the Committee before. We recognise that fact, and in the next iteration, the training time will be reduced.
  17. The second issue is that there is a variation in the arrangements for work placements — it was introduced for the best of reasons, but it has caused confusion over when a young person can begin a work placement and for how long the placement can last. We need to give better clarity and adopt a standardised approach to work placements.
  18. The third issue, which is a sensible measure, is that instead of assessing a young person immediately before he or she goes into a training organisation, there will be time for our careers advisers and the training organisations to work together to assess properly the young person to ensure that he or she is at the right level.
  19. Colleges do not like the idea of a 52-week programme: they would prefer the programmes to reflect the academic year, but it remains to be seen whether we can accommodate that.
  20. We have agreed with training organisations and colleges that we will come back to them in mid-February with detailed amendments for discussion. At that stage, we will have individual focus groups on the various strands. That is all that I have to say on the Job-Ready programme.
  21. The Apprenticeships programme has become confused with the Job-Ready programme. The Apprenticeships programme, which now forms part of the Training for Success programme, has not changed from when it was part of the Jobskills programme. From day one, the Apprenticeships programme has offered employment and has worked to the apprenticeship framework set up by employers. Those arrangements have not changed. However, several issues have become apparent. First, many employers, who, in the past, would have taken trainees as part of a traineeship arrangement — under Jobskills, the trainees would have worked for them for four days a week for free — are now being required to participate in the Apprenticeships programme if they want to avail themselves of young people. There is tension there, because the apprentices are employed from day one.
  22. The Electrical Training Trust (ETT) arrangement is working as we would have expected, and there has been no change.
  23. We held detailed discussions with CITB and CEF, and little divides us. They have requested that all young people, or apprentices, spend a sustained period in a college or training organisation before being placed with employers. Those young people would not be apprentices as such: in old money, they would be trainees, who would spend an initial period of between 10 and 13 weeks in a college or training organisation. The Department suggested a 13-week period, and CITB and CEF came back with 10 weeks. We have no difficulty with that, because the employability strand allows up to 13 weeks for college training. That includes instruction on health and safety and a start on skills training away from operational pressures. CITB and CEF are asking the Government to pay for that, and the Department has no difficulty with that either.
  24. The next stage is that CITB and CEF want a 14- to 52-week programme to be made available to young people who have not been employed by the end of the 13-week period. As the Department has a facility for that under the third strand of the Job-Ready programme — the pre-apprenticeship programme — that is not an issue. However, the difficulty is that the Department has not had detailed discussions with CITB and CEF on how that would be handled and how they would select young people from a list to place with employers.
  25. There is a misunderstanding that that method of training would produce savings, and CITB and CEF consider that the Department should pass those on to the employers. The funding required for an apprenticeship in the construction industry is £12,300 per young person. Part of that goes towards a personal training programme, some for completing the apprenticeship framework and some for staged payments for achievement. If a young person completes an apprenticeship, a £1,500 bonus is paid directly to his or her employer.
  26. The Department has considered the proposals and asked CITB to set up a group involving CEF and some of the colleges. There is not much difference between the positions of the Department and CITB. Our only concern us is that the construction industry wants its apprenticeships to be dealt with differently to those in other industries; for example, with the Electrical Training Trust, apprentices are employed from day one, and the trust manages the programme with the colleges and employers. However, it is not an insurmountable concern, and we can get round it. I am happy to take members’ questions on the paper, or on anything else.
  27. The Chairperson: Thank you, Catherine. I have a couple of questions for you, but I will allow members to put their questions first. Thank you for the paper and the letters. Last week, the Committee was briefed by representatives of the construction industry, who highlighted several concerns. At one point, I picked up on a criticism of the Department. I have read the letters between the Department and individuals in the construction industry, but they make the situation more confusing.
  28. Mrs Bell: Yes.
  29. The Chairperson: I would appreciate knowing the current position: you are aware of the issues that the construction industry has raised with the Committee because the meetings have been held in public session.
  30. Mrs Bell: Departmental officials were upset that the construction industry raised those issues with the Committee, because we have held a significant number of meetings with CITB and CEF. I have met them separately and together, as have Nuala and other departmental officials.
  31. The Committee will see in some of the correspondence that, during my last meeting with CITB, its representatives volunteered, very helpfully, to establish a group to work with the colleges, the Education and Training Inspectorate and CEF to come up with a programme. That confuses the Department, because there is very little difference between what we have and what they are proposing. It all comes down to money. The programme should not be determined by money, but by the quality of training and the opportunities for young people.
  32. We are getting mixed messages. It would be lovely if an organisation, such as CITB, would take responsibility for placements with employers and would work with our colleges and other providers of construction training. That is why I said at the outset that we are going to realign the programme and separate the employability strand and the pre-apprenticeship strand from the Apprenticeships programme.
  33. Another point from CITB confuses me. As the Committee will know, the Public Accounts Committee is strongly against the idea of young people being abused through being required to work for four days a week as a source of low-cost labour. We have pushed the envelope as far as we can by allowing the young people to work for three days a week. That is really pushing the boundaries. However, the young people go out to work only after they have been trained for a sustained period. The Committee must recognise that the colleges, and many of the larger training organisations, have very good facilities that have been forged for skills training. The young people are not sitting behind desks in classrooms all the time. They are allowed to be trained away from operational pressure. They do not have to build a house or do something that could be dangerous. They can learn without pressure.
  34. Somehow, we can work with CITB to make the programme work. I do not think that we are very far apart. However, we want to keep the Apprenticeships programme separate from the Job-Ready programme and the skills for work strand, because those young people have specific needs and they must be dealt with in particular ways.
  35. The Chairperson: It is good to hear that the issues that have been raised by the construction industry and the Department are not that far apart. You mentioned money. Where is that money coming from and where will it go?
  36. Mrs Bell: Initially, the money passes from Government to the trainees. We do not have a problem with that, because —
  37. The Chairperson: Do you mean that the money goes directly to the trainees?
  38. Mrs Bell: Yes. It goes to the young people. However, the bit in the proposal that we have difficulty understanding is that CITB says that there would be savings and that, in its view, those savings should be passed on to employers. We have not had a chance to go into the details with CITB, and we must do so. However, we cannot see those savings. An organisation that manages a construction apprentice receives up to £12,300 — it is either £11,500 or £12,300, but it is a substantial amount. If the young person completes the apprenticeship successfully, the employer gets a £1,500 bonus. The organisation that manages the contract — for example, the Electrical Training Trust —
  39. The Chairperson: Sorry, the employer gets £1,500 when an apprenticeship is finished?
  40. Mrs Bell: Absolutely, but employers can get more. For example, if ETT manages the contract, the Department pays ETT. The employer pays the young person a wage, ETT gives the employer a subsidy for having that young person, and ETT pays the college. There are other ways in which an employer can get a grant. We are not asking employers to provide apprentices with training for nothing. Substantial amounts of money go to employers.
  41. The Chairperson: OK. Thanks, Catherine.
  42. At our last meeting, I asked whether you intended to talk to the young people who are involved in the Training for Success programme. It is stated in your report that you have arranged for five separate focus groups to meet in late January and early February.
  43. Mrs Bell: One of those groups will include young people. We hope to receive findings from the organisations and test those with the young people.
  44. The Chairperson: OK. The Committee will probably return to that matter after Easter.
  45. It is stated in point 11 of your report that departmental officials had met with David Hatton, chief executive of the Electrical Training Council, to discuss the issues that he had raised with the Committee. Can you give me an update on that meeting?
  46. Mrs Bell: The Engineering Training Council (ETC) managed the contract under the Jobskills programme. ETC identified employers and arranged for young people to be placed in jobs. All directed training — or the vast majority of it — is done through the colleges. There may be one or two other organisations that can offer engineering training. ETC, which is out of the loop because the colleges — rather than it — won the contract for the Apprenticeships programme, says that it does not believe that there is a sufficient number of engineering apprentices. We should — in consultation with the Committee — consider the role of bodies, such as ETC and ETT, in helping us with the Apprenticeships programme.
  47. The Chairperson: Point 12 refers to the expert group for young people with disabilities. The Committee received a letter from the Minister about the establishment of that group. I am putting it on record that I am not happy with the content of that letter.
  48. Mrs Bell: You are not happy with it?
  49. The Chairperson: I am not happy with it. I initiated the debate on the matter in the Assembly. The Minister said that he would set up an expert group to deal with it. I have just sent someone to get a copy of the Minister’s letter. The Committee has now been told that there is a disability liaison group in the Department. Therefore, that group has been put in place instead of a discrete group for young people with disabilities.
  50. Mrs Bell: The disability liaison group includes organisations that are experts in that field. A subgroup of the disability liaison group will be set up rather than a separate group. It is not a case of our not dealing with the matter, specifically. That subgroup will comprise experts in that field.
  51. The Chairperson: When the group meets.
  52. Mrs Bell: Yes, when the group meets.
  53. The Chairperson: That raises a concern for me. Why didn’t the disability liaison group deal with that matter initially?
  54. Mrs Bell: The reason is the structure of the Civil Service — there are two distinct sides of the house. One group was set up by the disability advisory committee, and we — on our side of the house — dealt with the issue through the Training for Success programme. It was a stupid arrangement, but we are where we are.
  55. We scoped all that was going on in the Department to support disability. The scoping paper has been completed. We have commissioned the Education and Training Inspectorate — in its next programme — to tell us whether there are any missing areas, whereby young people could fall between the cracks in our programmes, and to report back to us. The disability liaison group is representative of all the expert groups on disability. It has agreed that a subgroup of the liaison group will focus specifically on the Training for Success programme.
  56. The Chairperson: Has that subgroup met?
  57. Ms Nuala Kerr (Department for Employment and Learning): It has not met, yet.
  58. The Chairperson: I am not going to labour the point. I will come back to you about it later.
  59. Mr Spratt: I welcome the witnesses to the meeting. I wish to raise a question about the procurement process, which is mentioned on page six of the paper. The Committee has had some serious concerns about the procurement process. I suppose that the procurement process is a generic one that is applied to all Departments. Your report states: “it is normally assumed that if a tenderer proposes to use another organisation or an individual as a subcontractor, then agreement is either already in place between those parties, or will be put in place”.
  60. We are where we are with what has happened, and lessons must be learnt on how to tie down future procurement processes, because there was that fiasco when the Donnelly Group wrote a letter. The Committee has had several indications, particularly from unions and some of the colleges, that senior people in those colleges were named when, really, they had not even been approached. In future, we need to have something in writing and someone to contact, so that we are not placed in a situation where what appears to be a wonderful tender on paper does not offer very much at the coalface — in other words, a skeleton with no meat on its bones.
  61. There were some quite short time limits to get some of the programmes up and running, and when they were implemented, negotiations with the Donnelly Group had to be restarted. It is not a satisfactory position.
  62. Have any of those concerns been raised with the Department of Finance and Personnel? Has a process been started to try to tie down future procurement exercises?
  63. Mrs Bell: That is a valid issue, which Mr Spratt has raised with the Department previously. In future, at the time of tender, we will require a letter of assurance that the organisation that is named has been approached and is content with the arrangement. There is no reason why we cannot pass details of that arrangement to central procurement directorate as being good practice.
  64. When consultants are bidding, they name the people whom they will use, and there is never a letter to confirm that they have been approached. However, in this case, we need to learn that pen and paper refuses nothing. We took the situation in good faith — as we must — but, in future, if someone tells us that he or she has had negotiations with a partner, we will ask for evidence of that in the tender specifications.
  65. Mr Spratt: The danger that I see is that when bidding, the consultants might name a big company, such as Mr Good or Mr Big, which has been there, done it and got the tee shirt — for want of a better expression — yet when they successfully procure the tender, they will use Mr Cheap or Mr Nasty.
  66. Mrs Bell: Your point is extremely well made, and in future tender exercises, we will look for evidence that there has been a relationship between the consultant and the companies that are named.
  67. Mr Butler: Although the Training for Success programme goes up to level 3, a lot of the apprenticeships are level 2. The evidence from some of the sectors is that the level that is really required is 4 or 5, which is the level of training in the Republic of Ireland. That means that we are training people to a level that is not going to meet the needs of the industry, which seems to be the flaw in the system.
  68. Mrs Bell: At 16, young people make a choice about what they want to do. As the Committee is aware, the focus is on academia. It is considered more important than professional and technical training. The Department wants to change that image, hence its idea to separate out apprenticeships. The Department has said — and it is in the specification — that the new apprenticeships framework can progress to level 4, a foundation degree and, ultimately, to a full degree, if that is what an individual wants.
  69. It is, however, a matter of supply and demand. If young people vote with their feet, stay in school to do A levels, and do not see an apprenticeship as a viable option or a course that they want to take, it is difficult. As the Apprenticeships programme now extends to age 24, the Department is beginning to see people who have degrees taking up the places. Obviously, there are all kinds of questions to be asked, such as why those people did not do apprenticeships in the first place.
  70. Leaving that matter aside, the Department has not secured much money in the first year of the Budget, although it has, certainly, secured money for adult apprenticeships in the second and third years. The Department wants there to be a route to level 4. It is aware that Northern Ireland will only be successful if people achieve levels 3 and 4. However, young people cannot be put on a level 3 programme if they are not capable of starting at level 3. It is, therefore, important that the Department works with the Department of Education to ensure that young people leave school having attained the right standards.
  71. Mr Butler: If 10,000 training places are to be created, young people who leave school with level-2 qualifications will not be qualified enough to meet the demands of industry. Does the Department have a plan for that?
  72. Mrs Bell: First, the Department guarantees training places for young people up to 18 years of age. It must work with young people to determine the stage they are at. It is wrong to put a young person on a programme at a level at which he or she is not capable.
  73. Secondly, the Department believes passionately in lifelong learning, and administers the FE Means Business programme. Therefore, the Department wants people to continue to train. Employers have a responsibility to up-skill their workforces. Although the Department did not do as well in the Budget as it would have liked, it has a little money with which it will be able to help employers to up-skill their workforces. Work is focused on level 4, not just through part-time apprenticeships, but through part-time and full-time further and higher education.
  74. Mr Attwood: Thank you for the extensive briefing papers that you have provided. I am interested in the current occupancy figures. The Department’s evidence states that the total number is now 5,492, compared with 7,664 for the Jobskills programme in 2007. It is suggested in the paper that that can, in part, be explained by the reduction in the population of 16-year-olds. However, that does not fully explain it.
  75. Mrs Bell: No, it does not.
  76. Mr Attwood: Even if more young people stay on at school, the reduction in the number of 16-year-olds does not explain a 20% decline in a year. I want a detailed explanation as to why the intake of the Training for Success programme — that great opportunity for young people — has declined by 20%, compared with the figure for 2007.
  77. Mrs Bell: With any new programme, a dip is expected. However, that does not account for a dip of 20%. A reduction in the population of young people does not account for a 20% drop in intake. That information is unavailable because the figures have not been audited. The Department does not know whether there has been an increase in attendance on full-time further education courses.
  78. In other words, have young people, who, in the past, would have considered an engineering apprenticeship, switched to a full-time level-3 programme at a college? We will not know the answer to that until we get audited figures from the colleges.
  79. We really do not know where those young people are choosing to go, which is an issue that we must follow up. I cannot give a definitive answer. It is an issue that is exercising us greatly. We know that some organisations have not yet completed their personal training plans, and the numbers from those are not yet available. However, those numbers will be small. Therefore, we need to investigate that.
  80. Mr Attwood: The Committee needs urgently to hear from the Department about this matter. As Paul pointed out, if too few people are receiving training — especially for level-3 apprenticeships — the skills gap that we heard evidence about last week will get more acute. Furthermore, Northern Ireland’s position in being able to take up any inward investment and other investment projects will be compromised.
  81. Mrs Bell: Another part of the problem is that employers need to buy into the Training for Success programme. In the past, employers had an element of free labour. Therefore, getting them to employ young people — at a cost — is proving challenging.
  82. Mr Attwood: That is a more likely explanation for some of the shortfall. However, you have to appreciate, as the Chairperson said, that the Committee is receiving evidence on this subject that is at a variance to what employers are saying. If that is not reconciled, I fear that people will be pulling in different directions.
  83. There are 116 people on level-3 Apprenticeships programmes. That evidence being given to the Committee, regardless of whether it is accurate, indicates that level-2 Apprenticeships programmes are viewed by employers as being semi-skilled. Having 116 people on level-3 apprenticeship programmes could be, on one reading, catastrophic. What is your assessment of that?
  84. Mrs Bell: That issue is a major concern to us. There are substantial numbers on the pre-apprenticeship strand of the Job-Ready programme. However, I cannot go into detail because we do not yet have the evidence. We want the Apprenticeships programme to have the same status as a full-time further education or A-level course.
  85. We also need to consider the assessments. There is an issue about whether some people on level-2 programmes should, perhaps, be on level-3 programmes. However, if that is the case, they will progress quickly to a level-3 programme; there is no barrier to them. I cannot say any more on that issue because I do not have the answer.
  86. Last week, we had a debate with David Hatton of the Electrical Training Council. The issue was that his greatest strength is his link with the employers, but the colleges’ greatest strength is the fact that they can do directed training, and do it very well. Somehow or other, we have to reconcile that, and we need to consider it together.
  87. Mr Attwood: If it is the case that there are people on level-2 programmes who should be on level-3 programmes, it suggests that there is something deeply structurally wrong, especially given that there are almost 2,500 people on level-2 programmes. In a way, that suggests to me that the answer is probably more complex.
  88. Ms Kerr: One element is that the level-3 Apprenticeships programme has not changed; it is not that something new has been introduced. There is a possibility for people to progress from level-2 programmes to level-3 programmes. Many people may have chosen a level-2 programme as an accessible point at which they can enter into the Apprenticeships programme and will, eventually, move on to a level-3 programme.
  89. Mrs Bell: Some of the anecdotes — I stress that they are anecdotes — that we hear is that employers are willing to take people from level-2 programmes because there is less risk than taking those from level-3 programmes. However, at this stage, that is anecdotal and we will not know the true situation until a survey is carried out.
  90. Mr Attwood: Talking about anecdotes reminds me of Carter and Carter. Is it true that the date by which organisations were required to register was extended to the end of January?
  91. Mrs Bell: That is true.
  92. Mr Attwood: Why are Carter and Carter’s trainees not registered under the Department’s management system? If Carter and Carter — and a number of other organisations — were given that extended time, why have they not registered those whom they claim to have on their books?
  93. Ms Kerr: When we extended the first deadline, some organisations stated that they would still be unable to have the assessments that are required to register the young people completed in time for the extended deadline. The Department had the choice either of accepting that and postponing the date again or, as we did, saying that the deadline had already been extended and that we would have to accept the numbers that were registered at that time. Therefore, a number of organisations, including Carter and Carter, were in the same position. Changes will have to be made to the totals that you have, but, at this stage, we cannot quantify what they are likely to be.
  94. Mr Attwood: I find it difficult to accept that organisations that were given a time extension have not registered their trainees. According to your figures, Carter and Carter, which claims to have 58 trainees, has a total of 15 registered trainees. Is Carter and Carter in breach of contract for failing to register its trainees?
  95. Ms Kerr: The Department for Employment and Learning acknowledges that some organisations have experienced start-up difficulties. We have to assess their administration arrangements. We have raised that concern with them and have asked them to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.
  96. Mr Attwood: I am not satisfied that the Department is acting appropriately in consenting to give Carter and Carter — or any other organisation that is in the same situation — a time extension. That is a variation of the contract at a time when, as Mr Spratt said, there are concerns about contracts. Given Carter and Carter’s form on this type of business, I am not satisfied that it is being given such flexibility. I cannot say whether the flexibility that has been given to other organisations is justified, but Carter and Carter has form, and the Department should be drawing conclusions rather than giving more flexibility. One must remember that not one of Carter and Carter’s 15 trainees is registered at level 3.
  97. Mrs Bell: However, we know that Carter and Carter has level-3 apprentices. I understand what Mr Attwood is saying, and we will follow it up urgently.
  98. Mr Newton: Paragraph 11 of your paper states that David Hatton is the chief executive of the Electrical Training Council; he is, in fact, the chief executive of the Engineering Training Council.
  99. I agree with the two members who have spoken. It is essential that a pathway is established to take apprentices to levels 4 and 5. If that happens, it will let individuals know that the Training for Success programme — or whatever it is called following the separation of the Job-Ready and Apprenticeships programmes — can be the pathway to a career, rather than merely to a job. Separating the Apprenticeships programme from the pre-apprenticeship strand of the Job-Ready programme is essential in the branding of Training for Success, because it will illustrate to individuals that they are getting a top-class, top-flight opportunity to build a job that could lead to a career.
  100. History shows that many chief executives of companies began as apprentices. Unfortunately, I was not at the recent Committee session when CITB and CEF made their presentations. I am concerned that the framework for apprenticeship training be agreed with the Sector Skills Council. However, I have read in the papers that there has been a breakdown in the relationship between CEF and the Sector Skills Council. If that is the case, will Northern Ireland have a framework for apprenticeship training in the construction industry that may be different from the national framework? Is there a danger of that?
  101. Ms Kerr: That is an interesting and valid point. The focus group that Catherine described is tasked with trying to chart a way through the processes that allow us to reconcile all those issues. We do not envisage having a separate framework arrangement. We draw our expertise and knowledge partly from the national frameworks; therefore, it would not be our intention to have a different framework.
  102. At this stage, the proposals relate to the process. CEF’s vision is that every apprentice will have off-the-job training before he or she goes into employment, and we will pay them for that training. Catherine explained that we have not evaluated the financial burden of that yet. That will be one of a number of important issues that we will address when we come to progress our proposals.
  103. Mrs Bell: If the employers in the construction industry say that they are not going to employ young people, the Department is duty bound to provide the equivalent training for them. That is why, at the outset, we came up with the employability skills strand of the Job-Ready programme. However, it is being pushed to its limit. Although the employability skills strand has integrity and rigour in its own right, we must ensure that we concentrate on the framework of the Apprenticeships programme. That is the continual tussle that we have.
  104. Mr Newton: Several years ago, an attempt was made to create a modern apprenticeships qualification in Northern Ireland. However, it proved to be fruitless, as it did not carry currency outside Northern Ireland. Therefore, if someone qualified here and went to work in England or any other part of Europe, a modern apprenticeship was not considered to be a valid qualification. Our final decision must carry the currency of a qualification that is not just national, but transnational in its value.
  105. Ms Lo: You mentioned the Jobskills programme. The focus groups found that the colleges believe that training for 35 hours a week is, perhaps, too long. That ties in with some of the briefings that we had last week, at which representatives from the construction industry said that colleges are sending participants from the Job-Ready programme out on placements, and employers are exploiting them in the same way as they did through the Jobskills programme. If employers can get people whom they do not have to pay, why would they agree to take on apprentices whom they would have to pay?
  106. Mrs Bell: We read about that in last week’s Committee minutes, and our contract managers will pick up on that.
  107. Under the pre-apprenticeship strand of the Job-Ready programme, after 13 weeks, as part of his or her training, a young person can work for an employer for two days a week, and, after 26 weeks, he or she can work for three days a week. However, the trainees have yet to complete 26 weeks.
  108. Ms Lo’s point had not been flagged up to us, and the only way that we will be able to pick up on it will be through our contract managers as they visit and monitor the programme. We can also write to organisations to investigate patterns, but, Ms Lo is right: the last thing that we want is for the system to be abused and for employers not to perceive value in going down the apprenticeship route.
  109. Ms Lo: Will you clarify a point from the papers that you submitted to the Committee? You have listed the current levels of occupancy for motor vehicle apprenticeships. Does “occupancy” mean the number of people on the programme?
  110. Mrs Bell: Yes, the number of students on the programme.
  111. Ms Lo: That is Civil Service language. I am puzzled. For one college, the current occupancy rate at level 3 is one student, and several other colleges show an occupancy rate at level 2/3 of only one or three students. How do the colleges manage with only one student on a programme?
  112. Mrs Bell: They are put together with students, trainees and apprentices from other programmes. In addition, there may be more students, but the colleges have yet to register them. The colleges and training organisations must manage their classes; however, I know that they would not establish a class for one person — they could not afford to do that.
  113. Ms Lo: So, is that person being trained?
  114. Mrs Bell: I honestly do not know. We will have to investigate that point, but we will let you know.
  115. Mr McCausland: My question concerns the same subject. Obviously, those are interim figures for motor vehicle apprenticeships because the registration deadline is not until the end of the month. What was the previous registration deadline?
  116. Ms Kerr: Mid-December.
  117. Mr McCausland: Will you remind me of why the Department extended that date?
  118. Ms Kerr: It was extended partly because of our computer system and partly at the request of the organisations. Our system is designed, essentially, for payment purposes, and there have been some registration difficulties for companies attempting to record occupancy figures for young people. That is in the process of being changed. Some process difficulties are on the Department’s side and some are on the side of the organisations that are registering the trainees.
  119. Mrs Bell: Another issue is that the new programme incorporates detailed personal training plans, and it was assumed that they could have been completed much quicker than they have been. When such a plan is well done, it is exceptionally useful for both the organisation and the young person.
  120. Mr McCausland: Next year, do you intend to set the cut-off date for mid-December or the end of January, and if it is set for mid-December, will that date stick?
  121. Mrs Bell: We will conduct an assessment. At that stage, we hope that organisations will be much more used to working with the personal training plans and will begin earlier.
  122. Mr McCausland: As the final cut-off for registration is the end of January, you will be able to produce the final figures within a week of that date.
  123. Mrs Bell: Yes, absolutely.
  124. Mr McCausland: Looking at the table on page 5, it is easy to work out where some of the organisations are located. It is clear where the regional colleges are based. However, I have no idea where some of the training organisations are located; for example, Transport Training Services. I have just been told that it is based at Nutt’s Corner.
  125. Have you looked at the spread or distribution by constituency, council area or whatever? Are there any obvious variations, and, if so, why? Can any other lessons be learnt from that? To pick up on Anna Lo’s point, at the moment, a total of five people are registered at Belfast Metropolitan College. One would have thought that a few more people would have been registered in a place the size of Belfast. When the final figures are compiled, could some lessons be drawn from them?
  126. Mrs Bell: Yes, sure. We tried to ensure that there was a geographical spread.
  127. Mr McCausland: There is not sufficient uptake in the Belfast area. There seems to be a big uptake in the colleges in the north-east: in Ballymena and north Antrim. If the figures show that there is a greater uptake in some areas than in others, we must find out why that is.
  128. Ms Kerr: When the figures are finalised, we intend fully to carry out the sort of statistical analysis that Mr McCausland has suggested to ensure that people have the opportunities to take up the training.
  129. Mr McCausland: I see from the table that the figures for the Northern Regional College (NRC), which is made up of the former North East Institute of Further and Higher Education (NEIFHE) and the former East Antrim Institute of Further and Higher Education in Newtownabbey (EAIFHE Newtownabbey), show that NRC (EAIFHE Newtownabbey) has 10 people and NRC (NEIFHE) has 27.
  130. Ms Kerr: Some training providers are centres of excellence or have acknowledged experts in particular disciplines, and clusters of people will register with them for that reason.
  131. The Chairperson: Some themes have emerged in the evidence sessions on the Training for Success programme. As I said earlier, representatives of the construction industry gave evidence to the Committee last week. They told us one thing, and we are getting other information from you. Will you take on board the themes that are emerging in the evidence sessions?
  132. Mrs Bell: We are in the process of compiling a paper, based on the findings that have emerged in all the discussions that we have had. We will send that paper to all the providers to let them know what we have heard. We will point out the aspects of training that are going well and that we will not change, and the aspects that they have asked us to change. That is what we can do. With all the things that we are being asked to do, we cannot give everybody everything that they want. From the colleges’ perspective, the 20-hour rule is important, but I do not think that the Department will be able to satisfy them in that regard. However, we will try to meet people halfway.
  133. The Chairperson: I appreciate that. Issues have arisen, and the Department must take them on board. Quite frankly, I would hate to see you both being called before the Public Accounts Committee. John O’Dowd, the Chairperson of that Committee, is a scary man. I apologise for that remark, John —I forgot that this was being recorded by Hansard. [Laughter.]
  134. Last week, CEF told us that there is no guidance for employers to encourage the payment of an industry wage. That concerned me. Although, in the past, decent employers have paid a suitable wage, others have exploited young people. CEF said that if departmental guidance were available, it might make matters easier.
  135. Mrs Bell: Initially, some organisations asked us to provide guidance to say that, in the first year of an apprenticeship, the young person should be paid £40 a week, which was the old training allowance. We said absolutely not.
  136. That was exploitation of our young people. We are in a difficult position because employers determine salaries and provided that they pay the minimum wage, it is not for the Department to intervene and tell them what to pay their employees. We said that we would work with CEF to make a guide for employers, but I am very reluctant to take the responsibility for salaries away from employers. However, there is a danger of exploitation, which we do not want. Therefore, the Department will work with employers to see what can be done, but it is a difficult area.
  137. The Chairperson: CEF also stated that, under the Training for Success programme, Jobskills-style free labour has crept back into the training system, and some colleges are placing unemployed trainees with employers for three days a week from the outset of the programme.
  138. Mrs Bell: That is the first that we have heard of that. We will ask our assistant contract managers to address that, but we can also write to training organisations to get information on the work patterns.
  139. The Chairperson: Can you understand the Committee’s concern?
  140. Mrs Bell: Yes, absolutely.
  141. The Chairperson: My final point concerns the Minister’s commitment, during an Assembly debate, to address the lack of provision for disabled children and young people. In that debate, the Minister mentioned the Disablement Advisory Service and said that it was important to set up a group with expertise in dealing with young people with disabilities and additional support needs. He said that there would be: “a scoping study to ascertain the full extent of the Department’s current provision for disabled young people and adults.”
  142. Mrs Bell: That has been done. We have produced a paper showing that we have given all our possible provision to the service and under our service-level agreement with the service for next year, have asked them to tell us whether there are any gaps that we need to fill. That is happening. The Committee can see the scoping paper, which lays out everything that we are doing. I want a belt-and–braces process for young people who are disabled so that no group is missed out.
  143. Some people think that the Department can respond to all the needs of disabled young people. However, some of those people have such severe health problems that they require a form of support that the Department cannot offer. We need the service to provide us with the reassurance that we are doing everything possible for those young people whom we can help as they deserve the best opportunities possible.
  144. The Chairperson: Will you give me the details of who is on the subgroup?
  145. Ms Kerr: Following the debate, we considered the options for establishing a group to tackle the issues that people with disabilities have with the Training for Success programme. As Catherine said, we tried to determine who would do that best. As a group that captures as many of the relevant bodies as possible has already been established, it seemed best placed to help us. We put the Minister’s letter to that group to see whether it was prepared to take on the work. The next stage is to begin the work.
  146. The Chairperson: I appreciate that Nuala and understand your viewpoint. Maybe that should have happened prior to the debate, but the Minister made a public commitment to MLAs, which seems to have been pulled back. If that was the case, the Minister could have announced it.
  147. Mrs Bell: Yes. The issue is timing, and we should have established the subgroup earlier.
  148. The Chairperson: I thank you both for coming and for the papers that you gave us — it helps when we get them prior to the meeting. We have requested more information, and the Committee will decide the direction to go on this issue at our next meeting. There is a possibility of another evidence session just after Easter.
  149. Mrs Bell: By that stage, we should be able to give the Committee a more concrete view on numbers and on Carter and Carter — legitimate concerns have been raised.
  150. The Chairperson: Ok, thank you for coming and for the effort that you have made this morning.

13 February 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr David McClarty
Mrs Claire McGill
Mr Robin Newton
Mr Jim Wells

Witnesses:

Ms Siobhan Weir
Mr Oliver Wilkinson

SkillsActive

Ms Tory Kerley
Ms Judith Meyrick

Skillsmart Retail

Ms Lynn Livingstone

Tesco

Mr Andrew Porter

Creightons of Finaghy

  1. The Chairperson (Ms S Ramsey): I welcome Andrew Porter, Lynn Livingstone, Judith Meyrick and Tory Kerley. It is the first time that any of you have appeared before the Committee. We try to be as informal as possible — we do not like to be stuffy; the room is stuffy enough. I will now hand the meeting over to you for your presentations. I will then open the meeting for questions and comments from Committee members.
  2. Ms Tory Kerley (Skillsmart Retail): Thank you very much. I am Tory Kerley, the national manager of Skillsmart Retail in Northern Ireland, which is the sector skills council for retail. I am a generalist; therefore I am pleased to be accompanied by an expert in the form of my colleague Judith Meyrick, our programmes manager at Skillsmart Retail, who has an expert overview of apprenticeship schemes throughout the UK. I am delighted to be joined by two employers. Members may be familiar with Lynn Livingstone, who is training manager for Tesco Northern Ireland. Lynn is a loyal member of our Northern Ireland Retail Human Resource Managers Forum, which is an employer forum that meets quarterly.
  3. Andrew Porter is here to represent small and medium-sized retail employers. His business is Creighton’s of Finaghy, which, as members may be aware, is a garage with a petrol station, forecourt and Spar convenience store. I hope that I have described it accurately. It is important that the employers among the group represent the entire sector — that they do not just represent large or small employers but demonstrate that there is broad consensus between large and small employers about what is required from Training for Success.
  4. We have provided background notes, which we hope members have had a chance to read. The notes underline the importance of the retail sector to the Northern Ireland economy. It is often viewed as a “Cinderella sector”, which does not necessarily have high gross value added (GVA) jobs and should not, therefore, be terribly encouraged. The attitude is that retail can look after itself: it has always been there and will always be there. However, for the reasons that I have explained in the document, retail is extremely important for the economy, not least because of the sector’s massive expansion during the past 15 years and the huge increase in its employment, which has led to its becoming the largest private-sector employer in Northern Ireland. There are many other important benefits, such as its links with tourism, agriculture and so on.
  5. We have been invited to the Committee to discuss Training for Success and to talk about the skills issues that face the retail sector. It is a good time to discuss those matters because we, like the other sector skills councils, have just completed a large body of research that is known as a sector skills agreement. Having consulted widely with employers, we are extremely aware of what skills issues there are.
  6. There are many issues, although Skillsmart’s four most important concerns are: management skills in multiple retailers — companies such as Tesco, and many others; the skills of owner/proprietor managers in independent retailers; the skills of customer-service and sales operatives, who account for the bulk of the sector’s employment — of its 90,000 posts, close to 50,000 people are employed in that role, and upskilling them is of prime importance; and skills supply — attracting people into the sector at every level is a major concern, especially when economic predictions are that the sector will employ well over 100,000 people by 2014. It is anticipated that there will be around 13,000 newly created jobs and that almost 40,000 replacement jobs will be required in the same period. People must therefore be attracted into the sector in order to fill those jobs.
  7. The main reason that I want to discuss skills supply and Training for Success is that there is a synergy with the role of apprenticeships in tackling issues such as upskilling people towards management and attracting people into careers in retail because they can see career progression. Sales and service operatives’ skills will be tackled through national vocational qualifications (NVQs) and the professional competency route.
  8. That summarises Skillsmart’s document and also explains its primary initiative to tackle skills supply, on which members may wish to ask questions. Skillsmart considers the skill shop initiative — if it can get off the ground — to be a primary initiative in promoting apprenticeships. As a sector skills council, we are committed to promoting apprenticeships; however, for the reasons that are highlighted in the document, the retail sector has problems engaging with apprenticeships. The employers that we have brought along today are perhaps better placed to voice those concerns. Although there are several concerns, four are primary and it is essential that three of them, in particular, are tackled. Any technical questions should be directed to Ms Judith Meyrick. I am also happy to take questions and to expand on the issues.
  9. The Chairperson: Thank you for your paper. It is useful that Committee members can analyse papers before the meeting. We have been examining Training for Success — I do not want to say “critically”, because no one wants to see any programme fail.
  10. Several issues arose from the Committee’s examination of the Training for Success programme. In your paper you welcome improved communication with the Department for Employment and Learning in obtaining comprehensive, reliable and up-to-date statistics. You state that apprentices should be employed because if they are not they are on a pre-employment programme and cannot be realistically or fairly assessed. What do you mean by that?
  11. Ms Kerley: Jobskills trainees were at level 2 but did not have employment status. In exceptional circumstances, apprentices who are not employed can be at level-2 standard. However, the job-ready strand must be clearly separated from apprenticeships, because one is a work-based learning and upskilling intervention and the other gets people ready to go into work. The two initiatives are very different; one is more generic and considers employability skills. We have a sector-specific employment programme that we are keen to roll out here, but we want apprenticeships to be given a different status to pre-employment programmes.
  12. The Chairperson: Before Judith speaks, I will be blunt about why I asked about that. I know many employers who take on apprentices, treat them well, pay them good wages and do not treat them as general dogsbodies. However, there are other employers who treat apprentices very differently —I am concerned that some young people are being abused through training schemes such as Jobskills. I want to ensure that that does not happen. On one hand, we are told that apprentices cannot go into the field, for want of a better term, and must be in college or receive training three or four days a week; on the other hand, some people say that apprentices must be in the field to learn the on-site skills and training. I trained as a chef and much preferred being in the kitchen to learning, but I knew that I had much to learn in the classroom before I could succeed in the kitchen. We must get the balance right so that no one is abused or does not receive the correct training.
  13. Ms Judith Meyrick (Skillsmart Retail): You have highlighted the difference between the sectors. I met someone at the weekend who was surprised that there were apprentices and said that they used to be found only in engineering. That sums up a problem that we face — Training for Success tries to address all sectors when, as you highlighted in the hospitality sector, they are completely different. In retail, a great deal of training is done on-the-job and is hands-on; for example, one cannot learn how to deal with customers by role-playing because however well it is managed, dealing with an extremely irate customer is a completely different ball game. In the retail sector there is a strong emphasis on learning on the job. There is also a need to take people away from their day-to-day job to learn some necessary underpinning knowledge on, for example, consumer legislation.
  14. Our research shows that apprentices who have employment status from day one are more likely to progress in the business where they work and are more motivated. Moreover, as they are employed in the business, their employer will have a stronger vested interest in them. However, we do not want to discriminate because although there are young people who are ready to do a level-2 programme, vacancies cannot be instantly generated. For example, Tesco is a large employer, but the number of people that it can employ is finite. Smaller independent businesses are often in a similar difficult situation.
  15. Employed status is our preference, but we recognise that if you have a non-employed status programme that should be non-managed, which would lead to an employed place as soon as possible. We feel that that is the strongest way to manage that element.
  16. Mr Spratt: How long would the apprenticeships last?
  17. Ms Meyrick: It would depend on the individual because apprenticeships are not time-based. On average, a level-2 apprenticeship will take approximately 12 to 15 months; a level-3 apprenticeship will take between 18 and 24 months. Much depends on the capability of the individual and the opportunities available to them in the workplace to develop skills and be assessed.
  18. Mr Spratt: I realise that in retail training must on on-job. Is there a set scale for wages?
  19. Ms Meyrick: I can only quote from research that was carried out in England, because no research has been carried out here. However, wages will vary from one employer to another. Often, apprentices will start on the lowest rate of payment and will progress up the scale as they become more competent. There is no apprenticeship rate in the sector, unless an employer decides to set one independently.
  20. Mr Spratt: That worries me, because if there is no set scale, an employer might abuse the system. What safeguards should be built in to ensure that young people are not used as cheap labour to hike up retailers’ profits?
  21. Ms Meyrick: We would like to see a minimum rate of £80 a week for a young person coming on to an apprenticeship programme. That must take into consideration the number of hours that an individual works. If apprentices were working as contracted in England, they would only have to work 16 hours on an apprenticeship, and an employer would not have to pay them £80; there would also have to be an hourly basis. However, in England there is a move for employers to offer apprenticeships only if they can pay a minimum of £80 a week.
  22. Mr Spratt: Is that below the minimum wage?
  23. Ms Meyrick: The rule is that the minimum wage does not apply to someone on an apprenticeship programme. If that were calculated on a 40-hour week, it would be below the minimum wage.
  24. Mr Spratt: That is why I am worried about it.
  25. The Chairperson: Where would the £80 come from?
  26. Ms Meyrick: The wages are paid by the employer.
  27. The Chairperson: Correct me if I am wrong, but the construction industry was looking for guidelines from the Department on an average payment —
  28. Ms Kerley: I do not want to contradict what has been said about the research on wages in Northern Ireland. However, the Northern Ireland Retail Human Resource Managers Forum carried out a sharing exercise on salaries, and found that apprentices should come in with employed status. It is being hammered home that that is the case; therefore of course apprentices are on the minimum wage because they have the same rights as any other employee and they should be treated as such. That is the prevailing view. However, it is all academic because there is no large-scale engagement with apprenticeships. Which big employer would develop a policy on how to pay apprentices when they are not engaged on apprenticeships anyway?
  29. The Chairperson: Nevertheless, you can appreciate our concerns.
  30. Ms Kerley: Absolutely; if the sector can engage on a wide-scale basis, checks and balances will, without doubt, be put in place.
  31. Mr Andrew Porter (Creightons of Finaghy): The independent and smaller employer sector believes that there is a lack of knowledge about what is available. If an employer is offered an apprenticeship at £40 or £80 a week, they might consider it cheap labour; there would be no respect. It is cheap labour, and that is shown by the paying of a low wage.
  32. Employers need to be educated. I represent the smaller employer, and I had no knowledge of any of those programmes until a few weeks ago, although the course has been running since last year. Why did I not know? Perhaps I am duty-bound to find out what is available.
  33. Creightons is a responsible employer, but there may be smaller employers who do not know what is available, so the programme needs to be sold properly. Providing a programme that produces proper workers who generate respect would solve the problem of low wages. I was surprised to find that there is no knowledge of the programmes in the workplace.
  34. Level-2 and level-3 apprenticeships were talked about, but I did not know about them.
  35. The Chairperson: It is useful to know.
  36. Mr Porter: Someone needs to be tasked with selling the concept to businesses; if it is sold properly, apprentices can be paid the same rate as everyone else. That would not be a problem.
  37. Mr Spratt: My worry is what has been happening until now. When someone was being trained to be a till operative in Tesco, how much training would they have got? All of a sudden, we are going down the apprenticeship route, which may take 15 months. There is a danger that once that time is up another apprentice will be started, and so it goes on — the big employer gets bigger and earns more money. There is a danger of apprentices being exploited because, to put it bluntly, they are cheap labour.
  38. Ms Lynn Livingstone (Tesco): My understanding is that apprentices get paid the same rate as the normal worker, because they are employed by Tesco before they go onto the scheme; although that has not happened in Northern Ireland. Fifty per cent of the apprentices who have been through the programme in England have progressed in their careers with Tesco, and some have moved on to the position of line manager.
  39. The Chairperson: For the record, we are not naming any company. We are concerned about what happened with Jobskills, as we do not want that to happen again. Andrew made the relevant point that there is a lack of information. This meeting is being recorded, and I do not want anyone to be named.
  40. Mr Spratt: I am not implying anything about any of the folks who are here today.
  41. The Chairperson: You will lose your coupons for Tesco. [Laughter.]
  42. Ms Livingstone: The historical impression of apprentices was that they were young, low-paid labour brought in by employers to get a job done, whereas now they are employed in a job, and the apprenticeship scheme is helping them to progress in their careers.
  43. Mr Spratt: Apprenticeships need to be sold on that basis. Most senior managers in McDonald’s started out behind a counter serving burgers.
  44. Ms Meyrick: Many of the retailers that we engage with in this programme look at the skills gaps in their vacancies. One retailer targeted an area where they needed specialists; eventually they will not need to recruit any more because their needs have been met and they will not get rid of the people whom they have recruited. Retailers are using the programme for a particular purpose: to generate people who will progress in their business. They are using career paths as a basis for their business, and that is what Skillsmart Retail is trying to do.
  45. People are attracted to the retail sector for various reasons, although seldom because they perceive that it offers a career path. We want to use the programme to generate interest and to show people that progression from level-2 to level-3 apprenticeships is possible.
  46. Another problem with the programme is the manner in which contracts appear to have been awarded. An apprentice might be engaged in a level-2 apprenticeship with a provider who does not offer a level-3 contract; therefore in order to progress to level 3 they must find another provider. However, young people prefer to remain with a familiar organisation that understands their strengths and weaknesses rather than start afresh somewhere new. That is a difficulty with the programme.
  47. Mr Newton: I welcome the Skillsmart delegation. It has been interesting to hear a good mix of evidence from a small and a large employer.
  48. I am on record saying that the retail sector is often regarded as a Cinderella sector. In fact, it is vital to the economy, particularly in light of the service requirements for tourism, and will play an essential part in the roll-out of the tourism strategy.
  49. Some of my concerns have already been mentioned, and I agree with Jimmy Spratt that greater emphasis should be placed on career opportunities in the retail sector and for those opportunities to be considered as professional.
  50. Over the Christmas period, the retail sector faced what might be considered as either a threat or an opportunity from Internet trading.
  51. Perhaps you could elaborate on your relationship with employers’ associations.
  52. The statistics you submitted are interesting. Northern Ireland has half the associate professional and technical and the professional occupations that the UK has. Those figures illustrate the restrictions on those who want to make a career in retail.
  53. Your submission states that the retail sector is largely disengaged from the public sector and in many cases distrusts the ability of further education providers to deliver the high-quality, flexible upskilling interventions that are necessary. You mention the belief that Training for Success is indirectly discriminatory on grounds of gender. However, you also say that the problems of delivering training programmes to part-time workers are not insurmountable. Perhaps you might comment on those assertions.
  54. Ms Kerley: I will, although you have raised quite a few issues. I will start with you final point and work backwards.
  55. It can be difficult to deliver programmes to part-time workers who might, for example, work only on Saturday. In Great Britain, part-time contracts are for 16 hours, and people who work for 16 hours or more are entitled to an apprenticeship. In Northern Ireland, they must work for 35 hours or more. The nature of the retail sector means that 60% of people work fewer hours than that; most people work between 16 and 35 hours. Greater organisation is required to plan part-time workers’ training, and, as the other witnesses would agree, that is true for any in-house training programme. However, although training is problematic because it must be more carefully planned, those problems are not insurmountable.
  56. Mr Porter: The extra hour a week for training is achievable for a part-time member of staff.
  57. Ms Kerley: It requires an additional commitment from the employer. The employer has to work round those issues.
  58. Mr Porter: When I first found out about Training for Success, I looked forward to having a programme for 75 staff. As I went through the prospectus, however, I realised that it was for 16 to 24-year olds full time and that it filtered all the way down. Only three staff members were eligible for the programme. I did not have a problem with those three staff doing any training, but it was such a demotivator for the rest of the staff, particularly if I had one 24-year-old who could take advantage of the training, but three 27-year olds could not. They would ask why they were not eligible. Now that I have found out about the programme, I want it to be made available to the part-time female staff who are the backbone of our business and who did not progress to further education because they have been raising families. I would love to be able to make that training available to them.
  59. Mr Newton: Is the Internet a threat or an opportunity? What is your relationship with employers’ associations? Why are the associate professional and technical and the professional occupations in Northern Ireland only half what they are in Great Britain?
  60. Ms Kerley: Although some multi-nationals have always had a presence in Northern Ireland, most of their head offices are based in Great Britain. Much as we would like to see them transferred here, that is not the case at present. As you can see from the statistics, however, some of the larger retailers are here, and they are increasing their buying activities, with the emphasis on local Northern Ireland produce. There are more opportunities for those kinds of jobs than there ever have been, but it is a fact of life that they do not have as much of a presence here as they do in Great Britain.
  61. Career progression is an absolute must if businesses are to attract people into retail as a career. It is interesting that representatives from a small employer and from one of the largest employers in Northern Ireland are sitting side by side. By and large, the sector is totally in agreement on skills issues. The delivery mechanisms vary for different sizes of retailers, but there is a consensus that we should work together as a sector to promote careers. We are at the beginning of that journey, but we have done some good work. Apprenticeships are a key tool, and we would like to do more work in that regard.
  62. The Internet is both a threat and an opportunity. It is a threat to those who do not have access to it but an opportunity for those who do. There are some fantastic Internet retailers in Northern Ireland: Chain Reaction cycles in Ballyclare is an extremely good example; it is the largest bicycle exporter in Europe. From its beginnings as a bike shop in a small unit in Ballyclare, it now has 130 employees. That is a perfect case study of an SME retailer that has grasped the nettle and created an opportunity. As is always the case in business, one person’s opportunity is another person’s threat.
  63. Mr Newton: FE Means Business is the title of the Government’s strategy for further education. In your submission you contend that the retail sector is

“Largely disengaged with the public sector, and in many cases distrustful of the ability of FE to deliver the high quality flexible upskilling interventions necessary”.

  1. Ms Kerley: Those comments were based on anecdotal reporting and arose out of the supplementary research that we carried out for our sectoral skills agreements. Our human resources forum gathered a consensus of opinion from the largest retailers in the country and some of the medium-sized ones as well. We sent a list of unattributed quotes from that survey to further education colleges to make them aware of those opinions about FE Means Business. One of them asked whether FE Means Business was some kind of joke. That sort of comment may be too extreme, and we do not wish to criticise the excellent work that goes on in the further education sector, but as far as the retail sector is concerned, very little work is going on between the two sectors.
  2. We are working extremely hard to give retail a chance to tap in to public-funded education. We are trying very hard to work with the workforce development forums, for example, to improve synergies. Public-funded education is seen as something that happens somewhere else and is not for retailers.
  3. An opinion that has been expressed widely in the forum — and I think that this may be true of independents, but Andrew can correct me if I am wrong — is that no one in the further education sector knows as much about retail as the people working in retail. The retailers’ logic is: why would I take people out of my business and send them to college to be taught by somebody who knows less about retail than I do? That is a very colloquial way of relaying what has been said. Is that a fair comment, Andrew?
  4. Mr Porter: Yes. I do not think that I have ever received an application from an applicant who has a retail qualification at any level — and Creightons receives many applications. Our most successful training has been delivered in-house by people with experience in retail. We have retained those staff and they have worked well for us. I do not know whether any of you guys are familiar with the Wholesale and Retail Training Council (WRTC). It is a training organisation specifically for the retail industry, which was set up a several years ago with Government funding. Our business has used WRTC heavily; we have put several members of staff through the rapid programme, which has now become the modern-day apprenticeship.
  5. Ms Kerley: It was the modern-day apprenticeship, but they chose to call it the rapid programme.
  6. Mr Porter: It was the precursor of all those programmes. Our guys went on those courses, and they have now become junior management staff. WRTC will close this month due to lack of funding, but it is an example of a specific site that focused on retail. We used it heavily over the years, and I attended WRTC supervisory courses. That organisation will disappear because it could not get funding. It was great for spreading the word, which is very important. WRTC constantly sent us literature and emails about the courses that were on offer. I was very disappointed to learn of its demise. I do not know why that has happened.
  7. The Chairperson: I am conscious of time, so we must press on. Only one other Member has indicated that they wish to speak.
  8. Mr McCausland: I have just one brief point to make.
  9. The Chairperson: Nelson, you are never brief. [Laughter.]
  10. Mr McCausland: I will be extremely brief.
  1. The Chairperson: I will come back to you in a minute.
  2. Mrs McGill: Andrew, you said that you were not aware of the Training for Success programme. That is shocking. I do not lay all the blame at the feet of the Department —
  3. Mr Porter: I feel bad myself; as an employer, I am duty-bound to find out what is available.
  4. Mrs McGill: That was not what I was going to say, and I could be wrong in my comments. There is no shortage of councils, bodies and groups of every kind for which the Department for Employment and Learning is the sponsor Department. I cannot believe that someone like you, who is clearly keen to be involved, is not aware of what is on offer. Does Skillsmart have a role to play in informing businesses? I am looking at the list of organisations with which it engages.
  5. Ms Kerley: We have a role —
  6. Mrs McGill: That is my first point. I asked once for the list of organisations that DEL sponsors, but I never received it. However, I know that it sponsors many organisations.
  7. You mentioned that the inclusion of an essential skills unit in the Training for Success programme acts as a barrier to apprenticeships. That is a flagship programme, to use the language of the Department, but yet you see it as a barrier. Can you elaborate on that, please?
  8. Ms Meyrick: Although the essential skills programme is built on the same standards as the old key skills programme, the delivery, training input and assessment methodology have changed significantly. Furthermore, those who deliver the essential skills training are required to have a much higher level qualification, so the Department has been investing money to upskill tutors and trainers to deliver the training. One of the issues with the essential skills programme is the requirement for learning to be delivered away from the workplace.
  9. Under the essential skills programme, providers have to work with learners from different sectors to deliver essential skills training in a generic fashion. However, the programme was designed to be delivered in a way that was occupationally relevant. For many young people, literacy and numeracy is a barrier and they see such training as going back to school. The issue is to engage them in why they need to learn more numbers and communication skills. They learned those at school, so they question why they have to learn that now.
  10. Mrs McGill: The essential skills programme is a good idea, but it should be tailored towards a particular sector.
  11. Ms Meyrick: We agree that literacy and numeracy skills are essential skills for participation in the world of work generally and in apprentices’ own occupations. The delivery and training input and the assessment methodology of the qualification creates barriers. Many of the learners do not acquire the learning in a contextualised manner, so they do not see its relevance. In retail, for example, a huge piece of relevant work could be done around wastage —
  12. Mrs McGill: That is not what your paper says; it says that the time required for a person to be out of the workplace to gain the essential skills element is off-putting and unworkable, particularly now that apprentices are of full-employed status. It is not about the assessment; it is about the timing.
  13. Ms Meyrick: My comments on the assessment are in addition to what is in the paper.
  14. Ms Kerley: That is part of the same issue. Learners have to go to a classroom to learn essential skills because they are not doing something that is contextualised in their workplace.
  15. Of course we have a responsibility to promote apprenticeships, and we are trying hard to do that. In the absence of WRTC or any other focal point, Skillsmart, as a sector skills council, is a strategic organisation. It is not my role to go round every one of our 9,000 retailers and talk about programmes. We work through other bodies and associations, but it is essential that we have a focal point for retail upskilling, and that is seen through the second initiative, the retail skills shops. We agree with you; we would like to do more, but we cannot do it now.
  16. The Chairperson: Where does that sit with Andrew’s comment that he was not aware of many of the programmes?
  17. Ms Kerley: To be fair, Andrew did have people engaged in the modern apprenticeship; it was just called something else. Much depends on how a programme is marketed and who is marketing it. If the provider is marketing it individually, there are confusing messages. One clear sectoral identity is needed.
  18. Mr Porter: Tory proposed a skills shop that an office or an organisation could phone for information. That is a good idea.
  19. The Chairperson: An apprentice could run the skills shop.
  20. Ms Kerley: That would be perfect.
  21. Mr McCausland: I had never heard of the WRTC until it was mentioned today. Was it widely used?
  22. Mr Porter: It was widely used and widely respected in our sector. The WRTC was good at marketing itself; it started with Government backing, and funded itself through funding for courses. The WRTC’s services were not free for the employer; we had to pay, but it was a reasonable amount. We used it a lot over the years.
  23. Mr McCausland: Did large and small retailers use the WRTC?
  24. Mr Porter: I am not sure about large retailers, but independent retailers would send two or three people to the WRTC’s premises in Mallusk.
  25. The Chairperson: I will ask the Committee Clerk to find out more details about that.
  26. Mr Attwood: Ms Meyrick, given that you have a broad experience of Government training, do any other aspects of Training for Success jump out at you as being something that we should consider — for example, the fact that the programme does not deal with part-time workers?
  27. Should we address other issues, such as the fact that the Training for Success programme does not deal with part-time workers? It is dramatic to say that the programme simply does not meet the needs of the retail sector, especially given that Tesco is now the largest private-sector employer in the North. Is the situation that severe?
  28. Ms Kerley: That is a fair comment, because if the Training for Success programme were meeting the needs of the retail sector, large employers would sign up to it as part of their policy. However, individual retailers are brokering arrangements with individual providers.
  29. Mr Attwood: Has none of the big five in the North signed up to the programme?
  30. Ms Kerley: Some store managers have brokered a relationship with the local provider and signed up to the programme on an individual store basis. However, none of the big five have written into their policies that they will sign up to the programme in Northern Ireland.
  31. Mr Attwood: Do you know whether the smaller retailers have signed up to the Training for Success programme?
  32. Mr Porter: We are not familiar with how the programme works, but we have participated in successful programmes in the past, and I am keen to get involved in them again.
  33. Ms Meyrick: One of the reasons why the big five have not engaged in the programme is because they would prefer to have a contract to deliver a programme themselves — in other words, they would prefer to be their own training provider. However, in our dealings with the Department, we have been led to believe that that is not possible. It is difficult for Tesco to engage with half a dozen providers.
  34. Mr Attwood: Does that happen in England?
  35. Ms Meyrick: Yes. In England, dedicated training is done through the National Employer Service. It is separate funding, but the contract is managed by the employer. It comes with all the contractual requirements that the provider must go through.
  36. Mr Attwood: That provider was not chosen by a tender process. It was simply identified that there was a need for that type of training.
  37. Ms Meyrick: There was a need for that type of dedicated training, especially if large retailers such as Tesco always had to contract or sub-contract to different providers in various locations.
  38. Mr Attwood: We are told that we cannot do that.
  39. Ms Meyrick: That would be one way of getting the large retailers to engage with the programme.
  40. The Chairperson: That was a useful presentation. We have teased out some information that will go towards the Committee’s report on the Training for Success programme. Thank you for your attendance today.
  41. I now welcome Siobhan Weir and Oliver Wilkinson from SkillsActive. You have an idea of some of the Committee’s concerns about the Training for Success programme. We will listen to your presentation and then members will ask questions.
  42. Ms Siobhan Weir (SkillsActive): Thank you for inviting us today. I have so much to say that I was not sure where to begin, but I hope that this will be the first of many discussions with the Committee. With that in mind, we decided to focus today on apprenticeships. Perhaps we can broaden the picture and feed into the important work that you are doing around the success through skills strategy.
  43. With that in mind, we thought that we would give the Committee some background about our sector so that members will get a sense of where we are coming from. Our sector is not like the traditional construction and engineering sectors; it is complex and interesting, and I would like the Committee to have that sense of who we are and what we are all about.
  44. Then, perhaps, we can present some of our findings on employers’ experiences of the skills strategy. What better way to do that than to hear from an employer who can bring to life some of the issues? Oliver Wilkinson has been involved with us since the Sector Skills Council — SkillsActive — came into being. People like Oliver Wilkinson took a real leap of faith when they heard about the Sector Skills Council, because they wondered whether it would be yet another organisation that would be here today and gone tomorrow. They gradually realised that we were here to help to bring the voice of the employer to people, such as members of this Committee. That has been a challenge for us, but the more Olivers that we have in this world, and the more they develop, the better. Oliver will talk about how he has tried and failed to access apprenticeships. All is not lost. We have come up with ways in which it might be possible for Oliver and other employers in our sector to access apprenticeships, which the Committee might be interested in hearing about.
  45. I apologise that our information packs did not reach the Committee before this meeting. I will highlight one or two items in the packs that might be of particular interest. Perhaps we can look at some of the information in more detail on another occasion. The first information leaflet — the one with the photographs — helps to convey what SkillsActive is. Active leisure can include any business with “active” and “leisure” in its title, as well as the sports sector. That is one of our biggest sectors, and it includes football clubs, stadiums, community sports projects and sports governing bodies. It also includes the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland, which is busy tutoring athletes who might become Olympic gold medallists one day.
  46. There are industries related to sports, such as sports medicine, ground-keeping, refereeing and event management. Volunteers play a huge role in sport; they are significant contributors to the sector. There is also the health-and-fitness sector, which includes private and public gyms and leisure centres. Perhaps some of you are members of centres, such as Fitness First, and public leisure centres, such as the Valley Leisure Centre and Lagan Valley Leisureplex or the Brandywell Sports Centre. They are all over the place. Everywhere you go, you will see our sector in one shape or another.
  47. In addition there is the play-work sector. People ask what play workers are and question whether that is a profession in itself. However, it is a profession, because it is a sad fact of life that we need people to preserve play and the child’s right to play. Therefore, there is a professionally qualified workforce to help to develop play. They play an important part in our sector. They tend to be responsible for children aged six and over, which overlaps slightly with the early-years sector. Play workers can be found in, for example, after-school clubs, day nurseries and holiday schemes. Play workers help to reassure parents that, while they are contributing to the economy, their children are in a safe, professional environment. They have a crucial role to play.
  48. There is also the outdoor sector.
  49. It is an interesting fact to record that that sector has increased by 70% over the past four years. The activity-tourism sector is becoming a booming business, and business in the outdoor sector is doing well. The caravan and leisure parks are included in our footprint. People often ask why caravans are part of the leisure sector. Most caravan sites have play centres, or even swimming pools, therefore, they are a significant part of our footprint. That is a brief description of the employers whom we represent.
  50. In our information sheet we have tried to capture some of the ways in which we contribute to the economy. However, we are talking about the broader economy, that of social inclusion, health and education. We have an impact on all parts of the bigger economy. That is an important point to make. Perhaps, we are not seen as a priority skills sector because we cannot often make the financial formula that is required to demonstrate our impact on the economy. However, in saying that, £191 million in output to the Northern Ireland economy, in 2004, is not a bad effort.
  51. We were asked to identify some of the skills challenges. Again, I did not really know where to begin because there are so many. Obviously, because there is such a diverse group of employers, they will all have different skills issues. The employers are beginning to panic a little bit because they have noticed a shrinking labour force out there and a shortage of skills. SkillsActive has identified a few of those, which are listed the first page of our submission. Employers are starting to look at innovative ways of attracting talent. They see the apprenticeship schemes as a way of doing that. At the moment, as Mr Wilkinson will explain in more detail, we are experiencing difficulties in accessing apprenticeships.
  52. Members will notice from our submission that approximately 61% of employers are not currently using any of the success through skills programmes. That is a matter that we would like to address. It highlights the fact that only 39% of employers actually access public funding. That is a bit of an imbalance when compared with some other sectors, such as hospitality. In that sector, the majority of chefs will be funded through colleges. In contrast, our employers have to pay for most of the training. If we do nothing else, as the sectors schools council, we would like to address that imbalance.
  53. We cover approximately 3% to 4% of the Northern Ireland workforce. That is, perhaps, a conservative figure because, as I mentioned, our remit overlaps with a lot of other sectors, of which activity tourism is an example.
  54. With regard to modern apprenticeships, I thought it would be helpful if Oliver Wilkinson explained how we went on a little journey, as part of my initial work to engage with him. We asked him to let us to get the apprenticeship schemes to work for him. Oliver Wilkinson will explain why we thought that that was a good idea and what actually happened. Once we have done that, then we will briefly finish off with what we consider to be three of the four solutions to the problems. There is no point in coming to the meeting with all of the problems and not bringing some of the solutions with us. Mr Wilkinson will outline his experience with apprenticeships.
  55. Mr Oliver Wilkinson (Share Centre, Lisnaskea): I run an outdoor education and creative arts centre, called the Share centre, in Lisnaskea. Perhaps members know about it; your children may have attended it. We have between 40 to 45 staff, depending on the time of the year. Each year we have to employ eight trainees. The group that I am talking about comprises the people who provide instruction for children. If one wants to go sailing, climbing, canoeing or any activity that has an element of risk, those individuals have to be trained to a competent standard so that they can provide a safe learning experience.
  56. We find that individuals who come straight from further education, or any level of education, cannot provide a service to us: we have to train them.
  57. I was interested in the comments on further education, and I agree with much of what was said. The Share centre takes on and trains individuals. Mr Spratt asked about how much people are paid. For the record, we give our trainees an allowance of approximately £60 a week. Furthermore, our residential centre provides their accommodation, we supply their expensive training equipment, we provide all their meals, and so forth. The combined cost certainly equates to the minimum wage. We provide that money ourselves or through an EU programme from which we can access money for training. However, that is extremely difficult.
  58. We considered the modern apprenticeship; however, most of the people that we take on do not train with us for a long-term career in the outdoors. Many are between the ages of 18 and 25 and do not have strong academic backgrounds but have good vocational skills. Some young people decide that, having taken their A levels, they want to take two or three years out before thinking about their academic careers. Others, who have finished their academic courses, perhaps at university, want to work in the outdoors. They stay with us for two, three or four years before moving on.
  59. As the Committee is probably aware, many young people now develop two or three careers rather than a single career. People move through a portfolio of different working experiences in their lives. In our industry, they often work on a part-time basis for us, perhaps at weekends, and work at something else during the rest of the week. We have to get round such challenges.
  60. If, under a modern apprenticeship programme, I were to take on as employees the eight people that are trained each year, I would have to make several of them redundant at the end of the 12-month period, because I could not employ eight new people in one year. However, there is a genuine shortage of good, competent instructors in outdoor activities. As the peace process develops, more and more people are coming to this country, and they want to experience the North and South of Ireland. They are keen to take part in outdoor activities in areas of Northern Ireland, such as the Fermanagh lakes. Therefore, there is potential for employers such as the Share centre to continue to grow and to make a significant contribution. Nevertheless, I could not employ all eight people.
  61. Therefore, from the eight trainees that we take on, we try to select two or three each year, because members of the workforce are constantly moving on. Those two or three individuals will stay with us for two or three years before moving on, to be replaced by another two or three. However, the others, interestingly, move to other outdoor centres throughout the UK and Ireland, because we have trained them as competent instructors. Therefore, we provide that training for the industry, and, in most cases, we use our own resources. At the moment, I cannot see the modern apprenticeship process being particularly useful to the Share centre, although I would love to think that it is.
  62. Ms S Weir: Oliver described extremely well how he has tried his best to access the programme. When he told me his story, I thought that the apprenticeship scheme would, fit the bill in many ways, because he trains people who must be highly skilled; able to interact with children; capable of motivating people; aware of health and safety; and so forth.
  63. The one problem that Oliver Wilkinson said that they had was that those skills were not being packaged in a way that gave people a licence to practise. Therefore, we thought that the modern apprenticeships in the outdoor sector — which we have a framework for — would fit the bill. That would mean that the portfolio workers who Oliver talked about, who move in and out of the industry, could go to another employer with their NVQ in outdoor instructing.
  64. However, those people are currently going to employers with bits and pieces of training. That is a shame because they are not getting the acknowledgement, they are not seen as professional and they do not feel that they have got what it takes to compete with other industries.
  65. With Oliver, we did try to work with a further education college. However, we found it difficult because they have traditionally been set up to work in a classroom setting. Simulation simply does not work in our sector; it is about getting out on the lakes or up the mountains, which the average senior lecturer in a further education college is not equipped to do. As Tory Kerley from Skillsmart said, the experts are in the workplace. Unfortunately, apprenticeship schemes do not currently give the kind of balance that is required to meet the relevant needs.
  66. I do have suggestions for solutions to the problems that have been outlined. That way, we can leave the Committee with something to work on, as opposed to simply talking about the issues. Currently, a lot of our people are 25 and over because that is the kind of people required to take a group of children up a mountain or to work with young people. Adding to what the Skillsmart representatives said about the 16-year-olds and over, we are a funny industry in that we are not a homogenous group of nine-to-five workers; we have part-time workers, seasonal workers and so on. We want the apprenticeship scheme to acknowledge that difference. If it cannot be acknowledged, we will have to face the fact that apprenticeships are not for us. However, we need an answer one way or another so that can move on.
  67. If someone achieved an A* in Maths at GCSE level six years ago, and they went tomorrow to enrol in an apprenticeship scheme, they would have to go through the whole Essential Skills programme because their qualification would no longer be recognised. GCSEs are recognised only up to five years after having achieved them. That system is wrong and it creates a barrier for a lot of people. Obviously, skills to be measured in some way, but we want a review of that system.
  68. Finally, sometimes all issues are not simply related to the minimum wage. Young people, and, indeed, in some cases older people, need to be given something more valuable than the minimum wage. I feel sorry for so many graduates coming out of universities. I believe that in many ways they have been abused. They have had three or four wonderful years of higher education, but statistics show that they are not getting the jobs that match their skills. The apprenticeship scheme provides an opportunity so that that will not be the case: people learn the skills, they do what is required to get a job, and, in most cases, they are guaranteed employment at the end the scheme.
  69. The Chairperson: I thank Siobhan and Oliver for their presentation. As I said earlier, it was useful getting the two presentations back to back. It was indicated in the previous presentation that there was little or no engagement with the Department on specific issues. What are your views on that?
  70. Ms S Weir: Do you mean in our role as a sector skills council?
  71. The Chairperson: Andrew Porter talked about employers getting very little information.
  72. Ms S Weir: We have similar experiences. Due to capacity, sometimes it is not possible to get that information.
  73. If we could work in partnership with DEL and further education colleges that information could be obtained. However, that approach must be a joint effort that sends a powerful message at different levels — through a major media-information campaign, and on a one-to-one basis because personalities often sell things and more people on the ground are required.
  74. The success of modern apprenticeships in the outdoor sector would alone be enough to raise awareness because Northern Ireland is a small place. For example, an employer down the road from Oliver, who does not take on apprentices, would hear about all the success. Word of mouth is also a powerful form of advertising.
  75. Mr Newton: It is always a good idea to provide your information packs on the day that you arrive.
  76. Is the Share centre a charitable organisation that is not part of the private sector?
  77. Ms S Weir: Yes; that is correct.
  78. Mr Newton: In your presentation, you concentrated on the outdoors, which is what I regard as the classroom instead of FE colleges. I will ask about other sectors that you touched on in the presentation. Although not the same as apprenticeships, the qualification levels in the outdoor sector are not that bad, which indicates that people are willing to work for qualifications. You said that 53% of part-time employees and 74% of full-time employees have an FE qualification, which demonstrates a willingness to embrace the qualification route in the overall sector, although there are the difficulties with the outdoor sector.
  79. Ms S Weir: That is a good point Robin. However, although the employees with qualifications tend to be technically qualified — because it is a requirement of our industry for health and safety reasons — they often do not have employability skills. For example, a coach may know how to get people onto a lake for an activity but know nothing about team work, which is the type of skill that an apprenticeship scheme would teach. Therefore, although our sector technically has a high level of employees with qualifications, on closer inspection those qualifications are not the same as the employability skills that the average employer looks for.
  80. Mr Attwood: As the Chairperson said, the consistency in both presentations on the restrictions placed on age and part-time workers in the Training for Success programme was very useful.
  81. The Programme for Government highlighted the potential for a growth in tourism, which is an industry that has developed over the past number of years. Given the potential increase in adventure tourism, does the Sector Skills Council anticipate a problem in getting a sufficient number of skilled workers in the next three or four years to accommodate?
  82. Approximately 61% of employers are not involved in training programmes, and even those who are think that further education in sport and recreation have not kept up to date. Therefore, 61% are not involved at all and those who are do not think that it is very relevant, which does not present a favourable picture of how the Training for Success programme is positioning itself to service your requirements. Do you have anything to add to that analysis?
  83. Mr Wilkinson: Adventure tourism presents us with a challenge and a real opportunity on two levels. The first is that more people are coming here. There is a significant increase in the numbers of French and Italian young people visiting our centre this year. They come to Fermanagh to learn to speak English — and why not? They have an opportunity to see the beauty of the lakeland environment and so on, and we take them to visit Belfast and other places. They are interested in seeing around them.
  84. There is a growing interest in our environment. For us, that means ensuring that what we do has a positive impact on our physical environment, or at least does not damage it. Otherwise, our tourism success will be short-term and that which is special about our developing tourism industry could be destroyed. We must constantly update the training that we provide to our staff and volunteers to make them aware of the sustainable environment and the importance of protecting and enhancing the environment in which we provide our service. That is becoming more and more of an issue.
  85. Two week ago, we hosted Ireland’s Greenbox eco-conference, and those environmental issues are being viewed as a future selling point on this island because, at the moment, it does not have a huge tourism footprint. The question is; are we to develop our industry by building rows of hotels like those on the Spanish coasts, or do we develop an eco-tourism product that could really set us apart? I think that we can achieve the latter. We must train and develop our people in that regard, but, at this stage, we are scarcely able to train the instructors to do what they are currently doing.
  86. Ms S Weir: Alex, you made some very important points about tourism. In a way, we are victims of our own success. The tourism sector is an attractive sector, and, as Oliver said, it is beginning to develop more, but the problem is that we cannot churn out enough skilled people for the workforce. Again, that is why it is frustrating that we cannot use the apprenticeship scheme, which would allow us to address that problem. In our dialogue with DEL, we are trying to ensure that the issue is addressed in the Programme for Government, and we have recorded it in our sector skills agreements. The question is how far down the line the message will travel; will the people who need to know about the skills shortage that will develop in the future be made aware of it? We have not even begun to consider the impact that the 2012 Olympic Games will have on the industry and the kind of workforce that will be needed for those events.
  87. Alex, your second point was that employers have said that some of the training courses on offer are not relevant, and you mentioned that many of our employers are not engaged with the FE sector. However, that is starting to change. The tourism industry is a fairly new industry, so only now are we getting employers to come on board and to engage in dialogue with us. In order for them to shape and influence qualifications, employers must help to review occupational standards in their industry. That is not the most exciting job because it involves examining very detailed technical competencies and skills, yet it is so vital. By carrying out that exercise, we can ensure that employers ask for the qualifications that will meet their needs. It is an ongoing process, and perhaps in a few years’ time, the picture will be better.
  88. Mr McCausland: How does the sector profile in Northern Ireland compare with that of the rest of the UK? Is it larger or smaller?
  89. Ms S Weir: I will deal with the five main tourism areas. In the sports sector, we balance out fairly well. Our health and fitness sector is smaller than the sectors in other regions. I do not have the specific details to hand, but I can certainly get them for you. Even though the outdoor sector is growing, it is still quite small compared to, say, Wales.
  90. In relation to caravan and leisure parks, we do not have Alton Towers, but we have many small owner-manager sites. We do not have the same volume or many of the big names such as Alton Towers, but that is starting to change. More investors are looking at ways to put their footprint here. JJB Fitness is an example of a private concern starting to open up gyms here, so obviously it sees the potential. However, with that comes the workforce, and that may be where they are holding back investments.
  91. Mr Newton: Does the sector have a relationship with DCAL?
  92. Ms S Weir: Yes, on several fronts. We are starting to work with DCAL on the 2012 Olympic Games. It has asked for information on the type of skills we think that the volunteers will need for 2012. We do not have any formal relationships or memorandums — and we would welcome that — but maybe that can be developed. We have a good relationship with Sport NI, who works closely with DCAL. A lot of the solutions can be found across government — not just in DEL.
  93. The Chairperson: Thank you, Siobhan and Oliver for your presentations. The information will be useful in the Committee’s scrutiny of Training for Success. When looking at problems, it is useful to have possible solutions, and that is appreciated.

27 February 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Ms Anna Lo
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr David McClarty
Mrs Claire McGill
Mr Robin Newton
Mr Alastair Ross

Witnesses:

Mr Raymond Crilly
Mr Terence Donnelly
Mr Martin Hutchinson

Automotive Skills

Mr Geoff Lamb

Improve Ltd

Mr John D’Arcy
Mr Brian Doran
Ms Maura Lavery
Mr Seamus Murphy

Association of Northern Ireland Colleges

  1. The Chairperson (Ms S Ramsey): I welcome Mr Martin Hutchinson, Mr Raymond Crilly and Mr Terence Donnelly from Automotive Skills, which is the sector skills council for the automotive industry. Not long after the Committee was established, Jimmy Spratt and I met Martin Hutchison. He was a lecturer then, before moving to head up Automotive Skills. The Committee is well aware of the many issues for discussion around the Training for Success programme, and I thank you for your attendance. I shall hand over to you to give your presentation, after which will be a question-and-answer session.
  2. Mr Martin Hutchinson (Automotive Skills): We thank the Committee for giving us the time to speak to it, and we welcome the opportunity to do so.
  3. I have represented the sector skills council for the automotive industry for four months. Before that, I was a lecturer in motor-vehicle studies at the North East Institute of Further and Higher Education in Ballymena. I also spent 20 years in the retail motor industry.
  4. Mr Raymond Crilly (Automotive Skills): I am the financial director for TBF Thompson (Garvagh) Ltd. I am also the chairperson of the employer forum on the sector skills council.
  5. TBF Thompson has four sites in Northern Ireland and a couple in the Republic of Ireland. We employ 250 people, and our business is commercial vehicles and heavy construction plant. We employ 25 apprentices, who are at various stages of their apprenticeships. That is why I have an interest in speaking to the Committee.
  6. Mr Terence Donnelly (Automotive Skills): I am from the Donnelly Group, which is involved in the retail motor industry. We employ approximately 500 people, including between 60 and 70 apprentices. We shall need 100 extra apprentices in future when the system is right for developing them. I am glad to be here, and I thank the Committee for taking the time to listen to us.
  7. Mr Spratt: Chairperson, I wish to declare an interest. I had a business association with Terence Donnelly in a previous life.
  8. Mr Hutchinson: Our submission will form the basis for a discussion. Automotive Skills’ main interest is to bring together automotive-sector employers to meet training needs, and to match those needs to training provision across the Province. Our submission contains recommendations about training in our sector in Northern Ireland, including issues that relate to Training for Success, and are based on responses from employers in Northern Ireland, some of whom are members of the employer forum. Members of that forum are listed in our submission.
  9. Our submission also lists the current options for school-leavers who wish to enter the automotive industry. Without going into too much detail, the number of options available causes confusion among careers advisers, and young people and their parents.
  10. One gap in the options is provision of training for those lower-ability school-leavers who do not meet the standard required to qualify for a full apprenticeship but who do meet the necessary standard to obtain a job. That gap exists because, in order to gain a place on the Skills for Work programme, young people must give up their job. The options are so confusing that the programme that I described in the submission as “Job Ready” is actually called “employability skills”. Moreover, I have not mentioned another strand, which is known as “personal development”. I want to highlight the fact that the current options are much too complex.
  11. Training providers are struggling to deliver all those different options. Various colleges use different patterns of delivery: some offer two days at college and others offer three days. The training providers also offer different qualifications: some offer a fast-fit qualification, which is obtained before the start of an apprenticeship and others use the pre-apprenticeship course as the first year of an apprenticeship, even though those young people are not yet employed. We also believe that much of the training provision that is available is not up to date with the advanced technologies in the industry.
  12. The consensus among employers is to have good-quality training across the Province. We have made a number of recommendations, which, we are confident, would help to achieve that. First, the level-3 employed-apprentice contract should be awarded to a range of high-quality training providers in Northern Ireland, including, perhaps, employers who opt to set up their own professional in-house training provision. The rationale behind that is that, with no competition, we feel that a single supplier is unlikely to have an incentive to deliver high-quality training. The outcome of the tendering process, which was to have only one supplier for level-3 apprenticeships, is that significant local investment in facilities is in jeopardy. In our submission, we mention that the investment that Transport Training Service Ltd (TTS Ltd) has made at Nutts Corner, and that Toyota has made in Ballymena, are in jeopardy.
  13. There is some disappointment and surprise that, to date, the level-3 contract holder seems to have done little to link with existing good-quality provision or to invest in the training provider from which they purchased. We visited the contract holder yesterday to obtain up-to-date information and were told that it is investing significantly in the facilities at Mallusk, and that is good news.
  14. However, that investment addresses provision only in that area, and we cannot see how that will help provision across the Province. The current situation has led many employers to consider setting up their own training provision, and an effective option would be to allow those employers direct access to funding for apprentices. After spending time investigating the matter, Terence has a particular view on training provision.
  15. Mr Donnelly: My view is born out of some frustration. When something does not work in a business environment such as ours, we have to dig down to check for any underlying problems. Over the past two years, I spent a good deal of time trying to visualise a future in which Government have the appetite to investigate problems in order to find their root. When the root of a problem has been identified, it is possible to build a firm foundation for the future.
  16. We went to Scotland to visualise what the future could be like, where we visited a large company in the motor industry that had used Government grants and funding that was available for training students in order to generate £12 million of investment. On our return, we assessed how the technical colleges operate now and the level that they need to reach. The past is perfect and cannot be changed, so there is no need to examine what happened previously. I go to colleges to talk to students about what they have to offer, and I ask my branch managers what they think are our company’s requirements. Serious discrepancies exist between the two, and much must be done to change that.
  17. The long and the short of it is that companies must take on suitable students. As has been put to me, the wrong student leads to the wrong result. The system of introducing students to our industry is outside our control. As employers, we have a difficulty with that, because we are asked to take on students on the back of someone else’s decision, and, therefore, there is a high rate of rejection. Often, much of the effort that we put into the first year’s training is wasted, although I am not saying that our efforts are totally wasted, because the work of the technical colleges is to be admired to a certain extent. The colleges can use only the deck of cards that they have been dealt.
  18. As an employer, one difficulty is the lack of a system that enables students to receive a proper standard of introduction to the business. The technology in motor vehicles today is sophisticated. Therefore, students coming into the industry must, as a minimum requirement, have GCSEs in maths and English, and IT skills. Even the colleges accept that. The grants system sustains technical colleges, so their main aim is to stay afloat. Weak students are enrolling in technical colleges because careers-guidance officers have pushed them in that direction, even though those students have no connection with the job.
  19. First, students’ appropriate educational level must be identified. Subsequently, some of those students must decide that they want to pursue a career in the automotive industry. They then require employers to take them on and train them for the first three years, during which time the students must have an expectation of a salary that will fund the future lifestyle that they desire. It is a matter of identifying the career path that students want to take. I will give the Committee a simple example that sums up how successful training can be.
  20. The father of a 24-year-old asked me whether I could do him a turn and get his son a car for £2,000. When I investigated his request further, I realised that the man did not want to buy his son a dear car, because the son wanted to go to America to get a job. The lad had just finished university and had no notion of the job that he wanted to do. I asked him what his brother and sister did, and it turned out that they were successful businesspeople. I told him that he needed to find somebody to teach him how a business works. At the end of the process, he would have the same as what his brother and sister have. That fellow has been though our business, from one end to the other, and he will be a manager in four years.
  21. My point is that, if we do not start it turning, the wheel will not go around. At present, the wheel goes only partly around. We often get the wrong student, and sometimes we even get the wrong student through to his third year of training. By the time the student comes to us as a finished product, we must start to train him. Therefore, we have wasted at least a year and a half of his time. Training provision could be left in our own hands. If we had control of the purse strings, it would assist us in directly training the students in the skills that we need for the future.
  22. As a company, we are prepared to invest money in a pilot system such as the one that has been established in Scotland. Such a pilot might demonstrate to the Assembly that a better approach exists. We can talk until the cows came home about 40 different ways to approach the matter, but the system in Scotland is already in place, and it will give us an idea of how a new system could work. We have all been to Scotland to see how that system operates, so it is not a case of reinventing the wheel, because, at this stage, we could simply copy the Scottish model. Someone in the industry who knows how it works could do work for at least three years that had a strict set of measurable criteria. After that, we could identify a new system. The current system does not have the appropriate links, and there is not much likelihood of those links being established, given that the technical colleges are in disarray as a result of the tendering process that was used. As some Committee members may know, my name was linked to the successful tender, when, in fact, I was never any part of it.
  23. Thus, the current system is in difficulty, and, as far as I am concerned, the technical colleges are not sure of their future existence. It is essential to concentrate on the industry and its training needs. Non-franchised training is necessary for people who will work on a lower level, on less-modernised cars. However, 80% of the industry needs top-level training. We really need to go to the root of the problem and design a way forward that will take us out the other side. The student who is leaving college will be asked by his mother and father what salary he will be earning when he turns 20 and again when he turns 25. We must be able to demonstrate to students and their families what they will earn at the end of the process.
  24. Mr Hutchinson: The second recommendation in the paper is to: “Initiate a single, full time Training & Education programme which would allow progression from induction, (L1 for those that need it)”—

the low-level intake —

“L2 and upward (As per the full time FE option). Most importantly these students would be a source of recruits who could transfer, at any time, to employed apprenticeships.”

  1. That programme would be for young people who have not yet secured employment as an apprentice, the rationale being that:

“The skills and knowledge studied on this course would be almost the same as employed Apprentices making transfer to employment at any time feasible”.

  1. At present, the Skills for Work and pre-apprenticeship courses mostly offer a lower-level fast-fit qualification, which does not easily allow a young person to transfer to an apprenticeship.
  2. The second recommendation continues:

“These students would be a source of recruits for employed apprenticeships, bringing information on attendance and achievement to interview.”

  1. That would really concern the not-yet-employed young people who are on a full-time course. A local employer who wants an apprentice would contact the training provider and invite some of those students along for interview.
  2. Our submission goes on to say:

“School leavers are going into workshops with little or no induction training. Some full time basic training beforehand would make these apprentices safer and more productive when they go into the workplace. Starting a full time course could facilitate this type of training. The mode of delivery of this option would be much simpler. The phased in work experience of the SfW & Pre App is too complex, confusing and inconsistent across the Province”,

as I mentioned earlier.

  1. Moreover, no clear progression exists for young people from the Skills for Work, pre-apprenticeship and Job Ready options. If they complete their 52-week training but have not secured employment, it is not clear where they will go and what qualification they will have.
  2. Local employer representatives must have an input into what the programme should contain, especially in the induction phase, to ensure that young people going into employment will be safe and productive. We propose that employers have a strong input to the content of such a course.
  3. The third recommendation relates to numeracy and literacy. To deliver essential skills, young people are spending significant periods in classrooms with maths and English teachers. We know from research that young people improve their numeracy and literacy skills more effectively when those skills are fully integrated into vocational training. To facilitate that, vocational tutors could deliver numeracy and literacy with appropriate training and high-quality teaching resources.
  4. I have a personal interest, having come from that background. For instance, I spoke to an apprentice a couple of months ago and asked him what he had learnt on his day in college last week. He said that he had been studying maths. I said that he could not have been studying maths all day to which he replied that it had felt like all day.
  5. We are dealing with young people who, if they have come out of school with less than a grade C at GCSE, will generally not have had very good experience of school. We bring them on to a training programme, but we take chunks of time out of that to put them in a classroom with a maths or English teacher. Young people see that as being like school, and they switch off. It is a question of motivating them to learn. The best teaching in the world will not achieve much when the learner is not motivated. Although this is not a panacea, integrating maths and English in vocational training is more effective than putting those young people in a classroom with a maths or English teacher. That is the nature of the young people with whom we are dealing.
  6. Those are our three recommendations: we are happy to take questions.
  7. Mr Crilly: I will add one further point. Everyone present probably had breakfast this morning, which will have included milk and bread. Those are delivered to shops by the commercial vehicles that we service. It happened, not that many years ago, that we did not train apprentices. If we do not have the people to look after those vehicles, we must employ overseas workers. I must admit —we hold our hands up — that we currently employ overseas workers, and we have nothing against employing them. We have had to employ them because of a lack of local workers who would become involved in the business.
  8. Apprentice training is critical to our business because the technology is changing so much. As Martin has said, in the past, we took on those young fellows who had come through the education system, dropped out, but were strong. Perhaps they had mechanical backgrounds or worked on their fathers’ farms, or whatever, and, therefore, they came to work for us. However, that is no longer sufficient for the businesses that Terence and I represent. The products that we now look after are sophisticated. The computer equipment in a modern-day truck is equivalent to that which put a man on the moon in 1969. That gives one an appreciation of what is involved.
  9. We need an apprentice-training system that will give us the technicians of the future, in order to keep the country rolling. We have no other means of delivering goods — they must travel by road. We must keep the trucks on the road, and we need people to look after the trucks to keep them on the road.
  10. The Chairperson: I thank you for your presentation. The Committee has a genuine interest in Training for Success, in apprenticeships, and in how numeracy and literacy might be tied into the package.
  11. We want to ensure that Training for Success is the right programme and that we hear a broad range of presentations from people who are directly or indirectly involved in the industry. Therefore, I appreciate your attendance today and your informing us of some of the issues that you see either as being problems or as requiring adjustments to be made in order to make a major difference.
  12. The Committee hopes to sign off on its report as quickly as possible after the Easter recess. We want to ensure that any recommendations that we make be implemented as quickly as possible — we are not compiling a report for the sake of it. If at all possible, we want to try to make any necessary changes.
  13. Mr Spratt: I thank the witnesses for their presentation. Committee members are concerned about the issue of level-3 apprenticeships. Your submission states that without any competition, a single supplier is unlikely to have any incentive to deliver good-quality training locally. Your submission also expresses disappointment that the level-3 contract holder has, to date, done little to link with existing good-quality provision or invest in the small training provider that it purchased. Will you beef up that information a bit more for us?
  14. As I said, that is an issue that concerns us. Level-3 apprenticeships are important. Terence Donnelly said that trainees must have maths and English GCSEs, and, in particular, good IT skills, which is now an important aspect of the motor-trade industry. Can we get some more information about that so that we are fully aware of the situation?
  15. The Committee now has the opportunity to hear, from the horse’s mouth, exactly what is happening. The Department has told us that the level-3 apprenticeships with Carter and Carter Group plc are working. However, I am not sure that that is the case. I want to hear your views on that. I ask you to be frank with us.
  16. Mr Donnelly: One criterion that was outlined in the contract after Carter and Carter was appointed was the link with the manufacturers. It is important to understand that today’s vehicles are complex. Mechanics can no longer simply lift up the bonnet and have a look at the engine in order to see what is wrong with it. They are now required to use a piece of equipment — similar to a laptop — that is unique to each vehicle and that must be linked to a computer system.
  17. An apprentice should have the skills necessary to use such a system by the end of their three-year course. Technical colleges can take apprentices through the old spark system and tell them how engines work. However, apprentices no longer need to know how to take an engine apart — it simply is replaced.
  18. One of the greatest difficulties in training for level-3 apprenticeships concerns fact finding. Cars now have a multitude of lights, which play a large role in how vehicles are controlled. Many people have experienced the niggling problem of car lights coming on for seemingly no reason. A serious investment in equipment is required in order to teach apprentices how to diagnose, report and fix the fault.
  19. Martin Hutchinson lobbied a Toyota manufacturing firm to invest £500,000 in Ballymena. Toyota is training students in how to fix a specific car and is showing them how to use the necessary equipment to do so. That is a direct link.
  20. We visited Carter and Carter’s training operation at Blackwater House yesterday for the first time. People there talked about a new carpet’s being fitted and about all sorts of new investments, which are valued at £6,000.
  21. They are specialising in body repairs.
  22. However, I did not hear about that manufacturing link, or the necessity for a skills set and a training mechanism for third-year apprentices that would be based on the needs that we see demonstrated in workshops.
  23. Training is required in the electronics systems of cars. Apprentices learn about the sparks systems during their first month at training college. The diagnosis times in respect of modern cars are important. As Raymond said, the technology in modern lorries is similar to similar to that which took man to the moon. We live in a changing world, and new technology is coming at us so fast that the students of today are ill-equipped to go into the industry.
  24. Mr Spratt: The issues that have been raised about level-3 apprenticeships are important, and a lot of money is spent on training for those apprentices. Mr Donnelly, are you saying that your garage, TBF Thompson and the Toyota garage in Ballymena have invested a lot of money in IT, for example, for the benefit of training?
  25. Mr Donnelly: Yes.
  26. Mr Spratt: Are you suggesting that it would be better if the Department provided grant aid to employers to provide level-3 training, because the required equipment is not available in the places where the level-3 apprentices are being sent for training? Are you saying that the necessary investment is not being made?
  27. Mr Donnelly: There is a massive training gap. There is a great difference between our workshops and the training colleges. Students are shell-shocked when they come to our workshops; it is like a different world to them. The students come to our workshops as part of day-release programmes, so we must provide adequate facilities. In college, they are being taught what we taught them six months previously. The students are, therefore, frustrated, because they are being taught things that they already know.
  28. Training is not available in the aspects of the job in which it is required. In the past month, I visited three colleges and asked tutors how they felt about the training that was being provided. The colleges that provide training for first-year and second-year apprentices are frustrated, because they do not have the power to progress the training. I asked one trainer where he received his training. The only people who can train the trainers are the manufacturers, because it is they who build the cars, the technology and the equipment to run them.
  29. One trainer at a college told me that he went on a week-long course in Germany last year for BMW. That was provided to him as a perk, because there were no BMWs in the vicinity of the college, and did not teach BMW technology. Ours is a business in which 500 salaries a year are paid to produce the expertise of the future. However, the Government are spending money to the left when it needs to go in the right. Money is being spent, but it is going in the wrong direction, and that is frustrating.
  30. Portuguese people — and people of other nationalities — are moving here, but we do not necessarily want to spend money on training them, because they will move away in a year’s time. We would, therefore, be training them to work in Portugal or some other country. We provide apprenticeships through the Master Technician programme, the Licensed Technician, or some of the franchises, and it costs between £15,000 and £20,000 to do so. There is a limit to how many of those apprentices we can bring through those courses. None of the investment that is being made is coming to us, and, therefore, fully qualified technicians are at a premium.
  31. Therefore, in order to achieve a more balanced workforce, more people must be trained appropriately.
  32. As far as I am concerned, Carter and Carter are on the margins of the training industry in Northern Ireland, and not in the main arena — its actions do not correspond to current industry norms.
  33. Mr Crilly: I do not want this to sound like a slanging match about Carter and Carter. However, it is fair to say that we are disappointed. I was surprised because, when Carter and Carter was awarded the contract as a result of its tender, it did not have facilities in Northern Ireland. Subsequently, in August 2007, it bought the Blackwater House training operation. However, it had tendered for the contract at the end of May 2007.
  34. Although Carter and Carter Group plc is a huge organisation, it did not publish its accounts in July 2007 because the auditors refused to sign off on them. There are questions about doubtful trading and, because it over-claimed grants, it was required to repay £4 million to one of the skills councils in England. We were shocked and surprised to learn that the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) had chosen Carter and Carter.
  35. I represent DAF Trucks in Northern Ireland, which, last year, stopped using Carter and Carter because it was not happy with the quality of its provision, and I am aware that other manufacturers, including Renault, have also stopped using it.
  36. Moreover, its acquisition of Blackwater House as its local provider also surprised us. Although I do not wish to dwell on history, in 1999, I was involved in the buyout of TBF Thompson and, having come into the business, I realised that there was no quality training provision. I asked other Northern Ireland truck dealers whether they were having problems with apprentice training, and they confirmed that they were. We appointed Sx3, which was then part of Viridian Group, to provide training. However, after a year, due to internal politics, it pulled out and passed the responsibility to Blackwater House, which promised that it would invest significantly in equipment. We struggled along with Blackwater House for about a year and a half, and, to the best of my knowledge, no truck dealers are currently using it to provide training.
  37. DAF in Northern Ireland sends 18 apprentices a year to Bristol, who attend college for 10 weeks in year 1, 10 weeks in year 2 and six weeks in year 3. Consequently, because we cannot source the required quality of training in Northern Ireland, we fly young people from Northern Ireland and pay for their accommodation in Bristol so that they can attend college. I would love Northern Ireland to have a centre of excellence about which we could be proud and in which we could train our young people in order to keep them here and produce good-quality technicians. Unfortunately, the decisions that have been taken will not help to achieve that.
  38. The Chairperson: Although several specific issues are emerging, I remind members that we are dealing with, and should focus on, the Training for Success programme.
  39. Ms Lo: I thank the witnesses for attending, and the Committee will find it useful to consider their information. I hear what you are saying, Terence. Does your company wish to conduct its training in house?
  40. Mr Donnelly: Although I am frustrated, it is not frustration alone that has caused me to decide to conduct in-house training. We require professional training, and that is not available elsewhere. If I cannot find an organisation that will attend to my business, I create such an operation. Our chairman is also associated with Arnold Clark and, therefore, we have a good insight into how apprentice-training programmes have worked previously. I use that example to illustrate the fact that we need not reinvent the wheel.
  41. In common with Raymond Crilly’s company, we must send people to England to have them trained consistently. I am keen to address that matter because we must train the trainers. In order to be the best in the industry, the right teachers and students must be trained to the highest level. We must therefore employ the right students and, at the end of each year’s training, we must ensure that they want to continue and are making the grade — as in any college — and that we are not running a training college merely to obtain Government funding and to keep going.
  42. That is not what this is about. This is about training people in the industry and expanding that smaller model to the whole industry. Everyone in the industry is in the same position. We are employing foreign workers. I am not saying that we should not do that, but we cannot invest in their training because they will leave as soon as they have made enough money. We will invest our own money and try to get financial assistance. Money that is being spent elsewhere could be freed up and invested in the main arena where it is needed, and then we will have apprentices with a future.
  43. Apprentices have to be nurtured in order to have a future. We desperately need apprentices today; otherwise we will not have them in three years. Our company must take serious steps, as we cannot work without apprentices. The system is disjointed, and the more we try to pull the joints together, the more difficulties we will have. If matters worsen, I will lose interest, because we are already struggling to link to the technical colleges.
  44. There are also questions about the method of tendering that was used to award the training contract to Carter and Carter Group, but I will come back to that. Organisations are going back to the technical colleges to ask them to do their work, but that system did not work in the past, so we should not go back to it.
  45. We are still using 1999-2000 standards, but we need to get up to 2008 standards. The cars that are used for training in colleges are at least six years old, but our company uses computers these days. There are some great guys doing good work in the colleges, but they are dealing with older cars. The college in Ballymena is the only one with a modern car, which was provided by Toyota. We are in dire straits when we pay for the training, but it is the manufacturer who tries to provide the training.
  46. Mr Hutchinson: Major investment is necessary. We do not know whether there is an obligation or commitment on the level-3 contract-holder to make that investment.
  47. Mr Newton: I thank the delegation for attending this meeting. What was the level of consultation between the Department and the Sector Skills Council on the Training for Success programme? Who sets or agrees the apprenticeship framework and the standards? Presumably, companies do not qualify unless they meet the framework standard. Under the sector skills agreement that you have signed off with the Department, what is the strategy for the provision of apprenticeship training? What is the impediment to employers recruiting apprentices?
  48. Mr Hutchinson: I was not with the Sector Skills Council at the beginning of 2007 when the tendering exercise took place, so I do not know the answer to that question.
  49. The Chairperson: Will you find out that information? That may be helpful.
  50. Mr Hutchinson: I will find out what consultation took place. The sector skills agreement is a comprehensive list of actions dealing with all sorts of issues, such as careers and management, and so on. There is a lot of activity on the apprenticeship side. We are participating in initiatives such as lectures into industry, and that keeps the training providers and the guys who deliver the training up to date.
  51. Danny Gormley is one of the lecturers in Omagh College, which Committee members visited last week. Over a year ago, he spent 10 to 12 weeks working in the industry. We are keen to encourage more of that type of activity. Since I took up my appointment, we have had two meetings with the training providers — the quality improvement group. It is part of our sector skills agreement to maintain that group to improve the quality of training provision across the Province.
  52. The next question was about frameworks. We are conducting a big research project called the sector qualification strategy. From that, we are receiving lots of opinions on what constitutes appropriate qualifications and frameworks from employers, management, and employees on the workshop floor and in the showrooms. A clear message that is coming from our industry is that the NVQ is a damaged brand. We must closely examine whether the NVQ is an appropriate badge of competence for future technicians, whether it is up to date and whether it is respected.
  53. Mr Newton: From what Mr Crilly and Mr Donnelly have said, it seems that the aim is to create a centre of excellence. Is that part of your agreement with the Department?
  54. Mr Hutchinson: I will have to check on that. It is certainly on our radar to have centres of excellence strategically placed around the Province for specialist areas of the sector such as the trucks sector, which is associated with a smaller volume of provision, bodywork, paintwork and mechanics. Coming from that background in training provision, I am keen that lower-level training provision — possibly up to level 2 — is available locally. As level-3 training requires more expensive and specialised equipment, and training staff who are more knowledgeable, a strategic placement around the Province, which depends on the volume of business, is required.
  55. Mr Attwood: Despite what you have said, Chairperson, I want to return to the issue of Carter and Carter Group, because it represents a failure in the tendering process and, now, a failure of contract. One way or another, the Department will be called to account about the financing of that situation.
  56. The Chairperson: I just ask that Members do not focus on one specific issue related to Training for Success. I am not a cheerleader for Carter and Carter.
  57. Mr Attwood: I know that. I suspect that such people are a dying breed.
  58. The Chairperson: Cheerleaders? [Laughter.]
  59. Mr Attwood: No, I meant supporters of Carter and Carter Group plc. The image of you as a cheerleader —
  60. The Chairperson: Carter and Carter does apprenticeships in cheerleading now. [Laughter.]
  61. Mr Attwood: It would be useful if the witnesses sent two written submissions to the Committee: one that explains why you think that the Scottish model is relevant, and one on the poor performance of Carter and Carter, which Raymond Crilly mentioned.
  62. On the basis of yesterday’s visit, and given that it is the level-3 contract-holder across the North, is Carter and Carter Group capable of providing level-3 contracts? Is it capable of doing what you require it to do for level-3 trainees?
  63. Mr Donnelly: Absolutely not.
  64. Mr Hutchinson: If Carter and Carter Group teamed up with good-quality providers in the Province, it could be capable.
  65. Mr Attwood: From speaking to people in the business, I know that Carter and Carter approaches good-quality providers, but then does not follow up those approaches. That has been happening for months. Would you send any trainee to Carter and Carter?
  66. Mr Donnelly: No; I would train them myself. Sending a trainee to Carter and Carter would be a waste of money. It is not easy to be so blunt in the public arena, but, as a businessman, it would be a waste of time if I came here and did not tell it as I see it.
  67. Mr Crilly: I spoke to DAF Trucks, because I represent them, and they switched from Carter and Carter Group in the middle of last year to Skillnet Automotive Academy. DAF carried out a tendering process, and I asked one of the members of the tendering committee what he thought of Carter and Carter. At the risk of sounding derogatory, he said that he would not have allowed them to sweep his yard. He did not rate them.
  68. On its website, Carter and Carter has a report of its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on 15 February this year, and if you read between the lines of even their summary of the meeting, there is something seriously wrong with that organisation. It has had to repay moneys, and there is clearly a problem somewhere in that organisation. However, Committee members will have to read for themselves.
  69. Mr Attwood: The Committee has been very much aware of all the developments leading up to the EGM on 15 February. We received evidence a couple of weeks ago from the Construction Employers Federation, which was working with DEL to rework Training for Success, potentially for the start of the next training year, so that it would be suitable for the construction employers, who have taken a view that is similarly critical of Training for Success as the one that you have expressed.
  70. The Construction Employers Federation thought that it might be making some progress in its conversations with DEL officials in that regard. Are you having talks at present with DEL officials to rework Training for Success in the way that you would like; and, if you are having such conversations, is there any indication that the programme will be reworked in a way that you would like?
  71. Mr Hutchinson: There are no such discussions at this stage. I have the sector skills agreement here, and I was looking at what it includes on quality improvement. There is a whole page about matters such as a quality improvement strategy to improve the training programmes offered and the expertise of teaching staff. The quality improvement group has been formed, and will meet four times a year. It has met twice so far. There is a continuing personal-development training event for training providers on 3 March. We are working with the Learning Skills Development Agency on getting lecturers into industry. We are speaking to employers about getting lecturers out into the industry. TBF Thompson and Donnelly Brothers have agreed to have lecturers work alongside their staff to update their knowledge. There are, therefore, quite a lot of activities outlined in that document.
  72. Mr Crilly: If I might return to the point made by Mr Attwood — it is not that we would not talk to DEL officials, we would be delighted to talk to them. They have not asked us yet. We have an employer forum, of which I am the chairman, and if they would like to talk to us, we would be more than happy to do so.
  73. Mr Donnelly: I made some enquiries about the possibility of setting up a discussion, and they wanted to come and talk to me. However, after the appointment process and the redirection of the training, I decided to leave it at that point because I did not feel that my input would have had an ear after the recent tender and change.
  74. From our point of view, the appetite for dialogue exists. We have had discussions with training councils and the industry to make sure that we can continue to have an input into helping everyone to move forward. Therefore, we are open to any dialogue and assistance in that area because there is a need for communication and help in both directions.
  75. Mrs McGill: I declare an interest because I have a vehicle that was supplied by Donnelly Brothers.
  76. The Chairperson: Did you get a good deal? [Laughter.]
  77. Mrs McGill: I come from the west. Mr Donnelly’s vision of providing in-house training seems a sensible approach, as Anna Lo has said. Could young people in the west and north-west access training in establishments located close to them, or would you envisage them using a centrally based centre of excellence, as outlined by Mr Crilly? I am in favour of the former.
  78. Mr Donnelly: We need to examine two models. The Scottish model uses centres of excellence that are linked exclusively to the manufacturers. However, the scale of the change process requires discussion. I do not currently have a plan in mind that encompasses considerations for specific areas, but I am glad to assume that role in the future, because the industry needs someone to lead the training.
  79. The Assembly, through a survey that was sent out soon after restoration, asked employers for their views. We need to put in place an arrangement whereby we consider input from the Government, manufacturers, and the motor industry itself when making a decision on how to proceed with training.
  80. I think that the Donnelly Group was linked to the tender due to its location in Campsie. Centres of excellence should be spread across the country, and should deal with different aspects of training. I support the idea of establishing a centre of excellence because it is efficient and ensures top-level training. I would be a willing and active participant in any future round-table discussions on that subject.
  81. It is not only technicians and those in the workshops who require training, and to replace the current system with in-house training would require planning. Initially, our training operation was a satellite to see whether we could deliver the top band of training. We know that we can. Across Northern Ireland, the industry must consider the non-franchised motor trade, and those who will be employed by smaller garages, whose required level of training would not necessarily be the same as ours.
  82. Although the situation is complex, I do not fear it, and nor should the Assembly. Through detailed investigation, devising a plan to suit the needs of the industry will be simple. The Donnelly Group participates in work-experience schemes, and, indeed, accepts such students on a daily basis. As we hold 60% of the motor trade in the north-west, we could establish a college that can take responsibility for training that 60%. We can extend that to the remaining 40% if necessary.
  83. We are glad to have an open discussion about the overall approach. We need to consider areas such as apprentice programmes, computer skills, and work undertaken in the offices. All of those areas are unique to the motor industry and require training that is provided by those with knowledge in that industry.
  84. Mrs McGill: Last week, during a presentation at the Omagh campus of the South West College, it was mentioned that apprentices from the west and north-west, and places such as Omagh, should not have to travel miles from home, if possible.
  85. Those of us from that area will be promoting that idea. Would a centre for excellence be custom-built?
  86. Mr Crilly: I must declare an interest: I live in Enniskillen.
  87. Mr Donnelly: Omagh was one of the centres that I visited. Do we focus on those centres that currently exist, in order to enable them to reach a certain level and at least uplift the basic training that they provide? At present, there are, I think, 18 providers — everything is too disjointed. I said in the survey that we would participate absolutely and would invest our own company money in training for the future. It is part of what we want to do, and we would be glad to have a serious discussion about that.
  88. However, the system has so many legs that it is unfair for me to say that, tomorrow, I will take on everyone’s training, because colleges and other providers are in place for that. The problem is that there is such a scattering of training that someone must get a grip on the current system and redesign it.
  89. The Chairperson: I must bring this session to a close.
  90. Mr Hutchinson: May I make some very quick points?
  91. The Chairperson: I am in a good mood, Martin, so you may.
  92. Mr Hutchinson: In our sector skills agreement, we shall, later this year, produce a piece of research to identify the extent of demand for training, and its current provision, across the Province. That research will ascertain whether a need for rationalisation exists.
  93. Someone from our head office will visit DEL later this month to talk about apprenticeship frameworks. The issue will undoubtedly arise, even though those are not directly related to Training for Success. On Friday 29 February, we shall have an employer forum meeting, at which Training for Success will be on the agenda. No doubt we shall be inviting representatives from DEL to attend the next meeting after that.
  94. The Chairperson: I want to thank you for being upfront and honest on Training for Success. If you find that any more information is available that the Committee should be receiving, feel free to pass on that information. Thank you very much.
  95. Mr Spratt: Madam Chairperson, in the light of what I have heard, and in the light of the meeting that you and I had with the Minister just a few days ago, I am keen to have departmental officials along again to the Committee to discuss Carter and Carter’s role. What we have just heard, from leading businesspeople, who are at the coalface and are the providers, is, to say the least, absolutely damning. I am not convinced, and I am sure that other Committee members are not convinced, that the Department has been made fully aware of the concerns over the training that Carter and Carter is providing. Such training is important, and it appears that people who need it, as well as those people who have already received level-3 training, have no confidence whatsoever in that training. That is a problem. As far as I am concerned, public money is being used to provide training that I am convinced is not even taking place properly.
  96. Alex Attwood has asked for further information to be provided about the Scottish model. I am keen that Research Services produce a paper on that, because I feel that it is important to examine that model. Several leading businessmen have taken time to look at the model that is used in Scotland. I imagine that that model has been in existence for a number of years, and those businessmen certainly consider it to have major merits. We may wish to have a look at it at some point
  97. The Chairperson: You are probably right. How Training for Success is moved forward is an issue to which we shall return. We have another two presentations to hear; therefore, I am keen to move on. I appeal to Committee members that we take careful stock of our status and how we proceed, because there may be an issue with John Dowdall’s review of the issue and how it relates to our set-up, the meeting we had with the procurement section and the assurance that the Minister gave us at our meeting last week. The Committee must consider its next steps. We have an Assembly researcher present today who will take on board the points that have been made and come back to us with a paper on the issues that have been raised.
  98. Our next evidence session is from Improve NI, the food and drink industry’s sector skills council. I welcome Geoff Lamb and apologise for keeping him waiting.
  99. Mr Geoff Lamb (Improve Ltd): I have listened to an interesting conversation while waiting to speak.
  100. The Chairperson: There is a great deal of interest in Training for Success. The food and drink industry is an important sector, given the growth in the catering industry. Moreover, it is an integral part of the plan for the tourism and hospitality sector. I shall hand over to you for a short presentation, before opening up the discussion to Committee members for a question-and-answer session.
  101. Mr Lamb: We may make up some time; I do not intend to hold anybody back. I was asked to prepare a brief, so mine is a very brief brief, so to speak. I represent Improve Ltd in Northern Ireland, which is the sector skills council for the food and drink processing and manufacturing sector. Improve Ltd are represented locally by the Food and Drink Training Council, a full partner with which we share directors, and so on, on our various boards. It is important that we have a local input into what is a national-themed issue.
  102. I shall speak about some high-level, and globally important, matters concerning the agrifood sector. I will then focus on my views on Training for Success. Given what I have heard already today, my positivity may come as an absolute shock, so I am glad that everyone is sitting down. [Laughter]. It is not all positive, but it is certainly not all negative.
  103. The local agrifood sector has a variety of sub-sectors. We are responsible for the supply chain from farm to fork, dealing with bakeries, meat processors, the grain industry, dairies, poultry processors, and so on. Approximately 19,000 people are directly employed in the agrifood industry, and as many again are engaged indirectly along the supply chain. For example, transport and wholesale distribution — already mentioned here today — is an example of what is considered part of that supply chain.
  104. The industry’s annual turnover is approximately £2·5 billion. I mention those statistics because there is not a great deal of awareness of the sector’s actual contribution to the local economy. Many people are aware of the relevant issues from a farming perspective — through listening to the likes of ‘Farm Gate’ on the radio — but there is not the same level of interest in food processing. At 18·5%, we are the largest contributor to overall sales, and we employ 23% of the total local manufacturing sector.
  105. The agrifood industry is split into two groups: large enterprises; and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The 10 largest companies are responsible for 44% of the gross turnover and employ 40% of all employees in the industry. A key point is that the average profit level across the industry is 3·1% of sales. If one assesses the big companies’ accounts, it will be noted that they do not seem able to rise above 3% average profit, regardless of turnover figures. That indicates that impactors, such as the global grain price increase, have a dramatic effect on profit. I shall return to that point later.
  106. Today, I am representing those people who are involved in training and apprenticeship delivery in the industry, including companies and suppliers, so I will have to answer all the Committee’s questions.
  107. A range of issues currently faces the global food industry, and economic development disparity is one of those issues. Whatever one’s views on the World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs and EU legislation, there is undoubtedly an increasing disparity between the developed and developing worlds. Good work is being undertaken around the world in an effort to remove that discrepancy, but it still exists and, unfortunately, it will probably increase further.
  108. The current buzzword in food safety here is bluetongue, and how we can keep it out of the country. Unless somebody can invent a really good bug spray, we shall never be able to keep bluetongue at bay completely. However, we should be able to minimise its impact. Locally, we have experienced BSE and foot-and-mouth disease, and we also have the Codex Alimentarius, the primary piece of European food-safety legislation. Those all impact on cost around the world.
  109. The nutritional content of food is another issue that the global food industry faces. Notwithstanding the television programme that some of you may have seen last night, in which it was reported that no difference exists among certain food varieties, interest abounds in probiotics, nutraceuticals, and so on.
  110. Convenience food is important to time-starved customers. People are starved of time because they choose to be. If they were to take the time to buy proper food and prepare it properly, they would probably be OK. However, convenience food is a major component of the world market at present. Many such ideas originate in the United States of America, and everyone else rides the wave, as though on a surfboard.
  111. The buying of local and organic food has an important local impact, and the new campaign of Food Promotion Northern Ireland (FPNI) has “Good Food is in our Nature” as its strapline. That will be important for promoting local food. However, we should remember that the local food-processing industry exports 80% of its produce. If we were to rely solely on selling local food in a local market, we would have a big problem.
  112. Environmental issues and sustainability affect the global food industry. Much has been said about carbon footprints, biofuels, and so on. Biofuels are a classic example of something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but they turned out not to be. As for the impact of technology, the market continues to move on.
  113. Another issue is market segmentation and SME survival. The question is whether small companies can survive in a large market, especially as we are on a small island on the edge of Europe. There are many economies of scale in South America that we cannot hope to match. Furthermore, the market is constantly changing; who knows where we will be in two years, five years or 10 years?
  114. That is an overview of the high-level global issues. I shall move on to the part of my presentation that I may be able to tie in with Training for Success, which is what the Committee wants to discuss. I hope that you will ask me easy questions at the end.
  115. The local impact of global issues, such as the cost of production and logistics, is an issue for us. Our distance from markets means that we have to cross one or two seas — depending on the route that we take — to distribute our product, and that adds to the cost.
  116. A trend has emerged for manufacturing to move to low-cost economies. The beauty of the food industry is the fact that its goods are perishable; therefore, we will always have some sort of workable food-processing industry. It will go from strength to strength as a manufacturing sector.
  117. Generally, the food industry is seen as having a low-skilled workforce. I am sure that everybody here will have heard of children being told that, if they do not do their homework, they will end up in such-and-such factory. I will not name any names — Committee members can insert the name of their local factory. The skills of the workforce are important at all levels, from processing to supervisory and technical levels — where jobs become more complicated — and even at the middle- and senior-management levels. Skills gaps are hard to fill at all levels around the country, and I will say more about that later.
  118. It is important that we attract the best recruits to the agrifood sector and that we pull people into the sector rather than push them into it. Food businesses cluster in certain areas around the country, such as mid-Ulster or Craigavon. However, we cannot push youngsters into the industry. Rather than trying to compel them to take jobs, we must attract them to the industry. The approach that is being taken in Great Britain at present suggests pushing, rather than pulling. That is not a long-term solution to the problem.
  119. The impact of translating EU legislation into local laws tends to be the addition of ongoing costs associated with compliance rather than added value.
  120. Furthermore, we rely heavily on overseas employees, who have benefited the food and drink industries immensely. Issues do arise, but I will certainly not discuss them here. Overseas employees have rescued the industry in the short term. Their middle- to long-term impact is arguable. Three years ago, we did some UK-wide work that suggested that a high percentage of overseas nationals would stay in the country in which they had taken up residence. However, I am not sure that that will remain the case. It depends entirely on the level of jobs that they have and their career prospects. If they come over to work for 12 months on one job, they may get bored. We must recognise the importance of foreign nationals in the industry and try to interest them in training.
  121. Improve’s task is to ensure that we, as the food and drink industry’s sector skills council, attract the best people, and that those who are currently employed in the industry are given the opportunity to develop their career to the utmost of their potential. The Committee will notice that I am slowly getting around to talking about Training for Success. The key for Improve is to work towards a situation in which employers’ needs are better matched to the availability of training supply. In other words, we must ensure that a balance exists between demand and supply, and Improve is working with a variety of training providers, colleges and employers to try to ensure that that happens. Much good work is already being done on the supply side and the delivery side to try to match the needs of employers with the training available, and that work should be recognised. It is important that we work towards an ideal, to which, although we may never reach it, we should definitely aspire.
  122. I am sure that the Committee is sick to death of hearing sector skills councils talking about their great sector skills agreements (SSAs). I am aware that one of your colleagues mentioned that a mile-length of paperwork was produced in the Assembly, so I will not supply the Committee with a full SSA. Instead, a document is available on our website that can be accessed at any time and worked on as a soft copy, without wasting paper and burning down forests.
  123. Eight key actions are contained in the SSA. Those key actions are quite focused; however, we are in the process of creating action plans that will explain how they will be achieved. The key actions include: careers development in the industry; promoting productivity; flexible qualifications; training, learning and development; and our good old friend IAG — information, advice, and guidance — which should really be “careers information, advice and guidance”.
  124. Skills as a strategic business driver — a further key action — is a bugbear of mine, because skills development is seen as a cost, and when the going gets tough, costs are pared down and training stops. It is important that we educate companies to understand that skills development must continue, because that is the future of their business.
  125. A future in food is another of the key actions. It is a long-term strategy, which is aimed at enhancing the profile of the food industry — even to primary-school children, who think that Tesco has a big factory behind each of its stores, from where the food comes.
  126. The final key action — networking for success — is about companies working together, working with training-delivery mechanisms such as the Workforce Development Forum and organisations such as Improve, and working with colleges.
  127. Therefore, the SSA will inform our future actions, just as it has been informed by various strategies that have been developed with DEL. I am aware that Training for Success is the focus of this evidence session, but I felt it important to discuss matters such as the careers strategy and the skills strategy, and how each will be locally implemented, because Improve is also interested in those.
  128. Having bored the Committee for 10 minutes, I shall now briefly discuss Training for Success. The food and drink industry believes that the development of the level-2 apprenticeship is a bonus. Previously, only level-3 apprenticeships existed, around which there was a variety of issues, because of complicated frameworks and labour sharing in the industry, and we were not very successful in getting people to complete those. A further issue is the food industry’s demographics. The industry is not seen as being a first port of call for many people, and young people seem almost to fall into it.
  129. Therefore, as representatives of the industry, we strongly believe that a level-2 apprenticeship is a better starting point, or first rung on the ladder, for young people, rather than their trying to jump up to level 3. The way in which our friends in DEL have set the Training for Success frameworks means that the level-2 apprenticeship can be completed, and people can then move seamlessly on to level 3. Therefore, we are now taking on apprentices at level 2 in order to move them on to level 3. At least, that is our intention.
  130. Although not everybody will be available to move on to level 3, the level-2 apprenticeship will give them a very strong qualification nonetheless, given that it leads to an NVQ, which is equivalent to a GCSE. The Committee discussed earlier, among other issues, whether the NVQ is damaged as a brand. The NVQ also raises the question of whether we are creating a competent industry instead of an excellent industry. Generally, NVQs have had a bad press over the years. We may now have an opportunity to focus on the fact that they are a useful measure of how people are performing.
  131. We are not proud when it comes to how we operate; we use a variety of models. Crude people might call them something else, but I call those models “hybrids”. We are keen to promote hybrid models, because they involve on-site delivery. The larger companies that we work with will deliver either the entire framework or the majority of it on site.
  132. We are also interested in working with the colleges. Southern Regional College has a good meat centre at its Portadown campus. Belfast Metropolitan College has an excellent bakery-college structure, and we are helping it to promote its apprenticeships. As well as delivering apprenticeships, we are interested in promoting them in other areas.
  133. We deliver the training to suit the employers’ needs. The level-2 apprenticeship has presented the opportunity to sign up butchery apprentices for the first time, and that is an exciting development. That model has not been available before, and we are in the process of signing up 45 apprentices to work in butchers’ shops around the country. We had a slow start because we work to a roll-on, roll-off system, which means that apprentices can be signed up at any time in the year, although I do like to take Christmas Day off. That system has been a slow burn for us, but it is now starting to move forward and develop. Almost 100 apprentices are currently signed on with us. We are a small organisation, so that involves a great deal of work. It also means much driving around the country, so my carbon footprint must be heavy.
  134. We aim for a mixture of private- and public-sector delivery through effective partnerships with colleges and private providers. I am happy to say that Improve has a good working relationship with the colleges. Belfast Metropolitan College has always delivered the bakery apprenticeship, even at level 3. We will continue to work with that college. We are also interested in working with our friends at Southern Regional College to promote its meat centre, which is a viable opportunity for development. We are also working with the Loughry campus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in Cookstown. It has excellent facilities for training, and if we were to move to having a centre of excellence, CAFRE could run it in the west of the Province. A great deal of training is Belfast-centred, but it is important not to forget the west, especially as much of the food industry is located outside Belfast.
  135. Flexible start times and delivery methods are important — I have already mentioned that we work to a roll-on, roll-off system. Anyone from the European Community is entitled to participate in Training for Success, and the meat industry in particular is strongly represented by a mixture of nationalities. The male and female split among our apprentices, at around 70% male and 30% female, reflects the split in the processing side of the food industry. We hope to increase female numbers in the industry. On Monday morning, I gave a careers talk at Queen’s University, which has 29 students on its food quality and safety nutrition course, 28 of whom are female. There is no problem with one sex’s being represented more than the other in training in the food sector.
  136. I now come to the issues that Improve has with Training for Success. I suppose that everyone is looking to this part of my presentation for a kick. It is too early to say that many areas must be revisited. Improve, with the help of employers in the food industry and other deliverers who are interested in, or already run, apprenticeships, has significantly amended the Training for Success framework to make it more user-friendly. Instead of having separate NVQs, one NVQ with different pathways will enable the employee to become more flexible in the industry. Level-1 apprenticeships are too low for us, but level-2 apprenticeships provide a good access point to training and development, and to career development. We seek long-term gains. We understand that, demographically, the country is getting older: 75% of 2020’s workforce is currently in employment, according to statistics, and that must be taken into account.
  137. We must attract the best people to the food sector. We take people from within the sector — we train them and give them a start — so that is only the beginning of their training careers. Improve Ltd hopes that they will develop from level 2 to level 3, and perhaps to levels 4 and 5, or higher.
  138. The agrifood sector needs a provision for people who are over 25 years of age. Currently, there is only a provision for 16-year-olds to 24-year-olds. The industry is not seen as the first port of call for many people, and that is a problem for both the industries and us. We are trying to promote the industry. Improve Ltd is working very hard to attract younger people, and the best people, to the industry.
  139. At present, I speak to employers daily. Anyone who delivers apprenticeships, or is interested in doing so, would be in favour of the notion of an adult apprenticeship. I strongly believe that we should move towards having that provision in place — even if it is initially done as a pilot, the like of which is currently being trialled in GB.
  140. Agrifood should still be counted as a priority sector. The new funding bands that were implemented as part of the Training for Success programme do not recognise agrifood as one of the top-priority sectors. I am not looking to put my hands into the kitty jar. Moreover, I am not arguing that the food sector should be graded as high as the engineering or transport sectors, because they require a higher level of mechanical and computerised aids for training. However, we should be higher in the funding bands.
  141. What is needed is a new, simplified system that meets the needs of stakeholders. There appears to be problems with the way in which the system is managed between the quality performance branch and the Education and Training Inspectorate. The Education and Training Inspectorate does a fantastically rigorous job, but the quality performance branch does one that is very similar. Those bodies should streamline the work that they do, because there seems to be a crossover at present.
  142. The trainee’s learning and development is crucial. It is easy to sit here and talk about training and development issues, yet forget that the most important person in all of this is the learner. The system must be made easy for the learner. If we make the system easier for the employer, a corollary will be that the system will become easier for the learner.
  143. The reason why capacity enhancement is an issue is that Improve Ltd believes that Training for Success will work. At present, I must balance a number of plates, but we are in the process of employing a full-time worker to look after the apprenticeships for Improve Ltd, because the Training for Success option has provided a really good opportunity for the industry. The industry has been calling for that opportunity for a long time. It is not the industry’s final chance, but it remains a critical issue.
  144. Improve Ltd has been successful before: one of our apprentices was named “apprentice of the year” three years ago; and another won the national food and drink apprenticeship award in London two years ago. We are not afraid to work with colleges and private providers. We have a partnership agreement with — if I dare say it — another mainland organisation, but our experiences of that organisation are not the same as those other witnesses present. Improve Ltd is keen to collaborate with whoever is involved in training and development. We understand that issues arise with capacity — particularly in the west and the north-west of the country — and we will try to address them. Although some potential problems exist, it is very early to sit back and criticise Training for Success.
  145. I do not want to criticise Training for Success at this stage. It is too early, and the programme has yet to bed in. It has only been running since last September. I have heard about all the issues surrounding the scheme — they are well rehearsed, and the Committee knows more about them than I do. However, in general, I believe that the programme gives the food industry a good basis for progress. I will be interested in talking to any and all of you and the Department about how we might amend and streamline matters. I would like to say that if I came back here in a year’s time or 18 months from now, I would still have a positive message.
  146. The Chairperson: Before opening up the session for questions, I wish to thank Mr Laurence Downey for assisting the Committee in arranging the presentations from the Sector Skills Council.
  147. The issue of over-25 training provision has been raised by a number of organisations. I take on board your point that, from your perspective, it is too early to criticise Training for Success. The Committee is keen to ensure that Training for Success is a success. We are not hoping that it is not a success; we simply want to hear representations from people who are directly or indirectly affected by it in a positive or negative way so that we can work closely with the Department and the Minister. We are not taking a negative view.
  148. Mr McCausland: You were present for the previous evidence session. Why is it that you have made a positive response, but the response of the representatives of the other sector was a negative one? What is it that makes the difference?
  149. Mr Lamb: Certain sectors are keener on level-3 qualifications than level-2 ones. The difference lies in the start level. I have always argued firmly — and companies agree with me — that level 2 is a fairer starting point for those in the food industry, who, for one reason or another, did not wish to pursue an academic career or were not that capable in that area. With the exception of bakery and butchery, the food industry is a non-traditional apprenticeship sector.
  150. Even butcher’s shops have enough facilities to deliver on-site training, whereas employers in other sectors do not. I would not want one of my major companies to deliver all the apprenticeships for all the other employers in the area, because that leads to other issues. That is possibly the difference between the two.
  151. Mr McCausland: You talked about partnerships with colleges and private providers. Can you give me a sense of who the private providers are?
  152. Mr Lamb: The private providers are consultants who are associates of ours in the food and drink industries. We present our training framework to a company, and if that company wished to take on an apprenticeship programme but did not want to source the delivery of that programme itself, we can deliver it through our associates.
  153. In the butchery sector, we have had to go to Scottish Meat Training, which has employed someone locally to deliver the training for them. We did that because we found it difficult to find trainers whom the butchers respected, for want of a better phrase. Butchers are quite difficult people to deal with; they do not like sending people to —
  154. Mr McCausland: Both my father and brother were butchers. It obviously runs in the family. [Laughter.]
  155. Mr Lamb: I shall rephrase that. Butchers are interesting people to deal with. They are rather opinionated, and, because of that, they have always liked the idea of talking to the master butchers — sorry: the artisan and the elite butchers. They have always wanted on-site delivery of training rather than sending their people to the colleges. We can deliver on-site training for them, and increase provision.
  156. The great thing about that is that we are now training butchery apprentices throughout the country, in places such as Limavady, Enniskillen, Strabane, Newry and Armagh. It is slightly different in Portadown because employers there to tend to gravitate towards the Southern Regional College, which has always had the facilities to deliver such training, and it is excellent. In the past, I have tried to persuade the butchers to move towards that training facility, but there are issues about a lack of flexibility and about transport.
  157. Mr Attwood: I agree with the Chairperson. It is useful to hear evidence across sectors that are affected by the same issues, such as the provision for over-25-year-olds. We heard input on that from the retail sector as well. Those witnesses also flagged up the needs of the part-time sector, and training for that. In your area, there are many people who work part-time.
  158. The Minister has said that he is reviewing Training for Success. If things are wrong, let us not wait before we correct them. Please talk us through enhanced funding levels for food-related apprenticeships. That might be relevant.
  159. Mr Lamb: The part-time matter is an issue for us, in that many students are employed in our sector. Many people who cannot work during the week are employed at weekends — many carers are employed on that basis. The impact on our sector is not as big as it would be in the retail sector. There are companies that would be interested in delivering more trainees through the programme.
  160. However, we need to be careful about who those part-time people are. If the part-time people are full-time carers, who care for someone during the week but have the weekend to work, and they need a qualification, that is fine. However, we do not want to employ a lot of students and end up double-training them. That issue has cropped up previously, but it is not something I take particular issue with.
  161. Mr Newton: Presumably, the company provides the student with the training necessary to operate, not the qualification.
  162. Mr Lamb: Yes. All companies in the food sector must provide training in the compliance-based nature of the sector. Therefore, everyone who comes into a factory will be inducted in health and safety, and food hygiene. Otherwise, we would have real problems. That is all compliance-based training. The training that I referred to goes beyond that, and relates to skills and career development.
  163. Food and drink was recognised as a priority sector for funding under the old system. Under the new system, there are six funding bands. Meat processing falls into level 3, whereas food service is recognised as level 4. I bring up the issue of funding because employers often look at funding and think that it is quite good, but they do not realise that there is a lot of replacement costs in training. When people are taken off the line, they must be replaced.
  164. It is important for me to say that we have redrawn the frameworks with the help of local employers and providers. We have now removed all the different NVQs — we now have a single NVQ in food manufacturing, which has different pathways. We hope to broaden out those pathways. Our next target is development of a dairy pathway. Dale Farm and Fivemiletown Creamery are working towards that. We also want to develop pathways in the fish sector, the confectionery sector, and whatever suits the market. At the moment, there is a crossover whereby meat processing — and processing generally — is in the third funding band, and food services is in the fourth. We think it important that the whole industry be in the one band, and at that higher level. That would provide more opportunities, particularly for a small or medium-sized business (SME), to deliver training. The replacement costs are significant for an SME.
  165. The Chairperson: Thank you for your presentation, Geoff. That was very useful, and it helps the Committee to hear a broad spectrum of ideas, suggestions and information relating to Training for Success.
  166. Mr Lamb: Thank you very much.
  167. The Chairperson: We turn to the briefing from the Association of NI Colleges (ANIC) on Training for Success. Before we formally start, I want to take the opportunity to thank John D’Arcy and his team for their work in organising the study visit to Omagh College last week. I also apologise for keeping you waiting. This is a heavy meeting, but it is useful for us to try to pull everything together. We need to conclude our review of Training for Success, so I ask members and witnesses for their continued co-operation.
  168. As part of our ongoing monitoring of Training for Success, it was agreed that we would invite ANIC to the meeting to hear its view on the programme, in order to gain a perspective from the further-education sector.
  169. The Committee has received several briefings from the Education and Training Inspectorate and training providers, but this briefing will allow members to hear the views of one of the critical stakeholders in the sector on Training for Success.
  170. I alert the witnesses that members may ask questions about the FE colleges’ macro dispute. The Committee will return to that subject later in the meeting, because Jimmy Spratt and I met the Minister to discuss the issue. I apologise for keeping you waiting and thank you for attending.
  171. Mr John D’Arcy (Association of Northern Ireland Colleges): On behalf of the association and our member colleges, we welcome the opportunity to brief the Committee on the colleges’ experiences of Training for Success. I am joined by Seamus Murphy, who is the director of the North West Regional College; Maura Lavery, the deputy director of Belfast Metropolitan College; and Brian Doran, the director of the Southern Regional College. It is pure coincidence that Geoff Lamb referred, in glowing terms, to two of those colleges during his presentation.
  172. Today’s briefing is timely, because, last week, Committee members took the opportunity to visit the Omagh campus of the South West College, where they saw a modern college in action, addressing the needs of the community and, in particular, developing the Training for Success programme. Members had an opportunity to talk to the principal and staff of the college about their experiences.
  173. I am wary of taking up too much of the Committee’s time, but, over the next few minutes, we want to provide the perspective of all six colleges. The Committee received a paper in advance of today’s meeting. I have a fresh version with me today, because I left some of my trademark typographical errors in the original, for which I apologise.
  174. The college sector views Training for Success as having particular potential to make a significant contribution to the economic development and social cohesion of Northern Ireland. To borrow your words, Chairperson, we want Training for Success to be a success. The tone of our presentation is aimed at ensuring that the programme can deliver its full potential for the participants, employers, economy and the entire society in Northern Ireland.
  175. It is worthwhile bearing in mind that, in the wake of the report of the Westminster Public Accounts Committee, the Department worked under great time pressure to deliver a new scheme. The pace with which they met the challenge must be commended. However, the short timescale contributed to several operational errors and problems on the ground, with which colleges, participants and employers must cope.
  176. As we identify what some of those problems are from our perspective, we will also identify solutions because we are not here to score points, but to contribute to the debate. Training for Success is a fundamentally important programme for Northern Ireland. It affects a large proportion of young people and, as we look forward to a more economically stable society, the programme has an important role to play.
  177. We structured our paper according to several high-level themes. I shall outline a couple of those before handing over to colleagues to detail the experiences of the colleges.
  178. We raised the issue of procurement, which the Committee has already discussed at length. However, colleges continue to have concerns about the procurement process — for example, the implied, but not substantiated, collaborative arrangements indicated in the bids of some private-sector companies. The feedback from the Central Procurement Directorate to colleges is that they are still at odds with some of the scoring mechanisms that are being employed. We welcome the Committee’s focus on that issue, and we are aware that the Department is taking steps to consider future procurement processes.
  179. I mentioned that there was a tight timescale for constructing the programme, which naturally impacted on the time available for planning. It should be noted that all providers, not only the colleges, have been concerned about the limited time frame for the planning and development of the programme. It is one thing to implement a programme; it is another to enrol and appropriately place students.
  180. The timescale for development did not lend itself to the full range of marketing and promotional activities with schools and careers advisors across the Province that we would have wanted. That has given colleges and providers some difficulties with placing people appropriately and with the number of people who are enrolling on the programme.
  181. Maura Lavery and Brian Doran will talk about the performance of Training for Success. Seamus Murphy will then talk about its economic and wider aspects.
  182. Training for Success is not a single programme; it is multi-faceted and cuts across sectors, which makes it complex. Committee members have already asked questions about performances across different sectors. Complexity is also added by the fact that many young people who enter the scheme have different characteristics. The literacy and numeracy issues serve as an example of some of those complexities.
  183. Ms Maura Lavery (Association of Northern Ireland Colleges): Established training organisations have been a part of each of the college’s frameworks for many years. Therefore, the colleges implemented Training for Success with a commitment that was built on many years of experience of delivering training.
  184. An advantage for the college training organisations is the clear pathways that can be established from our school partnership work with young people aged 14, right through to their progression when they have completed level-3 training. That is clearly needed in Northern Ireland to enable people to progress to become supervisors, managers and technicians in the relevant industries.
  185. Training for Success is not simply concerned with apprentice training — it caters for everyone, from 16-year-old school leavers to highly motivated adults up to the age of 25. As the Committee is aware, the profile of school leavers at 16 is varied. It ranges from those who are well motivated with a clear vocational focus, to those who have significant learning deficiencies and low levels of maturity.
  186. When reviewing how we have implemented Training for Success, we want to ensure that the Committee is aware of the different strands of the programme and the audiences that we cater for. We welcome the fact that the Department for Employment and Learning is entering into dialogue with providers to consider how some of those issues can be addressed.
  187. The apprenticeship strand, which is the one that has been focused on, requires participants to enter at level 2 and then to progress to level-3 training as an employee of a company. Although we were concerned at the level of employers’ uptake and their buy-in to the programme, the instances in which employers have engaged have worked fairly well.
  188. It is difficult, though, for a scheme such as Training for Success to suit all industries. Often, the one-size-fits-all approach does not work. For example, it would have been possible, and acceptable, for a young person to become a level-1 apprentice in the retail industry. However, it is not possible to do that through Training for Success.
  189. We are also aware that the opportunity for young people and adults to secure apprenticeships depends on fluctuations in the labour market and the job opportunities that exist. Therefore, although we have recruited some 793 apprentices across the entire Northern Ireland college sector this year, we cannot be sure that that volume of employment opportunities exists. Any downturn in the construction industry, or, indeed, in any of the industry sectors, will mean that such opportunities do not exist. We are aware that such downturns are occurring.
  190. One of the flaws of Training for Success, which particularly affects older apprentices, is that participants are required to have gained at least a grade C in GCSE maths and English, or equivalent, within the past five years. That is an unnecessary barrier, and it means that employers are required to release individuals who already have those qualifications for a minimum of 40 hours per subject.
  191. Through working on the apprenticeship strand, we have also identified problems with some of the procurement issues — which have already been discussed. The Committee is aware that some private training providers have a monopoly on level-3 training in some areas.
  192. College training organisations find themselves delivering the level-2 training and passing the level-2-qualified entrants on to private training organisations, and the split of funding does not reflect that. The vast majority of practical training has to be done at level 2 and not at level 3, which is more concerned with building on previous knowledge. We felt that that arrangement allowed for a little bit of cherry-picking of the more profitable elements by the private training organisations, and left the harder work with the colleges.
  193. Another strand of Training for Success, with which the Committee will be familiar, is the “Job Ready” strand, which consists of four further strands: “pre-apprenticeship”, “skills for work”, “personal development”, and “employability”. Although we have 793 apprenticeships or young people who are employed, we also have 748 pre-apprentices, who could benefit from an apprenticeship and who are eligible to enter level-2 training. However, because of labour-market fluctuations and demand, those young people have not been able to secure employment. The Committee must recognise that that is a very important constituent group, which represents young people who can meet the future skills needs of Northern Ireland, but who have not been able to secure employment. Those young people are keen to work in a practical environment. We are catering for many of those young people, and they will fill the emerging labour markets.
  194. It is important that the funding that is allocated to training in the “Job Ready” strand reflects the high levels of directed training required in the operational guidelines. Operational guidelines for “Job Ready” pre-apprenticeships involve high levels of in-house directed training, and yet the funding does not reflect the investment that must be made. Young people can access work placement later in the year after 13 weeks. At that stage, however, it will be in the run-up to Christmas, making it quite difficult to place those young people. Some of them are disadvantaged and still unplaced.
  195. We have not found the young people as motivated in the “Job Ready” strand as they were when they were able to access real work experiences earlier in the programme. Their final year of school prepared them for work experience, but they found themselves in a very directed training environment, which was not motivating.
  196. “Skills for work” is the level-1 strand. It is worth remembering that many young people who leave school now can have specific learning needs and be socially and economically disadvantaged. The young people in that strand are faced with high levels of directed training that is not motivating them, and they have fewer opportunities to access real work environments. Some have been awarded training credits that were not appropriate. Those young people need to be trained in small groups and need high-level support. We found that that aspect of Training for Success has been less successful.
  197. The “personal development” strand has positive features. However, many young people who found themselves in the “skills for work” level-1 strand would have done better in the “personal development” strand. We have had feedback that the name of that strand has not been attractive. The funding, given the high levels of directed training, has not been adequate.
  198. For members’ reference, we represent 508 young people across training organisations who are engaged in the “skills for work” level-1 programme, and only 10 of those young people have a “personal development” training credit. Therefore, that training credit was not widely awarded.
  199. Mr Brian Doran (Association of Northern Ireland Colleges): I shall pick up on a few points relating to the “skills for work” and “personal development” strands. I want to reiterate the point about issuing training credits. The colleges feel that a more flexible approach is needed for both of those strands, so that, during the introductory phase of training, when there is a diagnostic assessment and appropriate engagement with the relevant bodies, that we be given additional time to assess the individual needs of the young person with a view to determining the training credit after a period — possibly up to one month.
  200. That would provide a more effective way of identifying an individual’s needs, and, therefore, trainees would be put into the most appropriate strand of the “Job Ready” programme.
  201. Maura stated that many of the young people who are in the wrong strand — particularly those in the “personal development” and the “skills for work” strands — suffer from disabilities and learning difficulties. There is a need for a greater multi-agency approach to ensure that transition from the schools sector — including special schools — is more effective and that colleges and training organisations are engaged in that process from as early a stage as possible.
  202. Colleges engage with the schools sector, in particular, early in an academic year to market Training for Success and the opportunities that exist under its strands. A multi-agency approach should also be implemented in that regard, because increased engagement between the schools sector and training organisations is required to ensure that the transition arrangements are effective.
  203. It is also important that the parents of students are aware of what the programme entails and what progression opportunities exist in the strands.
  204. Some colleges are concerned about transportation funding, but that problem relates to the hinterland from which a college recruits it trainees and young people. I am from the Southern Regional College, and we span four council areas. There is a disparity in the levels of funding that are available to cover the costs of transportation. For instance, in the Newry and Mourne area, trainees come to the Newry campus from as far away as Kilkeel or Crossmaglen, and they are travelling 20-plus miles to the campus every day. As a result, the Newry campus is losing an average of approximately £800 a week in transportation costs.
  205. There is a variation in that, which is a result of the different bands of transportation funding that are available to colleges and training organisations. That matter has been raised with the Department for Employment and Learning, and, I hope, it will be reviewed in the coming weeks.
  206. Mr Seamus Murphy (Association of Northern Ireland Colleges): I will look at training in the context of the business cycle and the wider Programme for Government, and I do so as a training economist and as a director of a college and a training organisation.
  207. The current scheme is based on the premise that an employer-led scheme should be the only option for apprenticeship training, and that it is the best mechanism for delivering the skills training contained in the Programme for Government. In real terms, that means that the number of employers and apprentices of an industry will increase when an industry is buoyant. However, given the timescales, that increased number of apprentices will not come out as skilled workers for, perhaps, two or three years. During the period of increased training, it is likely that there will be a rise in wages that will have been passed on by inflation.
  208. When an industry contracts, the apprenticeship opportunities also contract, and fewer skilled staff are produced. That produces a skills shortage in the next cycle for growth. The few apprentices that we managed to get placed at level 2 in the north-west’s construction businesses are returning to us to join a “Job Ready” strand of the Training for Success programme, because they have been laid off by their employers. Apprentices are the first to be laid off in an economic recession.
  209. If one looks at a training cycle against a business cycle, the traditional, classic economic model is that the training cycle runs like a contraflow to the business cycle: training is increased during a recession so that skilled labour is available to expand in times of growth. However, if one works purely on an employer-led model, that cannot happen, because the apprenticeship option will flow in the same direction as the business option. Those cycles differ in the retail trade, the construction trade and the engineering trade.
  210. I would argue that that classic model cannot be delivered through an employer-led scheme. I would also question whether it is a suitable model for skills development in the twenty-first century. Given the information available from DEL — through the Workforce Development Forum — on the labour market, it should be possible to chart, through the Programme for Government, how many apprentices are needed at different levels in each industry on a longitudinal base over a five- to 10-year period. One would then have an annual allocation of people and an idea of the skill level to which they need to be trained.
  211. In doing that, one is changing the cycle. We need to examine what is happening in England and Wales. I am not suggesting that such provision should be removed, but, in England and Wales, the employer-led provision is supplemented by a programme-led provision, which colleges and training organisations deliver. As a result, at the end of each year, a set number of apprentices comes out at the levels that were agreed at the start. Therefore, there is a steady flow, which creates a sense of stability in the industry.
  212. Such an approach would benefit not only industry but wider society and the Programme for Government, because it would allow councils, Invest Northern Ireland and various Government agencies to point to the trained pool of labour available in each locality as part of the attraction when seeking inward investment.
  213. Geography and rurality, which are directly linked to social exclusion, also cannot be addressed through employer-led provision. At present, a young person’s being able to enter an apprenticeship is dependent on the availability of an employer. More importantly, that employer has to be prepared to offer an apprenticeship, which is something that many employers are not prepared to do. My own brother is a subcontractor, and he does not want to be involved in any training schemes, because of the associated administrative issues. People may say that he is just an awkward country builder, but that is his view nonetheless.
  214. Therefore, a young person’s ability, if it is dependent on the employer base, will mean that, in the medium term and onwards, young people’s opportunities will be restricted by the number of employers in their area. Social-inclusion and skills-development agendas make no sense whatsoever. Young people’s ability to be trained should depend, first, on their aptitude and, secondly, on the training programmes being available.
  215. Another issue in the medium term is new areas of industrial development; for example, development of biomedicals and biochemicals. The current programme will, by and large, train people for traditional areas of employment but not necessarily for new areas of industry. If we do not get involved in those industries and markets, our economy will fall behind, and it will remain behind.
  216. If we were to have a purely employer-led scheme, are the sector skills councils capable of defining the skills levels that are necessary for today? I suggest that they are. However, are they capable of developing the skills levels necessary for 10 or 15 years down the road? For a young person between the ages of 16 and 25, training should be looked at as a longitudinal programme and take into account the national and global economies. At present, using current standards, I question whether those skills levels are being developed.
  217. The structure of industry will create an economic blockage for young people if the employer-led scheme is considered to be the only option. The electrical industry serves as a good example. In certain parts of Northern Ireland it has a significant numbers of large employers and throughout the rest of the Province it has many small employers. That directly affects the type of young people who come on to the scheme.
  218. I shall briefly summarise what I mean, in case the Committee wishes to return to the point. For contracting and tendering purposes, a major electrical contractor can charge for a final-year apprentice at full labour cost. If and when that young person has been trained and wants to set up on his own, he is in no danger of competing with the company that trained him. He will get his white van and start out in the domestic market.
  219. However, SMEs west of the Bann, particularly in the north-west, are involved in subcontracting or domestic work and cannot afford to charge the full labour cost for a final year apprentice, because they will overprice their contracts. More importantly, they will also trail their competitors in two year’s time, because, once the apprentice is trained, his start-up costs will be minimal and he becomes a real competitor in that market. SMEs in many areas often look after their own interests and are not particularly interested in supporting training. The Belfastcentric and Ballymenacentric electrical industry is a very good example of how apprenticeships are affected, but it is not the only industry that follows that pattern.
  220. In the colleges’ view, any scheme that envisages centralised training — some did envisage that at level 3 — is a bit of a nonsense. It is a fair challenge for a young person from Strabane, Belcoo, Crossmaglen or Kilkeel to get to Mallusk for 8.00 am for his training, particularly when the buses are not running. Even if the bus is available, it may mean a 5.30 am start and an 8.30 pm finish.
  221. Local training rather than centralised provision is necessary if we are to make apprenticeships attractive. I also reiterate what Brian Doran said about travel costs. I service the Strabane and Limavady council areas, and we are losing money to travel costs in both those localities.
  222. The Chairperson: Thank you for your presentation. It was useful and summed up the questions that were raised in presentations made in the previous two evidence sessions. Your submission provides the combined views of the six colleges that ANIC represents. That we have all those views in one submission is a great achievement in itself.
  223. Several issues were raised on the subjects of tendering and procurement. The Committee is examining those issues, even though technically they fall outside its remit. We want to adopt an holistic approach to Training for Success, and we have approached other Committees to allow us to do that. The issue of travel was mentioned during last week’s meeting in Omagh. You may not have the information to hand, but it may be useful for the Committee to be made aware of the impact that that issue is having on the six colleges.
  224. Your submission states:

“Colleges welcome the fact that the Department for Employment and Learning has entered into dialogue to address areas requiring amendment.”

It goes on to state:

“Colleges do not have a difficulty in engaging with employers to develop and deliver training.”

  1. Is that only up to level 2?
  2. Mr D’Arcy: No. It would be beyond that, and beyond Training for Success. Over the past number of years, the degree of engagement between colleges and employers has reached an unprecedented level. In many ways, that has been facilitated by the Workforce Development Forum. Each of the six colleges takes forward its work. There has been increased dialogue with the Department during the course of the Training for Success programme, and we ask that there be more.
  3. In his presentation, Geoff Lamb said that it might be too early to make changes. However, our concern is that young people are already on the programme, and if we know that changes could be made that would help their progress and help employers, we should be talking openly to the Department about that now. We are aware that the Department is convening focus groups and is engaged with colleges, but that should be happening much more frequently, and it should definitely be done in partnership.
  4. The Chairperson: Will you provide the Committee with information about the travel issue?
  5. Mr D’Arcy: I shall obtain that for you, Chairperson.
  6. Mr McCausland: We have heard three very different perspectives in today’s evidence sessions. When Training for Success was being set up, what level of engagement took place between the Department and colleges? Were your concerns not taken on board?
  7. Mr S Murphy: As the only director present, I can feel everyone’s eyes turning to me.
  8. We met departmental officials in Newry last year, and they outlined what they intended to do about tendering and contracting. We raised several major issues with the officials about how we viewed the scheme and what might happen if they went ahead with the process. We have been discussing issues with the Department since then. I hope that some time in the near future we will reach an agreement on what is happening.
  9. Following on from John’s earlier comment, planning was an issue in the sense that the guidelines were often issued after the tender stage had closed. It was a rushed programme. However, many of the operational issues that have arisen we drew to the Department’s attention in January 2007.
  10. Mr McCausland: Representatives from the motor-vehicle sector told us that the training equipment in colleges might not be as hi-tech as the equipment that is required for some of the most up-to-date cars. Do colleges have difficulty in ensuring that the equipment that is used to train young people is of the high specification that is required in some of those very technical areas?
  11. Mr S Murphy: I cannot speak for all six colleges, but my college has been completely re-equipped to industry standard in its new facility. The Northern Regional College is a centre of excellence in training for Toyota GB; Belfast Metropolitan College had a similar contract, although I am not certain whether it still has. The facilities are available across the sector. Employers may not be as aware as they should be in some cases, and that may be because the colleges have not been as good in informing the employers as they might have been. However, there is no issue with the quality of the facilities or the trainers — but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?
  12. Mr Newton: I want to pick up on a few points. I think it was Maura who used the expression “multi-faceted programme”. “Training for success” is used as a catch-all phrase, but it is probably not the best phrase to use. Indeed, the Department must do something to take level-3 apprentices out of the scheme and give them another pathway. I would appreciate some comment on that.
  13. Paragraph 14 states that:

1. “For Level 2 provision, colleges would suggest that employer-led programmes might not be the best pathway for all students.”

  1. As Seamus said, you would say that, wouldn’t you?
  2. Seamus outlined a very simplistic way of identifying the labour force for the future. The Department aims to create a demand-led strategy. Do you agree with that?
  3. Mr S Murphy: Yes.
  4. Mr Newton: The Minister agreed that in the House. Your submission says that, with input from employers, sector skills councils and work-force development fora, demand-led strategy could be put in place. I have not seen evidence of that.
  5. Mr S Murphy: Labour-market intelligence is one of the most difficult areas to deal with, particularly over the medium term. One of the reasons for setting up the workforce development forums and the skills expert group in the Department was to get a better handle on what demand-led means and to ensure that demand and supply form an equation that can be used to meet skills requirements. In other words, there is the capacity to assess needs over three to five years and work out the number of people that will be required. The problem with focusing solely on the demand-led aspect in the short term is that industry may say that it needs 300 people now because a certain area is in boom.
  6. However, it will take two or three years to train enough people to meet that demand. The prediction should have been made two years before the boom so that people could be trained to meet that peak period. As secretary of the north-west workforce development forum, I know that we have made progress in ending some of the preconceptions on both sides, and we are getting a better model to define what the industry requires in areas such as construction. There will always be areas, such as software development and new technologies, where it is exceedingly difficult to look three, four or five years ahead because of technological change. However, if it is recognised that technological change will happen, the existing workforce must be trained so that they can adapt. We can put a demand-led strategy in place.
  7. Mr Newton: But you have not.
  8. Mr S Murphy: No, we have not. However, a short-term response to employer demand is not a coherent way to build a skills base.
  9. Mr Newton: I agree, but I have not seen the evidence to confirm it.
  10. Ms Lavery: Seamus covered Mr Newton’s question about paragraph 14 of the submission. Many young people are ready to go into level-2 training but are prevented from accessing the training that they want because of a lack of jobs. Therefore making the process employer-driven disadvantages many young people, who are also disadvantaged because of where they live and who they know — getting a job on the apprenticeship strand is influenced by where someone lives and their connections, including family connections. Two equally capable young people who sit beside each other in school could find themselves in different scenarios because one has a job and the other does not. Equally, the needs of some industry sectors are different. That is what we were stressing.
  11. Ms Lo: Do we have unrealistic expectations of Training for Success? The programme accommodates students of varying ability — some are at the lowest end of achievers. Do we expect too much of those people by training them to a level-3 standard that they may never reach? Certain sectors, such the motor-vehicle industry, do not want apprentices or employees who are trained to level-1 or level-2 standard — they want people from level 3 and upwards. Should employers in those sectors employ people who have completed training courses in colleges over two or three years, for example in mechanics, instead of relying on Training for Success?
  12. Mr S Murphy: It depends on the industry. I accept that the motor-vehicle industry wants people trained to level-3 and, in some cases, level-4 standard, which we can do. However, other industries do not require that standard; I have not seen a level-3 trainee in brickwork for a decade because the industry, by and large, only wants trainees of level-2 standard, and the trainee can get a job immediately. Every industry will have a different demand pattern for the trainees that it seeks. However, there is enough flexibility in the training sector to meet that demand.
  13. We need a clearer picture of what is required. I do not want a system that deals only with level-3 training because that does not help young people to develop; the level-1 and level-2 base must be there to allow progression. Some trainees will progress and some may not be capable, but they all deserve the opportunity to maximise their potential.
  14. Mr Doran: I want to make a point about the personal development strand and Skills for Work. As Anna said, many people with personal difficulties and disabilities may not be capable of achieving even level 2. Level 1 may be a realistic target for many of those young people who, I hope, may gain employment from it. There is an onus on us to ensure that they are progressing beyond level 1 but that they are not pushed into programmes at level 2 in which they will not achieve.
  15. Mrs McGill: Is electrical training delivered in the north-west?
  16. Mr S Murphy: Yes. There is one cohort in Limavady. Between Coleraine and Castlederg, there are 10 electrical trainees in total; in Ballymena there are 45 to 60. That is a reflection of the industrial base in those areas and the position of small to medium-sized enterprises vis-à-vis the large employer, which we talked about earlier. It is not a question of provision: the provision is there across campuses; it is, rather, a question of uptake and of young people being able to get the employer and the placement.
  17. Mrs McGill: Will no employers in the northwest take on anyone for electrical training apprenticeships? Is that the case?
  18. Mr S Murphy: Very few. ETT has worked valiantly for several years to develop an employer base in Derry City Council and Strabane District Council areas. We facilitate them as far as we can and we work with them. However, they have only had, at best, four young people from the Derry City area in the past two years who are looking for electrical apprenticeships. It is a reflection of how young people see their opportunities. That is why I say that a parallel route can be made available to allow young people to achieve level-3 qualified electrical apprenticeships, which happened in England.
  19. Mrs McGill: Do you mean that it does not have to be employer-led in this instance and that that will help the situation?
  20. Mr S Murphy: In England and Wales there are two ways in which a young person can become a fully trained level-3 apprentice. One is through the employer-led scheme, which is what we are talking about here; the other is called “programme-led”, which is developed through training organisations, not just colleges. Each will lead to the same exit-point. They ensure that the flow is steady and that young people can have an aspiration or a route to employment that does not depend on their being able to find an employer. As you know, Claire, in many areas family contacts are necessary to get a start with an employer.
  21. The Chairperson: On behalf of the Committee, I thank you for both the paper and your presentation.
  22. I must raise another issue. We wrote to you in December 2007 about the concession rates applied by further education colleges.
  23. Mr D’Arcy: Progress has been made, I am glad to say. The director has been working with the Department and the Minister, and we have an agreed approach that will come into play on 1 September 2008. Seamus, do you want to contribute?
  24. Mr S Murphy: Is this in relation to age?
  25. The Chairperson: There were several issues. There were inconsistencies in some areas.
  26. Ms Lo: Colleges did not have a consistent approach.
  27. Mr S Murphy: Different colleges may have different fee structures; that is a matter for the boards of governors. Different colleges may charge different concessionary fees. An issue arose last year about age and age legislation; we came to agreement in December with the Department on what we intend to do about that. We meet the Department again on Thursday morning in Antrim, and that is on the agenda. We will have a common position for September. Do not to ask me to give details; I cannot remember it offhand.
  28. The Chairperson: On behalf of the Committee, thank you very much for attending.

23 April 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Ms Anna Lo
Mr David McClarty
Mrs Claire McGill
Mr Basil McCrea
Mr Robin Newton
Mr Alastair Ross
Mr Jimmy Spratt

Witnesses:

Mrs Catherine Bell
Ms Nuala Kerr

Department for Employment and Learning

  1. The Chairperson (Ms S Ramsey): I welcome Catherine Bell and Nuala Kerr to the Committee. Training for Success is one of the main substantive issues on today’s agenda. For the record, today’s departmental update on the early stages of the roll-out of the programme will be the last before the Committee produces its report. The meeting is being recorded by Hansard so that any comments can be incorporated in the report, the publication and timing of which will probably relate to the Department for Employment and Learning’s (DEL) consultation. I will hand over to Catharine and Nuala to make their presentation, after which Members can comment or ask questions.
  2. Mrs Catherine Bell (Department for Employment and Learning): Nuala will start, and I will then take over.
  3. Ms Nuala Kerr (Department for Employment and Learning): Good morning, Chairperson. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to give the Committee more information. The Department has submitted to the Committee a paper that sets out some of the information that you requested on the uptake of Training for Success. We have also taken the opportunity to present our proposals for changes to provision of that programme in the light of our experience so far.
  4. The statistics that we have submitted to the Committee show that by 10 April 2008, 5,895 people joined the programme. Compared with the intake for the Jobskills programme in the previous year, that figure represents an overall reduction of 25%. However, the number of people who are training through employment on the apprenticeship programme represents an increase of 12% on the previous year. When the statistics for the Job-Ready strand are grouped together, they show where the main decline has occurred. The details behind the statistics are represented in subsequent tables in our paper, and they show that the geographical, gender and age spread are pretty much what would be expected; there are no startling anomalies. Therefore, in general, the figures are what would be expected at the current stage of the programme.
  5. The reduction in the uptake of traineeships, which is the strand of the Jobskills programme through which young people are trained but not employed, shows a welcome switch between training and employment. There is concern about the overall reduction in uptake of the programme. However, given the stage that we have reached in the programme and from the knowledge that we have gained from others, the Department understands that that concern could be qualified by the fact that at the beginning of such a programme, a drop-off can occur that can be recovered during subsequent years.
  6. Mrs Bell: It became clear in the early stages of Training for Success that although the training organisations had been able to understand the various strands of it, when the Department re-examined the programme, it discovered that there was a degree of unnecessary complexity.
  7. The programme currently includes a Job-Ready programme that has four strands: personal development; skills for work, which is carried out at the low level that is level 1; employability skills, which is a 13-week programme for people who do not have a job but who are likely to get one and commence an apprenticeship programme; and a pre-apprenticeship programme at level 2. The four-stranded Job-Ready programme is followed by an apprenticeship.
  8. All the apprentices are in employment: all the Job-Ready strands require trainees to be in their training organisation for 35 hours a week. We consulted widely, for example, we ran workshops and focus groups with sector skills councils on apprenticeship programmes and with providers, who examined the specific strands. Although there have been difficulties, the change to Training for Success has been generally welcomed, and most people understood why we made changes.
  9. Under the Jobskills programme, a person on a traineeship had to work for a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), which is really a work-based qualification. The training organisation had no choice in that. One change to the programme that has been universally welcomed is the fact that the new programme allows participants to work for a vocationally related qualification, but not for a specific NVQ. Those qualifications are still on the national framework, and they still have credibility.
  10. The second change that was welcomed is the fact that training is front-ended: we require the trainee to be in the training organisation for a period of time so that they can get to know tutors and the people who will look after them.
  11. Individual training plans were also welcomed. They allowed a focus on the individual, a consideration of their strengths and an identification of how weaknesses might be addressed. The advantage of that is that organisations believed — and believe — that they got to know their young people better.
  12. Naturally, there were problems. One problem is the fact that we issue a training credit in the initial stages of the training programme. Some organisations said to us that that was issued too early, at a time when some people were on the incorrect strand. Early on we discovered that 35 hours a week of directed training was too much for the young people involved and too much for their tutors, who found their patience stretched. Some of the tutors said that it was a challenge for some of the young people on the pre-apprenticeship programme to complete the technical certificate within 52 weeks.
  13. During our consultation on the programme, some of the training organisations asked us to clarify the outcomes that we wanted.
  14. In response to those criticisms, we propose to simplify the strands of the programme for the September intake. The apprenticeship programme will be separated from Training for Success, so we will have an apprenticeship programme that links up with the provision that the Department is developing for people in work. Apprentices will therefore be regarded as people in work, and we will market the programme separately. We want the apprenticeship to be seen as a flagship programme that is on a par with A levels and with other full-time professional and technical programmes that colleges provide. The content of the apprenticeship programme needs little change, given that its framework was established by the Sector Skills Council.
  15. We were asked about the 13-week employability strand, and it was suggested that all trainees should be trained in skills in that area. We are, therefore, integrating training for employability into all programmes.
  16. Front-ended training will be limited to 21 hours a week. In-house training will be reduced from 35 hours in the first 12 weeks to 21 hours a week; however, I will speak about that later. Work placement will be phased in, so that a young person will have a 35-hour week programme as though they were full-time workers. However, those 35 hours will comprise 21 hours of directed training and 14 hours on an employer’s premises. The hours on the employer’s premises may increase to 21, and the directed training will reduce to 14 hours as the young person gains confidence.
  17. The programme will comprise an apprenticeship programme, which will be followed by what we will call Training for Success, because we are getting rid of the Job-Ready programme. In that strand, the individual will receive training to get into work, to go for further training or to progress to an apprenticeship programme. There will be a further three categories, the first of which will be called skills for your life. The Department preferred the term “personal development”, but young people and their tutors found that demeaning. That strand will be available for the young people who suffer as a result of facing serious barriers — such as homelessness, drug addiction and alcohol abuse — that must be addressed before they can be trained for a skill.
  18. The second category will be skills for work, and it will be targeted at level-1 students — those who attained the equivalent of four or five GCSEs at grades D to G. We are, therefore, talking about young people who have left school with nothing. Furthermore, their school profile is of such a low level that they are targeted at level 1; therefore, they will be trained in an occupational area.
  19. The third area will be a pre-apprenticeship programme, which will do what it says on the tin. The trainees will be trained to progress to an apprenticeship programme, and, in most areas, that process can take up to 52 weeks. The Department is working with the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils, many of which provide technical certificates that a youngster could achieve in one year, and the sector skills councils will accept those certificates as progression to an apprenticeship programme. It takes 18 months to two years to achieve technical certificates in a few of the sector skills councils, and we suggest that they and the employers consider that situation together and develop a one-year programme that works on the same basis as those in other sectors. That may in turn lead to a pre-apprenticeship programme.
  20. The programme, therefore, consists of an apprenticeship, Training for Success — which has four strands— skills for your life, skills for work and a pre-apprenticeship, plus one other.
  21. The fourth strand of the Training for Success programme applies to young disabled people. The Committee is aware that we have asked the expert group for its views, and it has established a subgroup that will report to the Department in June with a proposal on how we should deal with young disabled people.
  22. Some apprentices are employed, but an unemployed person receives a training allowance of £40 a week. However, that allowance affects the benefits of their families, for instance, parents will lose some of their benefits.
  23. If young people stay at school or progress to full-time further education and are entitled to an educational maintenance allowance, in most instances, their parents’ benefits are not touched. However, the young people who I mentioned will be doing more hours than they would if they were at school or at college full time. Therefore, we are working to ensure that the £40 a week remains as an educational maintenance allowance, but that the parents’ benefits are not affected.
  24. We are trying to remove barriers to a young person’s progress. In other words, we want to ensure that young people can choose the best possible option for themselves and that their decisions will be based not on money but on other considerations. We are still waiting for the Department of Finance and Personnel to sign off on that matter. We do not think that there is a problem, but we must add that caveat at this point.
  25. We are pleased about the progress that has been made so far. That is where matters stand at the moment, and I am happy to take any questions.
  26. The Chairperson: Catherine and Nuala, thank you for that presentation and the paper, which were both really useful. The paper, which members have been given a copy of, contains the results of the survey.
  27. It is not often that I abuse my position as Chairperson, but I have several questions to ask at the outset. Your presentation provided an interesting update on the progress of Training for Success and apprenticeships, and the Committee must continue to scrutinise that area. We work closely with those who are involved on the ground, and it is important that we bring information back to the Department, so that any necessary tweaks can be made as quickly as possible.
  28. Your submission mentions that the survey demonstrates that 17·4% of respondents did not have a personal training plan at the time that the survey was carried out. That worries me. How long was it before those in charge realised that those young people did not have a personal training plan? The survey also shows that 13·7% of respondents have a learning difficulty. Although I welcome the fact that such statistics are being gathered, we must be reassured that that situation is changing and that young people are not in a post for eight or nine months before anyone realises that they do not have a personal training plan.
  29. Mrs Bell: There was a great deal of pressure on the Department after the Public Accounts Committee’s scrutiny of the Jobskills programme. Given that we were trying to respond to that inquiry as much as possible and that requests for changes were made late in the process, we recognise that the training organisations were informed too late to be able to absorb that. The Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) is now working with us on that matter, and a training programme will be run for providers to inform them of any changes before we go live. We will run workshops with the organisations to ensure that they understand any proposed changes. That said, the organisations have been involved with the Department in preparing those final changes, so they are aware of what the alterations will be.
  30. The Chairperson: Your submission also mentions the expert group for young people with disabilities. It states that the group intends to consult with young people in May and that it compiled a questionnaire to facilitate that consultation. Is that consultation ready?
  31. Mrs Bell: I will have to come back to you on that. We asked the subgroup of the expert group to deal with that on our behalf.
  32. The Chairperson: I am just conscious that May is not far off, and that you said that the group must report to the Department in June.
  33. Mrs Bell: The group is due to report in June, so I hope that the matter is on track. However, I will check that up.
  34. The Chairperson: The issue of travel costs has been raised with the Committee a few times, particularly during its visit to Omagh College of Further Education. Can you elaborate on travel costs a little?
  35. Mrs Bell: I cannot, but perhaps Nuala can. I am not closely enough involved with that issue.
  36. We are examining the total funding and the staging of that funding, because we may be able to provide incentives a little earlier in order to help training organisations with cash flow. If travel costs are an issue, we will consider that as well.
  37. Ms Kerr: There are two aspects to travel costs. The first is the structure of our payments and whether they are sufficient to reflect people’s needs. We are examining that issue. Secondly, when young people were on the Jobskills programme and receiving the £40 training allowance, they were reimbursed for their travel costs. Some employers continued to pay the £40 to those trainees whom they decided to employ, but they did not pay for travel, and, as a result, those young people felt — and were — disadvantaged. We must encourage employers to take a sensible approach to the payments that young people receive. We will have to return to that issue as we consider whether to limit what we think are eligible and reasonable costs for young people on the programme.
  38. Mrs Bell: The Committee asked whether there should be a minimum rate for apprenticeships. The Department has done some work on that. We do not want to get caught up in the minimum wage debate, nor do we want to put a bureaucratic system in place that would tie up the officials that would have to monitor it. We have been asked to talk to our counterparts in England to determine how they got round any issues that they identified. It is a live issue that we are still working on.
  39. The Chairperson: I appreciate that. It is an issue that we can try to work through. I also welcome the approach to the £40 training allowance. You may be able to update us on DFP’s position on that, but I am concerned about travel costs. Nuala talked about encouraging employers. We can encourage as much as we like, but it is about ensuring that —
  40. Ms Kerr: I am sorry, Chairperson; I do not mean to interrupt you. There are two problems. The first is the question of the minimum wage and the amounts that employers are paying those young people in employment. We have agreed to review the funding mechanism for those young people who are not employed and who receive contributions to their travel costs. If it is proved that our current method is unacceptable, we will think about reverting to the old system.
  41. The Chairperson: I have several other questions, but I will open the debate to members. If my questions are not answered in the meantime, I will return to them.
  42. Mr Spratt: I thank Catherine and Nuala for their presentation. The Chairperson has covered some of the points that I wanted to make.
  43. I have a question about the 35-hour week and the attitudes of employers to the young people and their training. How will that be regulated? We know that there have been abuses in the past, and I have raised concerns about that on previous occasions. What checks and balances will be put in place to ensure that such abuses are not repeated and that the young people are not being used as cheap labour? How will training fit into the college work plans? What inspections will be carried out to ensure that young people are not out with the employers for up to three days a week?
  44. Mrs Bell: First, the young people will not be out with an employer for the first 12 weeks of the programme. After that, it is likely that they will start with one day a week. We are talking about young people on the skills for your life programme who have serious difficulties. Consequently, finding them a work placement will be a challenge. The employers who will be used will have to be hand-picked, because those young people have been disenfranchised. They have not been going to school, and they have other major problems. The employer must have a caring and understanding attitude in order to take on those young people and give them a chance.
  45. Skills for work and skills for your life are aimed at level-1 students, which is a low level. When our contracting managers and assistant contracting managers, as well as the Education and Training Inspectorate, visit a training organisation, they go to see the trainees on the employers’ premises. We monitor our returns, and if an organisation is simply turning over trainees, we will ask questions. That is the fine line that we have been walking: we do not want young people to be used. At the same time, however, most of those young people need work experience to prepare them for a job.
  46. Mr Spratt: One of your tasks is to encourage employers to take on young people, and that is important. How do you intend to encourage and support employers? What initiatives has the Department devised to help employers make the process work?
  47. Mrs Bell: One benefit of the personal development plan is that it records all aspects of a young person’s training. Therefore, training organisation staff have to go to the employers’ premises and talk through with them exactly what they plan to do with the young person. That information will be recorded and monitored. However, we support the training organisations, so it is their responsibility to support the employers with whom they deal. Employers understand that many of those young people, who are not stupid by any means, have just fallen out of the system and disengaged with school, or they have other problems. The support will come from the relationship that the training organisations have with employers.
  48. Mr Spratt: There are massive problems for employers where liabilities, for example, are concerned. Has consideration been given to that issue in order to reassure employers?
  49. Mrs Bell: I hate to use the word “contract”, but I shall. Our contract is with the organisations, and it is for them to manage their relationships so that that contract can be fulfilled.
  50. Mr Spratt: I am seriously worried by the issue of contracts. I encourage the Department to examine that area, because our experience of contracts shows that some leave much to be desired.
  51. Mrs Bell: We will consider that point and talk to the LSDA to see whether anything specific can be done for employers.
  52. The Chairperson: You mentioned level-1 skills for your life, which deals with young people who, for whatever reason, have difficulties. The Committee had a presentation from Include Youth and several impressive young people who had been able to turn their lives around. Will — or can — the community and voluntary sector be involved with that level-1 training?
  53. Mrs Bell: Include Youth was one of the organisations that we brought in to help us with this matter, along with Opportunity Youth.
  54. Mr Attwood: The section of your presentation that deals with training for people with disabilities, states: “Options may include revisiting the current contracts for specialist support or indeed bespoke contracts for specialist suppliers”.
  55. Given that contracts must be tendered in a certain way, how can the Department award bespoke contracts to specialist suppliers? I want to see the briefing and the legal basis on which that can be done, what the cash limits are, what the process entails, and what implication it will have on other matters. I agree with the Chairperson’s point that specialist contracts should be awarded to organisations beyond Training for Success, such as Include Youth, the Ulster People’s College, and the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). I would like a general briefing from you on the proposal that is outlined in that section of your paper.
  56. The Minister and the Department said that some of the current Training for Success contracts will be sampled. Does that mean that all the contracts that have been awarded since the withdrawal of Carter and Carter Group will be sampled? When will those contracts be sampled, and when will receive feedback on that process? Your Department investigated the Carter and Carter Group in December but did not identify the serious problems that were identified by the inspectorate only a matter of weeks later in January. Therefore, I am concerned that the Department’s sampling may not be rigorous enough.
  57. The Committee has flagged up the issue of wages on a number of occasions. I am, therefore, surprised that it is only now — at the end of April — that the Department is examining how contracts are awarded in England and how wage requirements are monitored and enforced there. I understand that in England, an organisation’s fulfilment of certain wage requirements is a condition of funding.
  58. Given that Training for Success has been in existence for a while and that the issue has been flagged up by the Committee, among others, why is it only now, at the end of April, that we are considering following England’s example in managing wages? How is your Department monitoring the wage systems of the organisations that have already been awarded contracts? When will the Committee be informed of the conclusions of your investigation into the wage issue? I will raise a couple of other points after you have responded to those questions.
  59. Mrs Bell: I will come back to the Committee with an answer to your question about contracts, but I will address your query on sampling now.
  60. I assume that you are talking about the fact that it is the Education and Training Inspectorate’s responsibility to sample and that it has a tried and tested process for doing that. We can make requests, but ultimately, it is for the inspectorate to determine whether the sample gives a sufficiently clear picture. I assume — and I am fairly confident — that the inspectorate is doing that currently. If it is not, colleges will close.
  61. Ms Kerr: Every supplier will be inspected once a year to ensure that the training that it delivers is of a high quality.
  62. A specific sample survey of the automotive training sector is currently being conducted, and that should be completed by June. That is a separate piece of work.
  63. Mrs Bell: It is not that we have not been working on the issue of wages; we have, and we have the necessary information from England. However, our Minister asked us to conduct more specific work on the matter, which is why I mentioned England. He wants to get the information at ministerial level, so we have supplied it.
  64. The Chairperson: Several Committee members wish to speak, and I want to give everyone the chance to do so. We can do a round-up at the end of the meeting if necessary. Are you happy with the answers to your first few questions?
  65. Mr Attwood: It is not good enough to get a report back from the Education and Training Inspectorate after three months. The Department should receive monthly reports advising whether any of the training organisations are failing to deliver their new contracts.
  66. We had the experience of Carter and Carter Group delaying the completion of its assessments; indeed, that scenario ended in collapse. We need to learn from our bitter experience with the automotive contracts by intervening as early as possible to ascertain what may or may not be happening. I am not satisfied, Catherine.
  67. Mrs Bell: The Education and Training Inspectorate reports to the Department quickly after conducting an inspection. It does not sit on a report and fail to give us verbal feedback. We have requested that the inspectorate investigates the issue across the Province. However, it has limited resources and other priority areas of work.
  68. We can find out after today what stage they are at in the process. I do not want Committee members to think that our colleagues in the inspectorate are dragging their feet, because they are not — we have regular contact with them.
  69. An inspector is seconded to the Department, and we pay for that. Therefore, when an inspection report is received, that inspector can work specifically with the relevant organisation and with the LSDA to ensure that appropriate support is supplied immediately.
  70. I am sorry if I gave the impression that there was a delay; there is not.
  71. Mr Attwood: I will come back to that later.
  72. The Chairperson: It would be useful for the Committee to have the information as to what stage the process is at.
  73. Mr B McCrea: I am concerned about the issue of progression to proper apprenticeships, which is mentioned in your submission. It strikes me that an option to be paid the minimum wage is not particularly attractive to people. Has the Department considered ways to encourage a higher rate of pay for apprenticeships? Furthermore, has the appropriateness of the Department paying top-up fees to employers been considered?
  74. How will the Department give early encouragement to the hand-picked employers who take on quite a challenge for what are not particularly good returns?
  75. Mrs Bell: The difficulty is that resources are limited. The Department is trying to sustain a training infrastructure. I understand that employers are taking a risk. However, they must strike a balance, because the apprentices are their future employees. The argument has been made to us about why employers should take on apprentices when they can get migrant workers who can be trained immediately and who do not have to go through the apprenticeship process.
  76. My own view, for what it is worth, is that we made a mistake by including apprenticeships in the Jobskills programme at the beginning. I passionately believe that apprenticeships are valuable training programmes for potential employees. Why would an employer not want to train their staff? The Department could consider working with the providers who secure contracts. For example, my understanding is that the Electrical Training Trust subsidises training programmes for employees using money that is provided by the Department, and some other employers may do the same. However, I do not know whether the employer keeps that money or gives it to the apprentice.
  77. Mr B McCrea: I want to explore that. Employers cannot compete with Tesco, for example, which offers wages of £6 an hour. Employees must earn more than the minimum wage and see that opportunities for progression exist in order to convince them that it is worthwhile. It is unfair to put the burden of the cost on to the industry. That is our job, not the job of the employer. Therefore, funding is a serious issue that we must address in order to limit any potential problems.
  78. Mr Newton: I thank the departmental officials for attending, and I intend to be more positive than some other members. Based on previous witness evidence, I believe that the Department has listened to our concerns. Perhaps all those concerns have not yet been addressed, but we are a long way from the Jobskills programme, and that progress is a positive step.
  79. I, like Mrs Bell, am passionate about apprenticeships. I welcome the recommendation to remove apprenticeship training from the Training for Success programme and brand it as a flagship programme — that is crucial for the economy.
  80. There is confusion in the retail, legal or business administration sectors about the word “apprenticeship”. Does the Department have any plans to move traditional apprenticeship skills such as construction and engineering to an elite group, rather than deal with each apprenticeship area individually?
  81. The Committee received a presentation from Improve, a food-sector training organisation. The delegates were content with and complimentary about level-2 apprenticeships. However, other sectors believe that level 3 and beyond is the necessary standard. Does the Department have a programme that will enable apprentices to progress from level 3 to level 4 and, perhaps, even to level 5?
  82. The Chairperson referred to our visit to the Omagh campus of the South West College. During that visit, college representatives said that they had experienced difficulty in securing employment places in the automotive sector because of a shortage of large employers in that region. How can the Department address that?
  83. It is encouraging that apprenticeship numbers have increased. However, that increase is based on figures for the Jobskills programme. How do the figures stack up with anticipated economic demands for apprenticeship?
  84. Mrs Bell: I understand your point about traditional apprenticeships. People understand that engineering and construction apprenticeships are valuable. In fact, several well-known people in industry have come through an apprenticeship programme. Unfortunately, given the desire to have a framework that allows young people to progress through every programme, all programmes have been branded as apprenticeships. We perhaps need to find a way of encouraging the more traditional apprenticeships.
  85. One area that is beginning to bear fruit is the career days for schools that are being conducted by the workforce-development forums. Apprenticeships are explained, and young people are shown what apprenticeships can lead to. The Department would like to increase the number of those events because they are a way for employers to take the lead themselves.
  86. You asked about progression. It is encouraging to see that apprenticeship numbers have increased. One of my concerns is that we currently have several young people at level 2 but fewer at level 3, which is the level at which they should be after leaving school with five GCSEs at grade A* to C.
  87. It is great to see young people getting the opportunity to achieve level 2 and then progress to levels 3 and 4. However, the Department would really like to see a young person completing their GCSEs and then making a conscious choice that an apprenticeship at level 3 is suitable for them. That would allow that young person to achieve a level-3 qualification plus specific skills training that could lead to a foundation degree at level 4 and ultimately a degree or professional qualification if so desired
  88. The means to allow a young person to achieve that has been put in place, but the biggest barrier that the Department faces is that it is not getting sufficient numbers of well-qualified young people thinking about apprenticeships as a viable alternative to school or full-time further education. It is up to the Department to improve on that through its marketing campaign; equally, however, we need the support of employers to show that good opportunities exist.
  89. The lack of placements that are offered by employers is one reason why the Department returned to what we have called the pre-apprenticeship programme. That programme means that all young people can at least begin to train even though they do not have an employer. The Department still has a great deal of work to do with employers to help them realise the benefits of an apprenticeship programme.
  90. Mr Newton: How do the figures stack up with the forecasts for the economy?
  91. Mrs Bell: I am sorry; you asked me that question.
  92. Ms Kerr: If the residual Jobskills programme and the new programme are combined, the occupancy level is around 8,000 in total. Our target is to have 10,000 young people in the programme by 2010. Although the figures are encouraging, they demonstrate that we still have a long way to go. The picture is not completely negative, but more work is required to increase the numbers. Additionally, the Department is considering adult apprenticeships, and I think that that will contribute to the progression opportunity while also contributing to the apprenticeship numbers that we would hope to have by our target date.
  93. Mrs McGill: Thank you for your presentation. I welcome the fact that you are examining the educational maintenance allowance, which will help those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Will that allowance also help those from disadvantaged backgrounds who live in rural communities and have to travel to their places of work?
  94. Travel was mentioned earlier, and I think that I have discussed it with you previously. Although there has been some improvement — or the potential for improvement — in the maintenance allowance, I see nothing in any of the documentation presented today that shows how the Department is addressing the issue. Ms Kerr said at the beginning of today’s briefing that the Department is looking at it; however, I am disappointed at that.
  95. Travel difficulties have been mentioned as a barrier to young people attending college, and I want the Department to act specifically to address that issue. I read the Department’s survey, but it missed the opportunity to include questions on travel, such as whether participants found it easy or difficult to travel to college. Will the Department act on that now and perhaps inform me in writing of what has been done and how it proposes to progress that issue?
  96. Catherine, you said that you took on board the consultees’ views when you were examining the complex structure of the programme, and you went on to describe the current structure. However, there was no reference to those points in the papers that were sent to the Committee. I would have found it helpful if the structure that you outlined verbally today had been included in your submission.
  97. Mrs Bell: We can give the Committee details of the old outline and the proposed outline; that is not a problem.
  98. Mrs McGill: If I may finish what I was saying, Catherine: as you were outlining the four strands of Training for Success, I was desperately trying to jot them down. It would have been helpful if you had provided members with an A4 page that outlined that information.
  99. Ms Kerr: We listened to what the Committee said about taking on board the issues about travel. We have been considering travel costs and are reviewing the cost to participants. We hope to finish the ongoing review quickly, because the outcome will affect the September intake. Therefore, we want to be able to comment on that before the end of the training year and, if necessary, return to the model that existed under the Jobskills programme.
  100. The Chairperson: As the Committee is due to publish its report soon, we need that information as quickly as possible, or we at least need an update of the review process.
  101. Mrs McGill: Given that the survey was on participation and referred to barriers to, and accessibility of, the programme, did the Department miss an opportunity by not including certain issues in the statements?
  102. Mrs Bell: We will look again at the survey. A specific question may have been asked, but we did not highlight it to the Committee. If not, we will see what we can find out.
  103. Ms Kerr: Young people had the opportunity to volunteer that information if they so wished, because a section of the survey allowed them to add comments.
  104. Mrs McGill: Was the word “travel” mentioned?
  105. Ms Kerr: I do not have that information.
  106. The Chairperson: I understand your point, Nuala, but considering that 17% of participants did not have a personal plan and that 35% of the 13·7% who have a learning difficulty or disability received no specific support, Claire’s point is valid, and the issue must be addressed. I know that it cannot be done now, but if the Committee and others raise travel issues in future, any survey should include questions about it.
  107. Ms Kerr: We will take that on board; I was not being dismissive.
  108. Mrs Bell: This year is effectively over. However, from next year, we want to carry out regular surveys of the participants in all programmes, not only Training for Success.
  109. Ms Lo: Thank you very much for giving the Committee a third briefing on Training for Success. When any changes are being made, it is important to monitor them and to listen to feedback. I welcome all the proposed changes. We have been hearing all along about the difficulties in maintaining 35 hours a week of training for those attending the Job-Ready courses. I am pleased that that will be changed. In particular, I welcome the split between the Jobskills programme and apprenticeships. We really must put a lot of energy into promoting that strand.
  110. I agree with what Robin Newton and Mrs Bell said about the need to target the right people and the need to encourage schoolchildren to opt for careers in industry, rather than drift into it when they cannot find anything else. It is also important that we have higher expectations of the apprenticeship programme. We must train people beyond level 2. The majority of apprentices seem to be at level 2 at present, whereas we must have people at levels 3, 4 and 5.
  111. Migrant workers were mentioned, and they should be working here on a transitional basis. We need to train our young people and give them the skills that are needed to build our economy permanently. I welcome the changes, and I hope that there will be greater focus on — and more energy put into — promoting the apprenticeship programme. Thank you very much for talking to us.
  112. Mr Attwood: I note that there has been an overall reduction in the number of people in training compared with the figures for last year, and that marketing and some work with the employers might turn that around. We must monitor that carefully. To go back to a previous question, the number of people who are employed and are in training has increased by 12%. What are the previous and current figures for people in employment and training?
  113. Ms Kerr: If you look at the statistics in our submission and compare like-for-like figures, and if you add together the level 2 and level-3 apprenticeships, you can compare the total with the figures for modern apprenticeships 1 and 2 on the chart.
  114. Mrs Bell: There are slightly more than 3,000 people now compared with slightly more than 2,790 people previously.
  115. Mr Attwood: Are all those people who are at level 2 and level 3 in employment?
  116. Mrs Bell: Yes.
  117. Mr Attwood: Following on, is there any evidence, at this stage, that people who are in level-2 and level-3 apprenticeships are losing those apprenticeships due to the downturn in the construction industry? Given that a large proportion of the total apprenticeships are in construction, if a downturn is causing people to lose apprenticeships, that will have an impact on the figures. If that is the case, what happens to apprentices who lose their jobs?
  118. Mrs Bell: I do not have evidence available on that, although we will look into it. In a couple of cases, MLAs have written to the Minister to tell him about young people who were on apprenticeship programmes but whose employers have ceased to trade due to retirement or other reasons. We have intervened with our careers advisers to try to steer those young people to another organisation or to get them onto a pre-apprenticeship programme so that their training continues. However, I am not aware of widespread job losses, but we will look into that.
  119. Mr Attwood: I am picking up information from people, in the further education sector who know that a trend is developing. I will say no more than that at the moment.
  120. The Chairperson: That is an issue that the Committee should have information about, because I have also picked up on that pattern.
  121. Mr Attwood: I am also mindful of the debate that was held in the Assembly earlier this week.
  122. Ms Kerr: The important issue is that many young people experience a change of employers, and we must have in our system the capacity to keep them steady and training while they look for another employer. That should be our first priority — to allow them to continue in training in the short term, while they seek another employer.
  123. Mr Attwood: Adult apprenticeships and apprenticeships for part-time workers are important and must be considered. We have evidence from across a range of sectors about that.
  124. My final question relates to the wage issue. What monitoring is there of what employers are paying?
  125. Mrs Bell: We do not monitor what employers pay; the only monitoring is carried out on the processes that are in place for the minimum wage. The first year of apprenticeship is not subject to minimum wage.
  126. Mr Attwood: I am mindful of previous comments. Given that in England it is a condition of a contract that payment should be at the current rate — not the minimum rate — that is a serious gap in the overall monitoring framework.
  127. Mrs Bell: We are trying to find ways to encourage employers to take apprentices. In our experience, this is the first time that unemployment has been at this level. Until now, employers have had trainees in for four days a week, and trainees spend the remaining day back in the college. We are walking a fine line to encourage employers to get involved. I do not want to see abuse of young people. In the construction industry, there are guidelines that specify that a first-year apprentice should be paid X% of a journeyman’s wages and a second-year apprentice should be paid a higher percentage and so on. That is how traditional industries operated. With respect to monitoring, trainees are, after all, employees. In order to monitor wages, we would have to increase bureaucracy at a time when resources are stretched. We have to consider all those factors with respect to the minimum wage rate for an apprentice. However, I understand what your point.
  128. Mr Attwood: I do not accept the bureaucracy argument. We are talking about 6,000 apprenticeships across the North in all the sectors. The Department has in place copious reporting requirements from them and from training providers and employers. It does not seem to me that it is beyond your capabilities to monitor wages.
  129. Whereas the North is different from England, and one size does not normally fit all, as I understand it, a one-size approach is working in England. You need to consider that.
  130. Mrs Bell: We are actively looking at it.
  131. Mr B McCrea: I have two specific questions that follow on from what has been said. I am concerned about the difference between level 2 and level 3. The term “apprenticeship” has been devalued because it has been extended to cover all sorts. You said that you would look into that. When will you be in a position to tell us what you are planning to do?
  132. Mrs Bell: If we are going to consider that, we must work with the sector skills councils, because apprenticeship is a national issue. More than anything else, this may be a branding issue. I agree: it is worrying that we are not getting more young people at level 3, when you consider that for that level you need five GCSEs at grades A* to C. A level-2 course amounts to doing what pupils have done in school, although in a specific occupational area. That is the more worrying aspect — that is really worrying. To address that, we are working with the Department of Education on the 14 to 19 age group to allow young people to consider a range of occupational areas while they are still at school. That will have a positive effect. We must convey to young people that there are genuine progression routes and that trainees can earn and learn at the same time. It is up to us to market the programme correctly, but employers also have to get behind that drive. Employers also have to support us in that regard.
  133. We did not have a level-2 modern apprenticeship programme. It might have been possible to pick up a level 2 on the way through, but everyone was placed in a level-3 programme. It is good to have a level-2 award. We can reward young people when they get a qualification. If they left school without receiving a level-2 qualification, it is a positive step. However, I agree with you.
  134. Mr B McCrea: You and I agree strongly, Catherine. When will we be in a position to do something about the situation? I understand that the sector skills councils have a role to play. The Education Committee received a presentation from Schrader Electronics in Carrick — I will tell the Chairperson about that later. The representatives of that company told the Committee that supply is not meeting demand. The company had doubled its workforce and wanted to double it again, but it could not find the right people.
  135. Mrs Bell: We know about Schrader Electronics. A young person has to have a good standard of mathematics and a good scientific base in order to pursue a qualification in electronics or engineering. That is why our Department and the Department of Education are reviewing science, technology, engineering and maths, with particular regard to the needs of industry. If you do not grasp the basics of maths, you cannot progress. We must ensure that schools allow pupils to build on the basics of maths and science. That is why the report that the two Ministers will receive from the working group will examine those issues seriously.
  136. Mr B McCrea: I will leave that with you. However, you made the point earlier that many of those young people are not stupid; they just did not get opportunities. I agree that a good foundation in mathematics is a necessity. There is a huge demand, but you are obviously aware of the situation.
  137. I have one final point, on which we do not have to go into great detail. Is there any evidence of joined-up Government when it comes to examining ways of getting people into training? Many companies are in receipt of significant Government contracts to supply services. Do the tendering processes for those contracts include instructions to such companies about their social obligations?
  138. Ms Kerr: Our colleagues in DFP are working with the construction sector to agree targets for the apprentices that are associated with the contract, depending on its size. They will set scales within those targets.
  139. Mr B McCrea: That is interesting. However, we might examine how that could be extended, because there are other issues to consider, such as telecommunications. We are giving out big contracts. I am not trying to unbalance a competitive tender, but everyone should be aware that it would be better if we were working together.
  140. Mrs Bell: Nuala has just pointed out to me that we are currently training 160 young people for Schrader Electronics under our bridge to employment programme.
  141. Mr B McCrea: Schrader Electronics says that it is looking for 300 to 400 people. The point is that supply is not meeting demand. We must find a way of dealing with that.
  142. The Chairperson: We have examined several issues that relate to the Training for Success programme, including contractual arrangements. That is why we took evidence from the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) at one of our meetings.
  143. I remind members that we are due to take evidence from the Northern branch of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and another sector skills council. That should bring us to the end of the Committee’s formal scrutiny of this issue. We hope to produce a report by the end of May. Catherine, can you outline the progress of your own consultation process, bearing in mind that the Committee is due to make its report?
  144. Mrs Bell: As I said earlier, part of the problem was that we were too late in giving information to training organisations last year.
  145. Our suggested changes are based on the extensive work that we have done with the organisations and focus groups and in workshops. In fact, we feel that we have completed our consultation. Various organisations have told us what they want, and we have taken on board their concerns and amended the structure of the programme accordingly. If we are required to engage in a formal consultation process and not merely change the programme within the existing arrangements, that should be happening now. However, we respect the views of the Committee, and we want to factor in to our report its views and suggestions. We have that conundrum to deal with.
  146. The Chairperson: I accept that you are under pressure, but our report is due at the end of May. It would therefore be useful if the Department provided a response on the outcome and recommendations of our report. I will be guided by the Committee if any member wants to make a counterproposal to that.
  147. Mrs Bell: We do not want to produce a review only for the Department to suggest fundamental changes that will mean that the Department has to produce something else. That would be confusing.
  148. The Chairperson: That is why I am suggesting that you wait until the Committee’s report is published.
  149. Mrs Bell: Consequently, we would prefer to be able to respond to the Committee’s report.
  150. The Chairperson: Do members have an opinion on that?
  151. Mr B McCrea: As Mr Newton said, the Department has been responsive, and people are trying to work well together on this. We do not want to delay things unduly. I think that the Department and the Minister have tried their best to take the issue on board.
  152. The Chairperson: I agree, and that is why the Committee is committing to producing its report quicker than it first thought.
  153. Thank you for attending this morning’s Committee meeting.

30 April 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Ms Sue Ramsey (Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Paul Butler
Ms Anna Lo
Mr David McClarty
Mrs Claire McGill
Mr Robin Newton
Mr Alastair Ross
Mr Jimmy Spratt

Witnesses:

Mr Basil Barnes

Association of Motor Vehicle Teachers

Mr Martin Hutchinson

Institute of the Motor Industry

Mr Sean McCullagh

Transport Training Services

Mr Ken Philpott

Belfast Metropolitan College

Mr Peter Bunting
Mr Liam Gallagher
Mr Jim McKeown

Irish Congress of Trade Unions

  1. The Chairperson (Ms S Ramsey): I welcome Martin Hutchinson, Sean McCullagh, Ken Philpott and Basil Barnes. I understand that a number of you have attended previous meetings of the Committee, or have watched from the public gallery, and are consequently aware of the formats for our meetings.
  2. It is important for the Committee to hear from the stakeholders, following the fall-out from the case of the Carter and Carter contract. The Committee is due to report to the Assembly within a few weeks on the issue of Training for Success.
  3. I will hand over to our guests to give their presentation before opening the floor to questions and answers. I thank the witnesses for sparing the time to address the Committee.
  4. Mr Martin Hutchinson (Institute of the Motor Industry): I thank the Committee for extending its invitation to us. We intend to group our presentation under four headings: the tendering process; the employed-apprenticeship strands and implications; the not-yet-employed options within Training for Success; and, if time permits, essential skills.
  5. Any tendering process that results in the successful training provider’s closing within a matter of months appears flawed. That training organisation has previously produced WorldSkills medal winners, and was the largest body-repair training provider in the Province. The result of its closure is that eight people have been made redundant, 147 apprentices have had their training interrupted, and 40 of them appear to have dropped out of training. It is also disappointing that the promised follow-up by careers officers does not appear to have happened to the extent that it should.
  6. I am no expert in tendering processes, but, having looked into the process, I will highlight a couple of specific points that do not seem to have been rigorously implemented. Page 8 of the Training for Success tender document states that:

“Tenderers who intend to subcontract training are required to provide details of all subcontractors and demonstrate how these arrangements can be delivered.”

  1. If that was done during the tendering process, we wonder why the likes of Carter and Carter, — after being awarded the contract — were seeking subcontracting arrangements with colleges and other training providers. That practice is apparently quite common in other vocational areas, and that situation is a bit puzzling when it has been stated, in writing, that those details should have been included in the tender documentation.
  2. Mr Ken Philpott (Belfast Metropolitan College): There is a specific paragraph in the tender document that requires all submissions to include details of how the subcontractors would deliver arrangements. Therefore, it is puzzling that my organisation received phone calls, after the close of the tender, from other organisations, asking us for details of how we might partner them to help them to deliver on the contract for which they had applied and were subsequently awarded — and consequently struggled to deliver.
  3. Mr Sean McCullagh (Transport Training Services): Transport Training Services (TTS) were debriefed on our tender, and found that the assessment of the bids did not involve assessment against the criteria of the individual frameworks — a snapshot of an organisation was the basis of the awarding of contracts. TTS would have offered motor-vehicle maintenance and repair, body repair, and driving qualifications for the road haulage industry. No one checked whether we had the facilities — for example, the lorries — and the personnel to deliver driver training. We asked if that was the case at the debriefing, and it was confirmed that the frameworks were not looked at. In fact, the notion that the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) should have had time to examine tenders in that detail was considered laughable.
  4. The Chairperson: Sean, I realise that this is unusual, but can I stop you on that point? Normally, I would let the presentation run its course, but the tender document has been mentioned. Ken, are you saying that the paragraph of the document from which you quoted originated from the Central Procurement Directorate?
  5. Mr Philpott: Yes, within the 183 pages of the tender document, one of the specific paragraphs clearly states that:

“Tenderers who intend to subcontract training are required to provide details of all subcontractors and demonstrate how these arrangements can be delivered.”

  1. That comes straight from the tender document.
  2. The Chairperson: As you are well aware, representatives from the Central Procurement Directorate gave evidence to this Committee, because we had concerns about a number of issues. The Committee then pushed the Department for Employment and Learning on that issue, and the Department indicated that the situation was slightly different.
  3. Mr Martin Hutchinson (Institute of the Motor Industry): I was here, and that also puzzled me.
  4. The Chairperson: I am glad to hear that, because I thought that I read that wrong. I am glad that you are here, Martin.
  5. Mr Philpott: I sat a couple of rows back on that occasion, and it also puzzled me.
  6. The Chairperson: Do you have a copy of that document with you?
  7. Mr Philpott: I do not have a copy with me, but I have it on a memory stick.
  8. The Chairperson: I would appreciate it if you could forward that to the Committee. I am sorry to have interrupted you, Martin.
  9. Mr Hutchinson: The response of Automotive Skills to the Training for Success strategy document, at the end of 2006, expressed the view that subcontracting organisations took money out of training programmes, creating middlemen. That response also indicated that barriers had been created between training organisations and employers.
  10. Mr Philpott: In December 2006, a DEL document summarised all of the responses, and contained a paragraph on that specific aspect of middlemen and third parties. It was possible for them to take a slice of the cake, without that money going directly to the training of individuals.
  11. Mr Hutchinson: That somewhat contradicts the policy that seems to in favour at the moment, because having organisations between employers and training deliverers appears to be the preferred model for the delivery of training.
  12. Another important aspect of the tendering process is that an organisation’s ability to deliver training is assessed by awarding one score across all areas. Sean will expand on that.
  13. Mr McCullagh: Nobody in the CPD checked the availability of resources, facilities or equipment, or checked that personnel were trained or qualified to deliver on the framework. The CPD took an overview of an organisation and awarded a score right across the board. I have a copy of the minutes of a CPD meeting, which I obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Those minutes confirm that that decision was made in that way.
  14. Mr Hutchinson: That scoring method can lead to bizarre anomalies. One training provider could have the facilities to deliver the training, but another provider could be awarded the contract because their overall score was better, even though they might not have the necessary facilities.
  15. Mr Philpott: The haulage case highlights a concern. If Belfast Metropolitan College had ticked the box for driver training, we would automatically have been awarded that contract, even though it was not in our tender and it was not part of our submission at all. That applies to any organisations that have multiple delivery vocational areas.
  16. The 15 NVQ level-3 frameworks at Belfast Metropolitan College were all assessed with one score that applied evenly to all 15. I would be the first to say that there are some of those frameworks in which we are absolutely excellent and consistently excellent, and have been for years. However, for some frameworks, Belfast Metropolitan College does not deserve excellent scores, yet the scoring process was aggregated to one mark. That methodology of scoring will never produce the right end result for learners.
  17. Mr Hutchinson: Under the Scottish model — which I had the opportunity to examine — the bids are very clearly separated into different vocational areas, and organisations are required to produce audited accounts. Any new organisation that tenders in Scotland must provide references, which are examined in detail. It seems that the Scottish tendering model is more rigorous. We have to presume that it also complies with EU regulations, which are often quoted to explain the reason why things are done in a certain way.
  18. That concludes our evidence session on the tendering process, on which we will take questions later.
  19. The Chairperson: We commissioned one of our researchers to produce a paper on the Scottish model, which members are being provided with now. That model has been mentioned a few times; we take that on board and will aim to delve deeper into the subject.
  20. Mr Hutchinson: I will explain the workings of the employed-apprenticeship strand, following the demise of Carter and Carter. Level-3 contracts were distributed to the 11 runners-up in the tender process, offering employers and learners more choice — which we are pleased about. However, many anomalies remain.
  21. Arguably the best facilities for delivering automotive training in Northern Ireland are provided at North West Regional College. I was at its official opening last week, where I met the capable staff who work at both the new Springtown Campus and the recently opened Limavady facility.
  22. The college has no contract to deliver level-3 light-vehicle apprenticeships. Out of the 26 council areas, it has only one contract — in the city itself — to deliver level-3 bodywork repair. It is likely that it will collaborate with, by subcontracting to, other colleges such as South West Regional College, which has a contract for the north-west area. That is illogical because it requires more administration to make it work.
  23. Mr McCullagh: That raises a question about contract areas and how the level-3 contracts were awarded across the 26 contract-management areas, which happens to be the almost-defunct local council areas.
  24. That causes all sorts of problems. First, it means that employers do not have a choice of provider. Secondly, it means that trainees do not have a choice of provider. Thirdly, it means that, in certain schemes, which we are involved in and that are manufacturer-led with the employers’ support of their dealers, we cannot recruit for each location from which dealers operate in Northern Ireland. We are talking about high-quality apprenticeships; we are talking about trainees gaining a level-3 modern apprenticeship, a manufacturer qualification and a manufacturers’ certification, which is valid throughout the dealer network in Europe.
  25. No one in Northern Ireland has a contract that can deliver one manufacturer’s programme across Northern Ireland. We do not know the rationale for the 26 contract areas. I have asked DEL about that, but I have not received a response, which I understand. It has been mentioned that it had to respond to the Public Accounts Committee’s criticism of Jobskills. From my point of view, that criticism was not about the employed level-3 content of Jobskills — rather, it was about the people down the line who were non-employed, who were not being paid, and who were potentially being exploited in the workplace. That did not apply to level-3 employed modern apprenticeships.
  26. Mr Philpott: It is also fair to say that that will become an increasing problem over the next year. Although it is already problem, it will increase in its complexity over the next year. Freedom of choice has been removed from individual students and young people, and from employers, as to where training is carried out. The Careers Service would readily state that it should be up to the individual or employer to decide where training takes place. That aspect of the contract has been removed with the introduction of the 26 areas. That will become an increasing problem over the next year and, therefore, must be dealt with at this stage.
  27. Mr Hutchinson: Recruitment for Training for Success began in September, with trainees working towards a level-2 contract. However, problems are going to arise when they want to progress to level 3, the effects of which will be felt this time next year, or perhaps slightly earlier.
  28. Transport Training Services, which is based at Nutts Corner, was awarded only one contract area — Downpatrick — to carry out light-vehicle repair apprenticeships. We interpret that to mean that Ford apprentices in the Downpatrick area only will be will be able to avail themselves of the Ford-supported programme at Nutts Corner, and the rest of the country will be at a disadvantage.
  29. Mr McCullagh: Under our contract, if people from east Down — Ardglass, Saintfield, Downpatrick, Ballynahinch and Newcastle — ask a job centre where level-3 motor-vehicle training is provided, they will be told Nutts Corner. That is not satisfactory for those people. How will we service the population of east Down — by setting up a caravan on a Saturday morning at Downpatrick market, if there is one? That will not work.
  30. Mr Hutchinson: We are concerned that our manufacturer sponsorship — for example, Ford at TTS and Toyota in Ballymena — which addresses much of the criticism from employers that training resources are out of date, is in jeopardy. That support gives added value to all the training; for example, the Toyota training at Ballymena has put a lot of investment into hybrid training, which benefits all the students who attend those training providers, not just the Toyota students or the Ford students at TTS. The council-area restrictions will deter manufacturer support.
  31. We ask the Committee to recommend that the council area restrictions be removed, or relaxed, so as to allow learners and employers more choice. That reinforces a recommendation that we made in our submission in February 2008 — that contracts be awarded to a range of high-quality providers in Northern Ireland, including employers who which to set up their own professional-training provision.
  32. If we went back in time, we would want to establish how many apprentices the industry requires, and where they are located. Under our sector skills agreement, we are committed to doing that research, which will tell us the number of apprentices that our sector requires, what skills they need, and where they are located. From that, we can apply some logic to where the training provision should be located. However, in 12 months’ time, the council area restrictions will have had a dramatically detrimental effect on level-3 training provision.
  33. We have some serious reservations about the options in Training for Success for the not-yet employed. Although such people are often referred to as the non-employed, we prefer the term not-yet employed. What happens if a young person on a pre-apprenticeship programme does not secure employment at the end of the 52 weeks? Although the bulk of people in work placement are likely to secure employment, there are some people in that position who will not. Basil, what feedback have you received?
  34. Mr Basil Barnes (Association of Motor Vehicle Teachers): Employers, most likely from the independent sector, will employ people who have done the pre-apprenticeship training because they have grown familiar with the motor-vehicle repair environment. Those people are more useful than someone who has just left school and has not been in a motor-vehicle repair environment, because they do not require as much management and supervision.
  35. The problem with pre-apprenticeship is that some employers see an opportunity to get someone on work experience for two days a week, rather than taking on apprentices. That eats into the apprenticeship programme, which is the ideal route for any trainee because it has better results. An unscrupulous employer could take someone on work experience for a couple of years and then drop them when that they have finished, and do the same thing to another person.
  36. Therefore, there are good and bad aspects of pre-apprenticeship. The bad aspect centres on the way in which it eats into apprenticeship provision or the likelihood of an employer’s paying the student or trainee. There is a demand for people who have completed the pre-apprenticeship scheme, but — as Martin said — if people do not progress from it, where do they go? In that way, the programme is similar to other educational courses and other occupational training.
  37. Mr Hutchinson: There is no doubt that the not-yet-employed options deter employers from employing apprentices. Why should they employ apprentices when they can get them for free on a scheme? As has been mentioned, there are too many confusing options and the careers guidance is not clear to young people and their parents. The training programmes tend to narrow their experience. Reviews of Training for Success are under way, which particularly consider the not-yet-employed options, but the programmes look increasingly like Jobskills, in that they increase the work-experience or work-placement content. That has to be a bad development.
  38. Mr Philpott: Some of the proposed changes for placements are welcome. For example, the consultation document recommends that students be allowed to go out on work placement from week 4 onwards. Although that is welcome from the perspective of students and of training providers, it has the negative effect of potentially undermining the apprenticeship programmes. Such matters always lead to tension, and a tightrope must be walked when running the two schemes in parallel.
  39. Mr Hutchinson: At the end of 2006, we heard that there would be no more Jobskills programmes, and we told employers that they would have to employ more young people. Although the uptake of employment was strong, we had the embarrassment of looking for work placements for young people who were on not-yet-employed schemes. We went to the same employers and said that we wanted to put someone else on work placement with them, even though they had already employed someone. From an employer’s point of view, the credibility of the scheme must be questioned. I suspect that employed status will be reduced this year because employers will be more hesitant to employ someone, given that they did so last year, but were then asked to take someone on work placement.
  40. At our last presentation to the Committee on 27 February 2008, our second recommendation was for a full-time training and education programme, which would allow progress from level 1 onwards. Most importantly, those students would be a source of recruits for the industry. That appears to be what happens in Scotland — if a young person leaves school and does not join an employed apprenticeship, they will go to a further-education course. In Motherwell, approximately 25% of students transfer to apprenticeships either during or at the end of their further education course, and most of the others go into different job roles. Those young people have an educational background with a bit more maths, English and science, and they will go to into job roles in, for example, parts departments or sales. That model seems to work well in Scotland.
  41. As mentioned before, research shows that students will learn numeracy and literary skills — known as essential skills — more effectively if those skills are an integral part of vocational work. Essential skills are best learned when contextualised, rather than maths and English simply being taught in a classroom. We recommend that the skills of vocational teaching staff to deliver literacy and numeracy be improved so that those skills can be integrated.
  42. Mr Barnes: That is correct. Essential skills are a vehicle on their own, and some vocational people would say that the young people are there primarily to learn essential skills while they learn plumbing or motor vehicle repair, as opposed to the other way around. The students say that they are there to train to be a mechanic and wonder why they are sent to learn maths and English. A professional maths teacher would not necessarily know much about vehicle repair or plumbing, but essential skills are best taught in a contextualised environment.
  43. The old key-skills approach was to integrate those essential skills with vocational training, so when teaching about area, for example, one could have opened up an air filter, flattened it out and got the trainees to measure it. In the same context, the trainees could have been taught about air filtration or fuel filtration. The trainees now learn about area as they would have done at school, which leads to disengagement with the subject. The other difficulty is that the teaching of essential skills is time consuming: there are restrictions in the numbers of hours and weeks.
  44. That time has to be provided. The occupational setting has to fit in around the time provided for essential skills, and, if there are reductions in time, that constrains the time that can be spent on occupational learning. Employers have difficulty in understanding the rationale behind that, and the students definitely have difficulty understanding it. They go back to their employer and tell them that they spent the previous day learning maths. Even though they did work on motor vehicle repair, that seems to be a smaller element — it is that aspect of the program that gets a lot of bad PR.
  45. There is still a need for the participants to be taught English and maths, but I am not sure that the essential-skills program is the best vessel for delivering that. There were problems with the key-skills program, but those problems concerned the way in which the program was managed, rather than the qualification itself.
  46. Mr Philpott: Another aspect of essential skills that will have an effect over the next couple of years, particularly on the driver-training element of the automotive industry, is the five-year rule, which we are told has been taken from European legislation. Effectively, that means that any GCSE qualifications that were obtained more than five years ago are now out of date.
  47. That is an issue for other sectors, but not yet an issue for the automotive sector. However, it is a concern that, for example, people who have completed A-level and degree programmes, and are now at the age of 21 or 22, are now being told that they must complete a minimum of 40 hours learning maths, and 40 hours learning English. That is a significant concern to employers, because it constitutes 80 hours to be spent out of the workplace, and the employer is expected to pay the person for those 80 hours, with no perceived benefit.
  48. That is also a problem for the participants in the program. To have completed A levels and a degree, and then to be told that one must complete courses in English and maths, which are the same as, or below, GCSE standard, is an anomaly that we really need to find a way out of. That would really begin to affect the motor trade in September of this year, when driver training becomes mandatory.
  49. Mr Hutchinson: In summary of our presentation, there are four main points, which I will outline in order of priority. In order to avoid a situation similar to that involving Carter and Carter, the tendering process needs to be a lot more rigorous, and the rules contained in the tender document must be enforced. Another point concerns the council areas: we do not know how the council area restrictions are to be applied — are they determined by where the young person lives, where they are employed, or where they come from? That is not clearly defined.
  50. Mr Philpott: Is that determined by the location of the head office of the employer, or the site location where the person is working?
  51. Mr Hutchinson: Our recommendation that the 26 council areas should no longer apply would allow learners and employers more choice. The not-yet-employed option should be simplified so that there is one clear option if a young person has not yet secured employment. Finally, the essential-skills element should be integrated with vocational delivery. Those are the four points that we would like to put to the Committee. Thank you very much. We welcome any questions.
  52. The Chairperson: Thank you for your presentation. I want to take the opportunity to thank Martin for all the help, support and information that he has given the Committee over the last number of months. That has been quite useful, and it is important that a number of issues were raised to the Committee, leading to the Committee’s decision to hold an inquiry into Training for Success. That shows that members of the public can have an impact, and are listened to when they raise points at Committee meetings.
  53. I appreciate the point that Ken made concerning the tender document; it is a valid point. On the issue of the pre-apprenticeships, or the not-yet employed, I am not for one moment indicating that all employers exploit young people, but if, after 52 weeks of pre-apprenticeship, an apprenticeship is not secured, where does that person go? Could the employer then simply take on another person for 52 weeks? If so, that leaves a margin for the exploitation of people on a pre-apprenticeship, who, we are told, are the most vulnerable. One of the criticisms of the Jobskills program was that the most vulnerable were being exploited. Is there an indication that that could happen with pre-apprenticeships?
  54. Mr Philpott: Yes, that potential does exist. There is no clear pathway for the person after 52 weeks, and, at this point, there is nothing in place to prevent unscrupulous employers from taking on a second person.
  55. The Chairperson: I am aware that there is a departmental official in the public gallery, but can you tell me whether the Department keeps records of employers?
  56. Mr Hutchinson: I do not know.
  57. The Chairperson: That should be checked out, especially considering the level of criticism that was directed at the Jobskills programme. The students could be monitored during their training. That would provide another safety net.
  58. Thank you for you presentation. The Committee is due to report on this issue in a couple of weeks.
  59. Mr Spratt: Thank you for your presentation. You have been very helpful. I want address the Carter and Carter contract and its subsequent failure. You said that 40 young people dropped out of the programme. Was the Department involved in trying to facilitate those young people? My recollection is that the Department would facilitate and guide those young people to ensure that they were put on to alternative programmes if necessary. Therefore, I am alarmed to hear that 40 young people dropped out of the programme. I do not recall how many students signed up to the programme at the beginning.
  60. Mr Hutchinson: Some 147 young people signed up to the programme.
  61. Mr Spratt: Almost one third have dropped out, which is very alarming. Were those young people not given any guidance? Was no follow-up service provided to try to facilitate those people?
  62. Mr Hutchinson: It would appear that the follow-up service was not as rigorous as we would have hoped, and the guidance was not as clear as we would have hoped. Some young people contacted the training organisations directly to ask for a place. They said that they were told to phone around to find an organisation that would train them. I raised that issue with the Careers Service and was told that someone would deal with it. Employers were told that they would be contacted, but I know that some employers were not contacted.
  63. The follow-up service may not have been as rigorous as we would have hoped. We would still like to rescue the 40 young people who dropped out of the programme. A proposal is being put together that will hopefully retain the expertise that delivered WorldSkills medal-winners in the training environment. We have not given up on those 40 people, and we hope that they will be rescued in the near future.
  64. Mr Spratt: Is it fair to say that the Department has given up on them, or that it did not even try to do anything to help them? That is the point that I am trying to get to.
  65. Mr Hutchinson: I do not know. However, some employers were not contacted directly, so the guidance given to those people was not as clear as it could have been.
  66. Mr Spratt: Therefore, it appears that those people received little or no guidance from the Department?
  67. Mr Hutchinson: Some 22 of those 147 people were trained in England, so they were not really affected. Of the remaining 125 people, 85 appear to have been picked up and have carried on, but 40 are still in limbo. Work is ongoing among the training providers to try to rescue those 40 people.
  68. Mr Spratt: Would it be fair to say that the geographical spread is Province-wide?
  69. Mr Hutchinson: Yes, that is correct. The training centre at Blackwater House provided training in mechanical repair, but there is a gap in this part of the Province for training in paint and body repair. It has been hard to fill that gap.
  70. Mr Spratt: Perhaps we need to get those answers from other people.
  71. Mr Butler: Thank you for your presentation. Mr Philpott mentioned that 15 level-3 apprenticeship frameworks had been scored. Was that only at Belfast Metropolitan College?
  72. Mr Philpott: That is across the board. That is how the tenders were scored for all the submissions.
  73. Mr Butler: Are you saying that Belfast Metropolitan College still got a score, even though it does not offer the course?
  74. Mr Philpott: The organisations’ tenders were not assessed against their ability to deliver in a specific area; rather, they were assessed against all areas. One score was given that included our strengths and weaknesses, and that same rationale was applied to all organisations, including Transport Training Services at Nutts Corner.
  75. Mr Butler: What is the rationale for GCSEs not being recognised if they were gained more than five years ago?
  76. Mr Philpott: No clear indication has been given as to the rationale of that. We simply have to enforce it.
  77. Mr Butler: Is there some confusion about the training being provided in each of the 26 district council areas? DEL came up with the formula. Are you clear about whether people are limited to training in the council area in which they live?
  78. Mr McCullagh: One contract has been awarded for each of the 26 district council areas. People cannot be recruited from other districts.
  79. Mr Butler: That is strict.
  80. Mr Hutchinson: We do not know how that is going to be implemented.
  81. Mr Butler: Has DEL not given an explanation as to why that is the case?
  82. Mr Hutchinson: That was part of the tendering process. It was specified that bidders who could facilitate all 26 areas would be preferred.
  83. Mr Butler: You talked about integrating essential skills into the course, rather than making it separate. Has that been brought to the attention of the Departments? The literacy and numeracy strategy is a cross-departmental issue.
  84. Mr Barnes: The essential skills strategy does not come from the vocational training. It has been the other way round. That is part of the attempt to improve the maths and English skills of the general population. The problem is that there are restrictions as to how that fits into any occupational area. For example, because someone gained their GCSEs seven years ago does not mean that they cannot drive a vehicle. Their literacy would probably have improved with time, rather than regressed. The rules about essential skills create the biggest hurdles. Most organisations want to deliver the programme; however, the problem is that the rules and regulations are restrictive.
  85. Mrs McGill: Thank you for the information that you provided in your presentation. Do you believe that the training restrictions that apply across the 26 district council areas should be removed?
  86. I come from a part of the west that is equal in distance between the north-west and the south-west colleges. My question is without prejudice. Were that restriction removed, would young people in those areas be able to access training without having to travel long distances? I asked the same question when the issue of Carter and Carter first came to light.
  87. Mr Hutchinson: The answer is yes. They would have a choice of what college they would prefer to attend. From an employer’s point of view, that would instil a competitive element, which would create higher standards.
  88. Mrs McGill: Again, my question is without prejudice. Some groups claim that the colleges cannot deliver satisfactory courses because of equipment being out of date, etc. Do you believe that that is the case?
  89. Mr Hutchinson: There are strengths and weaknesses in the delivery of the courses across the Province. Part of our sector skills agreement involves working closely with all the colleges to try to raise standards. That is an ongoing process. We are embarking on a programme to encourage training providers to consider a national quality-standard system.
  90. I have been in the job for just over six months. During that time, I have had two meetings with quality-improvement groups about raising standards, and all the training providers were represented at those meetings.
  91. We are putting on events to help them raise their standards. The Association of Motor Vehicle Teachers will also hold events to raise the knowledge levels of staff who deliver training.
  92. Mrs McGill: Does that mean that people from the west, the north-west and the south-west would not have to travel long distances?
  93. Mr Barnes: That is a problem under the current scheme. If someone gets a job as an apprentice motor mechanic in Derry, he or she will have to travel to Omagh for training, rather than to Derry or Limavady.
  94. Mr Hutchinson: That is a specific problem that exists in the north-west; if that were enforced in the way that the contracts are issued, the north-west does not have a contract to deliver level-3 light-vehicle car repairs. We asked the Department and the colleges about that, and they agreed that it does not make sense for a young person to travel from Derry to Omagh. Their solution is a subcontracting arrangement whereby a college in Omagh would access the funding and commission a college in the north-west to deliver the training. As I said, that would create more administration to make something work that is not sensible.
  95. Mrs McGill: You mentioned the procurement document. Did you say that the process would be OK if the Department followed its own rules and regulations in the procurement document? Clearly, it has not followed them. You quoted a particular paragraph —
  96. Mr Hutchinson: We cherry-picked that paragraph.
  97. Mr Philpott: It depends on the interpretation of:

“required to provide details of all subcontractors and demonstrate how these arrangements can be delivered.”

  1. It depends on to what level of detail and to what extent.
  2. Mr Hutchinson: That is pretty clear. [Laughter.]
  3. Mrs McGill: If the Department had followed what it had written, would there have been a different result?
  4. The Chairperson: Yes — if the Department interpreted its document in the way that we wanted it to. You are putting Ken on the spot, and he does not want to answer.
  5. Mr Hutchinson: There may be something in that 180-page document that contradicts that.
  6. The Chairperson: It is an interesting point.
  7. Mrs McGill: Could you repeat your example on how the scoring did not deliver what it should have?
  8. Mr Philpott: Tenders were submitted by all those who were bidding. A significant number of those organisations were tendering for more than one framework area. For example, there is a minimum of four framework areas in the automotive field: selling vehicles, selling parts for vehicles, repairing vehicles and repairing body work. Therefore, any organisation in the automotive field that is tendering must do so on each of those four areas.
  9. The ability of any organisation to deliver on all of those is variable, because no organisation is excellent at selling parts, selling cars, fixing cars — including the fixing of commercial vehicles and the electrical aspects of vehicles — and making body repairs. No organisation is able to deliver quality training to the same standard in all four of those areas. Despite that, the process involved one score for the ability of an organisation to deliver on all the frameworks for which they tendered.
  10. Mrs McGill: What did the Department say about the debriefing?
  11. Mr McCullagh: The Department said that it did not have time to examine the bids and compare the criteria against each framework — it did not look at the frameworks, just the organisation.
  12. Mrs McGill: The Department examined the overview of the organisations, and decided which one got the contract on that basis.
  13. Mr Hutchinson: There seems to be a lack of understanding about training a heavy-vehicle mechanic. That is different to training a painter, a body repairer, a car mechanic or a motorcycle mechanic. The nature of our sector is that there are diverse skills requirements, so to lump them together and ask an organisation to deliver the training is virtually impossible.
  14. Mr Attwood: Thank you for your evidence. You represent a range of groups, including private training organisations, the FE sector, business and your own organisation. I find it impressive that the evidence from such a broad spread of people is on the same page, so we should listen carefully. I was not at the evidence session on procurement, but given what the Chairperson said earlier, we must probe the tension between what we say and what they say.
  15. You mentioned the ongoing review by departmental officials. On 23 April 2008, the Committee was given evidence that some progress had been made on funding for the not-yet-employed trainees and how to adjust training provision. Are you getting any success in the broader area of employed-apprenticeship strands? Have any conversations taken place with officials and have you received any positive responses to those?
  16. You gave a heavy warning about the problem that will arise in 2009. Can you reiterate what you expect the scale of that problem to be one year from now as TFS rolls out for people who are moving from level 2 to level 3?
  17. The Committee has been told that, because of concerns following the withdrawal of Carter and Carter, sample inspections will take place of organisations that have been awarded contracts. It is approaching two months since those contracts were awarded, so it may be too early for any sample inspections to have taken place, but are you aware that the inspectorate will inspect organisations that were awarded the contracts that were formerly held by Carter and Carter?
  18. Mr Hutchinson: No one would disagree that not a lot was wrong with the employed-apprenticeship strand of Jobskills. The change is the imposition of council area restrictions, which will create problems. The problems of Jobskills were to do with the not-yet-employed strands, rather than the apprenticeship strand, which was working well.
  19. I will explain why the progression from level 2 to level 3 has not yet impacted. The young people on Training for Success were recruited in September 2007, and most of them had 78 weeks in which to complete a level-2 framework. That brings them into February or March of 2009. All the training providers have a contract for level 2, but only the selected ones have a contract for level 3. Therefore, we do not know what will happen when the young people achieve their level-2 qualification and want to progress to level 3. Will they have to move to a training provider that has a contract for that area? I do not know the answer to that, but that is where the first impact will be felt.
  20. I heard that there were to be inspections.
  21. Mr Barnes: South Eastern Regional College will be inspected on Tuesday 6 May. I suspect that that is the first inspection; I have not heard of any others.
  22. Mr McCullagh: We will be inspected next week.
  23. Mr Attwood: Given that some recommendations have been made following the review, what conversations have you had with departmental officials?
  24. Mr Philpott: There are four aspects to the job-ready component of the programme. Working groups have been set up to address the issue of those who are not yet employed, but it is early days and a report outlining proposals for the way forward has not yet been produced.
  25. Mr Attwood: Officials presented a paper to the Committee, outlining their recommended changes to date.
  26. Mr Hutchinson: We read that draft document, but it seems to place too much focus on work placement, which concerns us, as it seems to be straying towards the old Jobskills programme.
  27. Mr Newton: I apologise for being late. Has the situation improved since the Jobskills programme was replaced? The GTG training programme in Scotland deals with 800 apprentices. Is there any merit in adopting such an approach?
  28. You talked about the sector skills agreement. When was that approved? Work must be done to find out the number and type of apprenticeships that are required for your sector. When will that information be available? The Minister has committed himself to a demand-led strategy, so that is the sort of information that will underpin such a strategy.
  29. Mr Hutchinson: Speaking from the perspective of my previous job in the Northern Regional College in Ballymena, the Jobskills programme seemed to work quite well. However, when the Public Accounts Committee quoted the facts and figures about achievements, and so on, I did not recognise them from my corner of the world in Ballymena. I do not know whether anyone else here would agree with that view.
  30. Mr Newton: The Jobskills programme was described by the PAC as putting £500 million down the drain.
  31. Mr Hutchinson: I know only about how the programme worked in my little corner of the world, and it seemed to work quite well there. In fact, the majority of learners went straight from school to a funded training programme. They achieved their level-2 apprenticeships, and 89% of them progressed to employment in my corner of the world. I do not know whether the situation was similar at Belfast Metropolitan College and at Lisburn Institute.
  32. Mr Philpott: The situation would be very similar in those colleges. The main measurement that was taken from the PAC report was the ability to get people into jobs, with no significance given to the actual distances that those people have to travel. Many of those people come from very difficult circumstances, and they have improved themselves through education and gone into other aspects of life.
  33. Mr Hutchinson: Unofficially, we would prefer not to place young people with certain employers in Ballymena, as they may exploit the system by continually attempting to replace one trainee with another.
  34. The impact of essential skills has been minimal for those deliverers that were providing key skills separately. They were bringing in maths and English teachers to provide those skills, so now they are simply doing something different. That has been devastating for the training providers who were attempting to fully integrate numeracy and literacy into vocational training. They were teaching key skills as part of the vocational training. That has been removed, and it has created all sorts of problems. I cannot see any significant improvement for our sector through the Training for Success programme.
  35. Mr Barnes: Many of the changes were implemented for providers at level 3, but, in my view, level-3 apprenticeships were very effective through the Jobskills programme. The apprentice was employed and the only necessary funding was for training. Level-3 key skills would have been sorted out at that stage, whereas now that might not be the case.
  36. Under Jobskills, the companies employed the apprentices, who stayed. The odd person may have dropped out, but that was probably because something else came along or they wanted a career change, and that will remain the case for Training for Success.
  37. However, the way in which we provide level-3 training has changed. Under the Jobskills programme, there was no exploitation of apprentices at level 3, because they were employed. Exploitation was a problem only at level 2, and its provision has not really changed. Despite all the talk about change, the rules and regulations are much the same as before.
  38. Mr Newton: Has the employed strand had a big effect in your council area?
  39. Mr McCullagh: We have been involved only with employed level-3 apprentices. Under Jobskills, we received funding, and we were able to recruit and service employers anywhere in the Province. Since that funding was withdrawn, we and the employers have been worse off.
  40. Mr Hutchinson: What about the investment?
  41. Mr McCullagh: We had to put the investment plans for our company on hold, until we knew whether there would be a future in training for motor-vehicle qualifications. Subsequently, through exactly the same process, we were awarded a huge body-repair contract. The strength of our business is vehicle maintenance and repair, but the process threw us a contract for 14 local government areas in Northern Ireland, and we now have to accelerate our development to be able to cover it.
  42. Mr Hutchinson: You mentioned the GTG Training model in Scotland, and it was fascinating to see that in operation. The GTG model has only employed apprentices, and it works with local colleges, some of which offer work-based training provision. We visited Motherwell, where a substantial number of employed apprentices have the option to be full time, and it seems to work well. It is not perfect by any means, but the Sector Skills Council will certainly look at provision elsewhere, particularly south of the border. There was a friendly rivalry between the private organisation, GTG Training, and the colleges, notably Motherwell College.
  43. It is ironic that the institute put forward common-sense recommendations in February 2008, when I was not fully aware of what was happening in Scotland, and GTG Training seemed to be operating to standards contained in those recommendations.
  44. The research is under way, and we have employed an organisation to phone every motor business in the automotive sector to find out how the number of employees, an email addresses and the boss’s name. Using that base data, we can start to calculate the demand for trainees. The report is due at the end of 2008, which will be in time to inform the teachers who give career guidance before the new intake of trainees in September 2009.
  45. Mr Newton: How much investment is required?
  46. Mr McCullagh: We are ready to spend £1·25 million. We have received planning permission, the drawings are finished, and the provisional costings have been calculated — which is what held us up over the past year.
  47. Mr Newton: Is the £1·25 million to purchase a site?
  48. Mr McCullagh: Yes, at Nutts Corner.
  49. The Chairperson: Thank you again for your presentation. Our report is due to be signed off in the next couple of weeks, and the information that you have given us to date has been useful.
  50. Mr Spratt: I am seriously concerned, as I am sure are other members of the Committee, about the young people who have not been placed. We need some feedback from the Department on exactly what it has been done, what it is doing, and when it is likely to pick up the people who have dropped out. That serious issue must be dealt with immediately. That runs contrary to what the Department told us earlier.
  51. The Chairperson: The Deputy Chairperson is absolutely right. If the Committee has any concerns after receiving a presentation, those concerns will be followed up. The Committee will be reporting to the Assembly at the end of May, so it would be beneficial if you could forward any information that you think could be useful.
  52. Thank you very much. You have been quite helpful over the last number of months.
  53. Agenda item 3 is the briefing from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) on Training for Success. Members will recall that ICTU made a request to provide the Committee with a briefing of its view on Training for Success. I welcome Peter Bunting, Jim McKeown and Liam Gallagher. Jim is a regular at this Committee — perhaps we should move him around the table and he could become a full Committee member.
  54. I hand over to the ICTU representatives for the presentation, followed by questions and answers. You are more than welcome to the Committee. We are quite open to accepting any information that you can provide on Training for Success or issues associated with it.
  55. Mr Peter Bunting (Irish Congress of Trade Unions): Thank you very much for the invitation to provide oral evidence to the Committee. ICTU is deeply interested in making a contribution to Training for Success, and giving our views on how best to provide the young people concerned with further education. The only way that that can be done — particularly for those people who have fallen out of the education net between the ages of 15 and 18 — for the success of the Northern Ireland economy, is to ensure that they are provided for in a manner that encourages them to take up sustainable further education. Whether that is done through apprenticeship schemes or similar, it is absolutely necessary.
  56. My colleagues — both Jim McKeown, who is the regional official for the University and College Union in Northern Ireland; and Liam Gallagher, who is also an employee of the North West Regional College — have far more expertise in this area than me.
  57. Mr Jim McKeown (Irish Congress of Trade Unions): Thank you, Peter. As far as Training for Success is concerned, it is still early days. The scheme only commenced in September 2007. We are in a transitional year in which the old Jobskills programme is finishing, and the Training for Success programme is beginning to roll out.
  58. Before I say too much about the programme, I pay tribute to the work of Nuala Kerr and Des Lyness from the Department for Employment and Learning, for the hard work and effort that they put in to get the scheme up and running. From my own experience, I found them extremely helpful and committed to making this scheme work. They listen when points are made, and if they can address those points, they treat them seriously.
  59. I am sure that the Committee is aware that a number of issues appear to have caused concern. One of those was the tendering process, particularly with regard to the allocation of lead roles in respect of level-3 apprentices.
  60. There have been a lot of rumours and discussions, particularly in the aftermath of the Carter and Carter debacle. It might be helpful from the Committee’s point of view, and from the wider trade union movement, to know what was involved in the tendering process. We would like to see some sort of analysis, explanation or justification as to why organisations were awarded tenders, particularly in relation to the delivery of level-3 programmes. Perhaps, as Training for Success is kept under review, we might see some sort of report into that process.
  61. Initial research has been conducted by the Learning and Skills Development Agency, which looked at a snapshot of the early introduction of Training for Success. Having read that report, the agency is very positive about many aspects of the scheme and — at least in the initial rolling-out of the scheme — there appears to have been encouraging developments, compared with people’s experiences under the old Jobskills programme.
  62. As Members are aware, the scheme has two strands: the apprenticeship strand, involving level-2 and level-3 apprentices; and the job ready-strand, which encourages people to become job ready. The numbers involved in the apprenticeship strand appear to be holding up well, compared with Jobskills programme at the same time last year. The numbers involved in apprentice training have increased by about 12%.
  63. As for the job-ready strand, there is an issue regarding the recruitment of potential trainees, whereby the numbers are down by approximately 2,000. There are issues about where those young people have gone — the young people who leave school at 16 years of age, who are pretty far from the labour market and who have difficulty getting employment. Schemes such as Training for Success are available to help make those young people job ready. However, if they are out of the cohort that was expected, then about 2,000 are missing, and that will require investigation. It may be that there is a blip in the demographics and that the numbers have gone down; it may be that some of those young people have found jobs. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to know what has happened to that substantial number of young people.
  64. As for the apprenticeship stand, one of the concerns of the trade union movement is that no data is kept on the number or types of employers involved in the scheme. We are interested in the issue of access and in ensuring that young people — particularly in rural communities — have access to high-quality training. However, if we do not know which employers are engaged, where those employers are based and whether they are small or large employers, there is a gap in our knowledge as to how the scheme is working.
  65. We have a small- to medium-sized-employer economy. One of the criticisms of the Jobskills programme was the lack of engagement by small employers. It would be interesting to see to what extent the small employers are engaging now with Training for Success. Our anecdotal evidence is that the small employers are still facing the difficulties that they experienced under the Jobskills programme regarding high insurance costs for taking on trainees and having to pay travel costs if a young person has to attend college two or three days a week. We need to see data regarding the small employers.
  66. We also need data in relation to wages. The notion behind Training for Success was that anyone who was on the apprenticeship strand was a paid employee. No data is kept on whether the young people on the programme are receiving a wage from their employer, and that situation must be looked at. The national minimal wage applies only to people who are 19 years of age and older. We have some knowledge of young people under the age of 19 being recruited, and their wage is £40, which is the minimum training allowance available to people on the job-ready strand.
  67. For those young people, even though they are apprentices, wages are pitifully small. There must be some requirement in the arrangements between employers and the Department so that, when a young person is taken on, a declaration should be made as to the salary that will be paid. We ought to monitor that: both training and wages should be monitored. There is a need to build into the contractual arrangements a facility to ensure that young people receive a proper wage for their work and that they are not paid the basic minimum or, even lower, the equivalent of the educational maintenance allowance.
  68. Travel is another problem that has emerged with regard to allowances that are paid to young people. Level-2 or level-3 apprentices must attend local colleges or training organisations for two or three days each week. Travel costs are involved. Whereas the Department makes a travel allowance available to young people who are not employed, the employer has to meet the travel costs of apprentices attending college. There may be an equality-of-treatment issue: the travel expenses of young people who are not employed, and who are on the job-ready strand, are paid. To encourage employers, and ensure that young people get the underpinning knowledge and theory associated with their classroom activities, perhaps employers should be able to claim travel expenses for their apprentices. There may be a case for that.
  69. Another concern that we have, with respect to the apprentice strand, is that in some industries there is an issue of access for level-3 apprentices. Such higher-qualified young people are training for plumbing and electrical engineering. That strand is working pretty well, apart from the access issue. Organisations such as the Electrical Training Trust (ETT) engage with big employers in Northern Ireland, and young people on the programme are trained to industry-led standards. However, the urban/rural divide presents difficulties, in that it is mainly the bigger, urban-based organisations which take on apprentices. In areas where there are no large employers, young people do not have the same access to training opportunities as those in urban areas. That must be addressed.
  70. In the construction industry particularly, we begin to see a downturn and employer organisations are downsizing. In Tyrone, young people who were recruited as apprentices are being laid off. My evidence for that comes from the reports of members in colleges. As a result of that, they are put off the apprentice training programme. That is something that needs to be looked at. If a young person is recruited as an apprentice, there should be a binding obligation on parties to ensure that they have an opportunity to serve their time.
  71. I hark back to the old days of indentured apprenticeships: they existed when I was an apprentice, many years ago. That system has long gone. However, when a young person is recruited as an apprentice, he or she should be given an opportunity to complete that apprenticeship and attain qualification. The present scheme does not permit that. A young person who becomes unemployed, or loses his or her job for whatever reason, is off the apprentice strand. In England, when employers lay off apprentices, there is a programme for them to carry on with their apprentice training at a college or some other training organisation and, in that way, complete their apprenticeship. There is a need for something similar to be done here.
  72. Another issue that the trade union movement has with the scheme is that it focuses primarily on the private sector. At present, only private-sector employers can engage in Training for Success. I have raised this issue with Department for Employment and Learning officials, who say that the public sector is not involved because, if it were to draw down money from the training scheme, that would represent double funding. The consequence is that good major employers, such as the Housing Executive, local authorities and the Health Service, which have standards for the delivery of services, and so on, are not in a position to recruit and train apprentices. Perhaps, there is a need to relax the system.
  73. I can understand the Government’s desire to grow the private sector. However, there is also a need to grow young people’s skills. If no employers are available in certain areas, why not involve the public sector in those areas to deliver apprenticeship training? There is no reason why that could not happen. It would encourage more people into the scheme.
  74. I will finish by discussing briefly the job-ready strand of the programme. As I have said, almost 6,000 young people are recruited into that strand. That figure is down on the equivalent figure for 2007. There are three main aspects of the overall strand: pre-apprenticeship; skills for work; and personal development. The pre-apprenticeship strand encourages young people to obtain a technical certificate that would enable them to get into level-2 apprenticeships and to progress to level 3. That is good because it offers a progression route for those young people.
  75. However, for the other two areas of the strand, there are no progression routes. Young people are engaged in a 52-week programme with a college or a training organisation. They are not employed and there is nothing at the end of it. If they cannot find employment, where do they go? At present, we just do not know.
  76. Thought must be given to opportunities for progression for young people who may not obtain a technical certificate. Colleges tell me that, realistically, the people who are on the programme are unlikely to attain a technical certificate in one year. Although they could complete, perhaps, 60% to 80% of it in a year, most of them would find it difficult to achieve the full technical certificate in that time. Therefore, we must consider some flexibility in the scheme that will allow those young people to carry on.
  77. There are also issues about placing people in the correct area of the programme. There is, perhaps, a need during the first month of the programme to carry out an in-depth assessment of young people’s capabilities, aptitudes and so on — more diagnostic testing — to ensure that they are put on a career path that is appropriate for them. One of the big criticisms of the modern apprenticeships programme under Jobskills was its high drop-out rate. The reason for that was that many young people who were recruited into modern apprenticeships found it difficult to achieve the high degree of rigour that was associated with the programme. That must be avoided in the new programme. The way to do that is to ensure that young people are put on a career path that is most appropriate for them.
  78. Those are the main issues that I have with the scheme’s functions. At present, the new scheme appears to be an improvement on the old Jobskills programme. However, as I have said, it is early days. We must keep the situation under review, and ensure that the type of situation that arose under Jobskills, whereby young people were seen as free labour and given little by way of training, is not repeated.
  79. The Chairperson: Thank you, Jim. Before I open the floor for questions and comments, I want to address a few housekeeping matters. Several members must leave the meeting to attend to other Committee business. Two members have indicated that they wish to ask questions or make comments. I want to know whether any other members wish to do so, so that we can work out a time frame before the Committee loses quorum.
  80. This is the Committee’s last formal session on Training for Success. We will then go into Committee business and sign off on our report. We have, I dare say, saved the best until last, because you have raised valid issues and made useful suggestions and proposals. I acknowledge your tribute to Nuala Kerr and Des Lyness from the Department; and — credit where credit is due — you said that they listened to your points. It might now be useful if those points are taken on board.
  81. Although Training for Success and the tendering process are the remit of another Committee and another Department, this Committee requested the continuing professional development map, and we met those representatives formally because the Committee had queries and concerns about the tendering process. The Committee is, therefore, taking Training for Success seriously.
  82. I raised concerns with the Comptroller and Auditor General, John Dowdall, about the tendering process. That goes beyond the remit of this Committee, but we were given the authority to do that. We are not just looking at apprenticeships; we are also looking at the wider issue of Training for Success. It is valid to raise the issue of the public and private sector. However, can the community and voluntary sector avail themselves of Training for Success apprenticeships or pre-apprenticeships?
  83. Mr McKeown: I do not know.
  84. The Chairperson: There is an issue about double funding, which we will probably examine. You have raised a valid point on area-based apprenticeships — if there are public-sector services available, there could be a way to get people apprenticeships or a route into apprenticeships.
  85. Thank you for your presentation, and I want to thank Jim for the paper that you provided for the Committee, following our discussion last week.
  86. Mr Ross: I have four points to make in respect of your presentation. Why have so many people dropped out, and is there any contact with them after they leave? You said that there was a lack of data in many areas. Has the Department indicated that it will try to collate that data in order to establish which parts of the scheme are successful and why people are leaving?
  87. My third point relates to the minimum wage and the exploitation of young workers, which have been mentioned time and again during these evidence sessions. How can employers be encouraged to pay a fair wage? Obviously, the Department cannot dictate salaries to employers, because that would turn employers away. Finally, what discussions have you had about public-sector buying?
  88. Mr McKeown: On first point about data and drop-outs, we are in the first year of the scheme and the civil servants who are responsible for setting it up have, I imagine, had all their time occupied with getting the scheme rolled out and dealing with providers. There is a need to collate data, and that seems not to have been done. I am not sure how that can be done, but it needs to be done. Collaborating with schools and colleges might show how many school leavers went into training or further education or to university. In that way, we might be able to identify localities where people are missing out on the training programme. Data on employer numbers is not collated, but it would not be too big an effort to arrange for that data to be collated.
  89. Mr Liam Gallagher (Irish Congress of Trade Unions): No one is suggesting forcing employers to pay a fair wage. However, it is the employers’ side that is saying that there is a skills shortage and that they need people in key industries.
  90. We can set acceptable practice for employers, which should be based on a percentage of what a craftsperson or tradesperson would earn. Employers would buy into that. Employers often ask how much they should be paying an employee.
  91. Mr Bunting: Although we should not dictate to employers, there should be a norm in the industry. That norm could be established through the Construction Employers Federation or the trade union movement, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Agency. We must protect people from exploitation. We are morally obliged to ensure that there is not a race to the bottom and that there is a norm that all employers in the industry pay — that happens at various levels in the construction sector and various industries. The absence of an accepted norm attacks good employers by undercutting them. Good employers want to take on apprenticeships, make a contribution to society and upskill young people, but they are undercut by employers who want to exploit young people.
  92. It is in all our interests, and the interests of the Northern Ireland economy, to have a norm. Under the auspices of the LRA, there are mechanisms that can provide that norm.
  93. Mr Attwood: Thank you for the extensive presentation, which touched on a range of recurring themes from past weeks and raised new issues.
  94. At last week’s Committee meeting, the departmental officials did not seem aware that a problem is developing around level-2 and level-3 apprenticeships in construction. I checked with one college, which confirmed that, in its view, a problem is developing. Although it is early days and the evidence is anecdotal, given that a significant proportion of total apprenticeships are in construction, can you tell the Committee anything more about that problem? Given the property and credit situation, a problem for apprenticeships in construction is expected. However, getting to grips with the scale of that problem will be important.
  95. There is a way to deal with the wages issue without the Labour Relations Agency. In England, the level of wages paid is a condition of contract. Therefore, mechanisms can be built into contracts that require employers to step up to the mark. Have you discussed the issue of wages with the Department? I ask that because, last week, I was surprised to hear that the Department had only begun to talk to people in England about the models of better practice that have employed in apprenticeship training contracts heretofore. I was surprised that the Department had not been working on that issue more robustly.
  96. Mr McKeown: The Department regards wages as an issue between an employer and an employee — it is not a matter for a Department. We disagree, because this is a training scheme and, given the bad publicity that surrounded the Jobskills programme and the evidence that it was being used to exploit young people, there is an onus on the Department to ensure that wages gap is plugged. There is an opportunity to do that by insisting that employers indicate what they are paying. That will vary from area to area, but it is likely that a norm will emerge.
  97. That issue has been raised with the Department. I expect them to examine it in the fullness of time, hopefully sooner rather than later.
  98. Mr L Gallagher: I will provide a north-west perspective, having assessed the regional disparity in the uptake of the construction scheme. We are constantly told that the scheme’s raison d’être is to engage the disengaged, and I accept that the scheme is an improvement. However, there is a serious problem in that people in areas of high unemployment and social deprivation in Northern Ireland are often denied access.
  99. There are 34,000 disengaged people in the north-west: 9,600 of those people receive incapacity benefit; 6,000 are full-time carers; and 5,500 are on the live register. There are also people who leave school with four GCSEs but are denied access to the scheme because they do not have an employer. There is something fundamentally wrong with that system. For example, a kid may have grown up surrounded by endemic second- and third-generation unemployment, never having known their parents or grandparents to be working. That youngster may attempt to rise above the circumstances into which they were born by accessing a skills training course. There is something badly wrong if we cannot grant them that access.
  100. The solution is a mixed model, which works successfully in England. Employment-led schemes are fine — if there are sufficient employers. However, youngsters should never be denied access to a scheme due to a lack of employers.
  101. The Chairperson: Jim McKeown made a point earlier about the public sector, and the community and voluntary sector. Would that help to alleviate access problems for people in the north-west?
  102. Mr L Gallagher: It would go some way to resolving the problem. However, ultimately, a mixed model is the best solution. Employer-led schemes are excellent in an ideal world, but we simply do not have enough employers. The Electrical Training Trust (ETT) has 70 apprentices in Ballymena, but, unfortunately, had only four in Derry in one particular year. If you are beside the fire, you get the heat; if you are at the back door, you get the draft.
  103. The Chairperson: That is a good saying; I may use that in future.
  104. Mr Butler: Thank you very much for your presentation. It emerged from one of the evidence sessions that level 3 is the highest apprenticeship qualification that can be achieved under Training for Success. Some people have told us that the standard of apprenticeship qualification is much higher in the South. Given that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has an interest in both jurisdictions, is that of concern to you?
  105. Representatives of the motor industry — who were with us earlier — mentioned that essential skills have not been integrated into the apprenticeship, in the same way that the key skills have. You did not mention the integration of the essential skills, which seem to improve numeracy and literacy among the general adult population.
  106. Are you concerned that the 26 contract areas are based on the 26 district councils? DEL seems to be confused about where the providers, and the people, come from.
  107. Mr McKeown: I am not aware of any evidence that suggests that the standard of apprenticeship is higher in the South. Fermanagh College ran apprenticeship training courses on behalf of Foras Áiseanna Saothair (FÁS) for a number of years, in association with the Letterkenny Institute of Technology.
  108. If the standards were lower here, that course may not have been available. I am not convinced that that is a valid argument. The essential skills of literacy and numeracy are included in the level-2 and level-3 programmes. There may be some issues at the job-ready strand that are not employer-led. All colleges and training organisations are required to integrate skills such as literacy, numeracy, computer skills and so on, into training programmes. Therefore, I am interested to see the evidence that such skills are not taught as part of training programmes.
  109. The monitoring system based on local council boundaries is the system that is available to the administrators. Perhaps there is a better method; I do not know enough about that.
  110. Mr Bunting: I do not know whether the Republic of Ireland has a higher skill level, but I can find out in a matter of days, and I will send the relevant information. It is easier to become an apprentice in the Republic primarily because of the trade union organisations and the social-partnership line between the trade unions and the Construction Industry Federation in major urban areas.
  111. The difficulty in Northern Ireland is that the construction industry is deregulated and everyone is self-employed. As Jimmy McKeown outlined, it is difficult for such a vast range of small employers to support apprenticeships. For example, in Strangford, a builder requested that a potential apprentice take out £3,000 insurance prior to employment. Insurance for apprentices costs £5,000 for a small builder.
  112. At some stage, deregulating the construction industry might have been a good idea. However, we have shot ourselves in two feet on issues such as tendering, public procurement, infrastructure and so on. The largest building firm in Northern Ireland employs approximately 20 people. However, Laing O’Rourke — a GB company that has secured contracts in Northern Ireland — ensures that everyone on the site is employed by them.
  113. We have moved away from that system because it has posed huge difficulties in encouraging a consistent number of young people to learn skills through an apprenticeship. Northern Ireland’s economy will be damaged, and we will lose out on investment in infrastructural building unless we identify and rectify the problems in the construction industry.
  114. Mr Butler: Does the social partnership in the South between the Government, industry and trade unions make it easier for people to secure apprenticeships?
  115. Mr Bunting: They work together in a very controlled system. Apprenticeships are well catered for because of economies of scale, and so on. I am not sure whether the Republic of Ireland has a higher skill level than us. It may, perhaps, be a bit lower. Sometimes, we over-egg the pudding when we talk about how wonderful the Republic of Ireland is. However, I will research the comparison in skill levels and send the information to the secretary.
  116. Mrs McGill: I am glad that you raised the issue of travel; it was raised by the Chairperson and others during last week’s meeting, at which you were present. Did you write or talk to the Department about that matter? If not, it would be worthwhile to do so, and to hear your suggestions on how to improve the inequality of treatment.
  117. You made a critical point about employment and lack thereof.
  118. Mr Butler: Jimmy McKeown is always contacting the Department. [Laughter.]
  119. Mrs McGill: Did you talk to the Department about the issue of travel?
  120. Mr McKeown: We raised that issue with the Department, but I am quite happy to write to them about it and a range of other issues. I am also happy to send a paper to the Committee, based on the presentation that I made this morning.
  121. Mrs McGill: You raised some good points about travel that you should make to the Department.
  122. The Chairperson: Those points will be recorded in the Committee’s minutes and in Hansard, so we can also make them to the Department. Thank you for your presentation.

Appendix 3

Written Evidence
Submitted by Witnesses

Department for Employment and Learning
10 October 2007

Success Through Excellence
Quality Improvement Strategy
An Overview

Quality Improvement Strategy – Success Through Excellence

1. Background

2. Introduction

1. the Inspectorate, to ensure that inspection provides clear, consistent and accurate reporting and grading of further education and training provision, resources and supports effectively the culture of self-improvement, and identifies and assists in the dissemination of innovative and effective practice;

2. the LSDA (NI), to secure better outcomes for learners and employers by providing focus and support for quality improvement in the further education and training system;

3. LLUK, to develop a standards-based framework for the further education and training system including the community based learning sector, which supports continuous professional development for all teachers, trainers and tutors;

4. the key recommendations outlined in the joint Department/LSDA (NI) report, “Purpose, performance and public value”, and ensure they are integrated into the Quality Improvement Strategy; and

5. the Department’s contract management function, to ensure a consistent approach to the monitoring of contracts, which focuses on high quality and improved performance from contracted providers, managed and co-ordinated through a Departmental Quality and Performance Branch (QPB).

6. At an operational level, the Strategy has been designed to enhance the quality of further education and training programmes funded by the Department. It is intended to ensure that quality thresholds and performance measures are defined across the Department’s provision, that lessons are drawn from external inspection and addressed appropriately and coherently, and that a range of support and capacity building activities aimed at improving performance, are provided in an appropriate way. In addition, the Strategy outlines principles for addressing, where appropriate, poor quality provision and depends on effective partnerships with the Inspectorate, LSDA (NI), LLUK and the providers in the further education and training system.

3. Recent Work/Developments

4. Conclusion

The Department is determined to drive up quality. Working with the Inspectorate, it gives providers notice to improve within a reasonable timescale. However, if improvements are not demonstrated to a satisfactory level during the planned programme of follow-up inspections, steps will be taken by the Department that may result ultimately in removing a provider’s funding and/or contract. Quality improvement are an integral part of the Department’s funding and planning arrangements for the FE and training system.

A copy of the Quality Improvement Strategy – Success Through Excellence is attached.

October 2007

Annex A

Glossary

Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) provides inspection services and information for the Department about the quality of further education and training provision, with the key purpose of promoting improvement.

LSDA (NI) is part of the Learning and Skills Network (LSN),.It delivers quality improvement and staff development programmes that support specific education and training initiatives through research, training consultancy and by supplying services directly to colleges and training organisations.

LLUK is the sector skills council (SSC) responsible for developing and implementing a range of services to support continuous professional development for those who work in further education, higher education, work-based learning and community learning sectors.

This report outlined the findings of Chris Hughes’s* review of the measurement of quality assurance and performance of the professional and technical training sector in Northern Ireland.

* Chris Hughes was Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) from 1998 to December 2004. During that time, at the invitation of the Department for Employment and Learning, LSDA extended its operations from England and Wales to Northern Ireland.

Education & Training Inspectorate
24 October 2007

Memorandum to the Assembly Employment and Learning Committee: Meeting Scheduled for 24 October 2007

Summary

1. Representatives of the Education and Training Inspectorate (the Inspectorate)

1.1 Marion Matchett: Chief Inspector

2. The Work of the Inspectorate

2.2 The Education and Training Inspectorate (the Inspectorate) is a unitary Inspectorate responsible for the provision of inspection services and information about the quality of education, youth and training to DEL, DCAL and DE. In addition, the Inspectorate also carries out work for DHSSPS, DARD and OFMDFM. The current organisation of the Inspectorate is in the supporting papers as set out in Annex 4.

2.3 There is a published Memorandum of Understanding between the Inspectorate, DEL, DCAL and DE. Each year, through the business planning process, service level agreements are established between the Inspectorate and each of the three Departments.

3. The Chief Inspector’s Report 2004-2006

3.1 The Evidence Base

Published on 24th April 2007, the evidence base comprised the findings from 1,490 inspections and surveys of the work of 5,000 teachers, trainers and other professionals, across provision funded by DEL, DE and DCAL.

Key Messages

In reviewing the outcome of inspection findings across DEL, DCAL and DE the report identifies three key themes needed to underpin future policy and strategy to ensure that all learners, however faltering, experience the success of which they are capable:

3.2 Helping learners to reach their full potential

3.3 Connecting better for learners

3.4 Leading at a time of change

3.5 Key Recurring Themes: What Needs to Improve Further

3.6 Additional challenges facing the system

This section of the report provides an evaluation of particular issues in education, training and youth work that present growing challenges, outlines the response made by the Department(s) and evaluates progress to date. Further detail is included within supporting papers at Annex 3.

3.7 Inspection and Improvement Strategy

Following the publication of the report the Inspectorate has begun to work on a series of dissemination conferences for Departmental Board(s), stakeholders and sectoral groups in order to outline the main findings, to discuss the implications of these and to use inspection findings to promote improvement in the interests of all learners.

Annex 1

Chief Inspector’s Report 2004-2006

General Comments

Positive Features

Areas for Development

Annex 2

Key Recurring Themes: What Needs To Improve Further (1)

Diversity and Mutual Understanding

Special Educational Needs

Improving Achievement

Key Recurring Themes: What Needs To Improve Further (2)

Leadership and Management

ICT and ILT

Improving Teaching: Improving Learning

Annex 3

Additional Challenges

1. Improving Education and Training

2. Governance

3. Demographics

4. 14-19 Provision

5. Careers Education Information Advice and Guidance (CEIAG)

Annex 4

Organisation of the Inspectorate

Organisation of the Inspectorate

Department for Employment and Learning
28 November 2007

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Three additional papers were also submitted by the Department for Employment and Learning, as part of this briefing, and relate to:

As these are lengthy documents, they can be accessed at the following links:

http://www.trainingforsuccess.co.uk/web_version_of_suppliers_-_version_5.pdf

http://www.trainingforsuccess.co.uk/level_2_-_3_apprenticeship_guidelines_-_4th_issue.pdf

http://www.trainingforsuccess.co.uk/jrguidelinessept07-2.pdf

Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA)
16 January 2008

LSDA NI Logo.ai

1. Learning and Skills Development Agency Northern Ireland (LSDA NI) was established in May 2003. It is part of the Learning and Skills Network which is an independent not for profit organisation. LDSA NI has a contract with the Department for Employment & Learning (DEL) and our core remit is Quality Improvement. Our services or programmes support learning providers – governors, first line, middle and senior managers (including principals) teachers and trainers and our aim is to build capacity within the education and training sector to embed continuous self improvement. Initially our programme of support was for the FE sector only and from 2005 our remit was widened to include the Work Based Learning sector. However with regard to Essential Skills our support covered FE, WBL and voluntary and community organisations from 2003.

2. ‘Success through Excellence’ DEL’s quality improvement strategy identified a key role for LSDA NI to work closely in partnership with DEL and the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) to provide development and support for the sector. LSDA NI works collaboratively with ETI, contract managers and providers to ensure the best possible outcomes for the organisations and their learners.

LSDA NI provide advice and support to further education and training providers through tailored programmes of quality improvement, where need is identified by the providers themselves, ETI and/or DEL. LSDA NI provides a regional focus to enable providers to learn from others in the sector, and to disseminate good practice.

3. LSDA NI support is provided by

4. Our support programme strands include

5. Training for Success support

• Training events

• Teaching Thinking Certificate

• Action Learning Leadership and Management Programme

• IQRS Support

• Study visits

• Listening to Learners

• Listening to Staff

• Listening to Employers

• Quality Improvement Unit

• Contract Managers

• Careers Managers

• Training Inspectors

• Training Programmes Branch

Contact Details

Sector Skills Councils
16 January 2008

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Ronnie Moore

Skills Director National

Energy & Utility Skills

Sector Skills Council for Gas, Electricity, Water and Waste Management

I am based in Belfast and have worked for EU Skills for the past 3 years; my present role requires me to work across all 4 Countries and ROI.

I manage the Skills Solution team with Skills Managers based in Scotland, Wales, England and NI, this responsibility requires me to have a sound understanding of the Skills agenda and employer, stakeholders needs UK wide.

Prior to joining the Sector Skill Council I worked in the Electrical Industry for 30 Years, this Electrical Engineering background has helped me in my present job, in particular as I work with all the major Electricity Companies UK and ROI.

Energy and Utility Skills.pdf
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Engineering Training Services

ENGINEERING TRAINING SERVICES.pdf
ENGINEERING TRAINING SERVICES.pdf
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ENGINEERING TRAINING SERVICES.pdf

Construction Employers
Federation (CEF)
23 January 2008

Position Paper for the Employment and Learning Assembly Committee Submitted by the Construction Employers Federation (CEF)

Monitoring the Implementation of Training for Success: The Construction Industry Perspective

Background to the Construction Employers Federation

The Construction Employers Federation (CEF) is the certified employers association for the construction industry in Northern Ireland. Our role is to promote the interests of the Northern Ireland construction industry. We have approximately 1000 member firms. The make up of our membership reflects the diversity of the industry in terms of work type, geographic location, turnover and numbers employed.

Background to the Construction Industry in Northern Ireland

Approximately 80,000 people are employed in construction locally and it is now one of the largest industrial sectors in Northern Ireland. Construction activity accounts for 14% of Northern Ireland’s GVA (i.e. wealth creation) and total annual output is £3.4bn.

Introduction

On 27 June 2007 CEF submitted a paper to the Employment and Learning Assembly Committee entitled “Construction Apprenticeships in Crisis”. This brief document set out some serious concerns that the industry had regarding the introduction of Training for Success and highlighted the confusion that existed amongst construction employers regarding the imminent roll out of Training for Success. ‘Construction Apprenticeships in Crisis’ is attached for ease of reference.

More than six months on and following the commencement of Training for Success this paper attempts to succinctly summarise the construction industry’s perspective on the implementation of Training for Success.

The Federation believes strongly that every effort must be made to ensure that Training for Success delivers for both trainees and employers and thus for the benefit of society in Northern Ireland.

This paper has been structured to address the Committee’s terms of reference regarding the monitoring of the roll-out and delivery of Training for Success as published on 10 October 2007. Naturally its focus is directed toward the third item of the Terms of Reference regarding the alignment of Training for Success with the needs of local industry sectors.

1. Are the providers of the training programmes fully equipped (staff and resources) to deliver the highest quality training within their particular sector?

Regarding construction apprenticeships we have received the following feedback from training providers:

1. 60% of candidates for construction apprenticeship were not employed as apprentices after 13 weeks. During this 13 week period training providers were asked to provide 35 hours of training per week spread across the 5 days. Due to a lack of resources many training providers could not deliver this. Instead training providers operated a variety of programmes as follows:

2. Due to the late implementation of Training for Success, the vagueness of the tender documents and, for some, the complications resulting from the colleges merging, training providers had been given very little time to gear up to provide the highest quality training.

2. Do the geographical coverage and access arrangements allow for trainees to pursue their chosen training path?

CEF has not received any evidence to suggest that the geographical coverage and access arrangements are prohibiting trainees to pursue their chosen training path.

3. Is Training for Success firmly aligned to the needs of local industry and business sectors?

The Situation after 13 Weeks of Training for Success

Of the 2000+ construction trainees on Training for Success there are three main categories:

(a) trainees fully employed as apprentices

(b) trainees on a non-employed training programme with a work placement

(c) trainees on a non-employed training programme with no work placement

Only 40% of construction trainees are fully employed as apprentices. The other 60% are in non-employed training programmes, some with a work placement and others without.

Whilst such a low rate of employment is extremely disappointing, due to the way in which Training for Success has been introduced this does not come as a surprise. This is not what the construction industry sought from the introduction of training for success.

Return to Jobskills?

The Federation is extremely concerned that Jobskills-style free labour has crept back into the training system under Training for Success. As noted above some colleges have placed non-employed trainees with employers for 3 days of the week from the outset of the programme.

This creates the situation where some employers are paying an apprentice a wage to work 3 days a week and attend training 2 days per week whilst other employers are getting the same package for free.

We are informed that there have been cases where employers have changed the status of their worker from originally being a fully employed apprentice to a non-employed placement trainee once they found out that was an option. This appears to be against the written rules but has happened in practice.

The Federation is also alarmed that in the 13-26 week period a non-employed trainee is allowed, under the scheme rules, to attend a work placement for 2 days per week This increases after the 26 weeks to 3 days per week.

Lack of Statistical Information

In order to ascertain the relative weight that should be given to the needs of the construction industry when shaping Training for Success, the Federation has on a number of occasions during 2007 requested figures from DEL to show the number of construction related apprenticeships against the total number of apprenticeships across all industries over recent years.

DEL provided us with figures showing less than 1000 construction apprentice starts per year on average. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has provided us with figures showing an average of over 2000 construction apprentice starts per year. CITB has gathered their figures directly from the training providers. The Federation would like clarification from DEL on this discrepancy and an answer to our original question.

Lack of Employer Engagement

As the employers body for construction in Northern Ireland we have been unable to advise our members on apprenticeship arrangements under Training for Success. DEL has not engaged with us regarding the dissemination of information although we have been in regular and detailed contact restating the industry’s concerns and requirements.

Lack of Consistency of Training

Each training provider is allowed flexibility in how they provide apprenticeship training. Some providers are requiring employed apprentices to work 4 days per week and train only 1. Other providers have opted for 3 days work and 2 days in training. The Federation would like to see consistency across construction apprenticeship training providers.

Wages

Under training for success there has been no requirement placed on the employer to pay an industry agreed wage in order to receive grant funding. There has not even been guidance issued to employers to encourage them to do so.

The Federation is very concerned that employers will choose to pay the minimum wage they can. We believe this is £40 a week.

4. Do the new arrangements for training provision under Training for Success adhere to the highest employee and resource management standards?

The Federation is concerned that by not meeting the stated needs of the construction industry Training for Success will waste resources.

For every construction trainee that does not find employment as an apprentice the Government is burdened with paying the weekly training allowance and travel costs.

If there are 1000 construction trainees receiving £40 per week training allowance the cost is £40,000 per week. Over the 13 week period that amounts to £520,000 before travel. On top of that the non-employed trainees are supposed to be in training for 5 days per week as against the employed apprentices who are at most in training for two days. It would seem to make sense that it would cost less to train someone for 2 days per week as against 5.

Such costs will continue beyond the 13 week period for all those who remain unemployed.

What steps are being taken to find employment for those who are currently on an unemployed training strand?

Thank you for considering this paper. A CEF Discussion Paper on Construction Apprenticeships in 2007/08 Under Training for Success which was sent to DEL at the end of October 2007 has also been attached for further background information.

Issue Paper for the Employment and Learning Committee Submitted by the Construction Employers Federation (CEF)

Construction Apprenticeships in Crisis

For the attention of: Chairperson, Sue Ramsey

History of Problems with Apprenticeships

Since 1995 apprenticeships in Northern Ireland have been delivered through the Jobskills programme. Jobskills has been heavily criticised by the Northern Ireland Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee for failures to provide training for young people which delivered the skills required by businesses. The programme devalued apprenticeships and did not meet the needs of the construction industry.

A consultation was launched on a replacement for Jobskills, namely Training for Success, in July 2006. One of the key elements of these proposals was to introduce an apprenticeship programme based on employment from day one.

The Construction Employers Federation, along with the construction trade unions and the Construction Industry Training Board, prepared a comprehensive response to this consultation. Amongst other issues we outlined our support for the move toward employed status for apprenticeships but stating clearly that a period of pre-apprenticeship was necessary for young people seeking to become a construction apprentice.

CEF has consistently called for a period of pre-apprenticeship in order to achieve a number of goals:

(i) To re-establish a sense of value and pride in apprenticeships.

(ii) To ensure that the young person has appropriate health and safety knowledge and awareness before going on site in what is still a high risk industry.

(iii) To ensure that the young person has the appropriate basic aptitude to successfully complete an apprenticeship.

(iv) To ensure that the young person has basic knowledge and experience of what a technical job in construction entails.

Training for Success has since then been implemented in a very rushed and haphazard manner. The final structure of the programme has not taken into account the needs of the construction industry. As it currently stands, Training for Success suffers from significant failings. It has the potential to damage the construction industry, the growth of our local economy and the employment opportunities for our young people.

Key Issues to be Addressed

The construction industry is of central importance to the economic growth of Northern Ireland. The industry is delivering the infrastructure upon which our prosperity can be founded but is also delivering more jobs. Construction accounts for 14% of Gross Value Added (GVA) or wealth created in Northern Ireland and employs 80,000. The industry is forecast to continue to grow and the annual demand for new entrants is estimated at 3000. This needs to be met.

The experience of Jobskills has damaged the construction industry’s confidence in apprenticeships. The change of programme offered an opportunity to put a system in place which could rebuild that confidence. The support of employers for the new system is vital to its success. DEL has ignored the views of employers and other partners in the construction industry, an industry which accounts for a high proportion of total apprentices. This does not build confidence and it is our fear that employers will not support the scheme. This would severely affect job opportunities for young people.

The situation is particularly serious due to the ready supply of well trained, highly motivated migrant workers that are now available to local industry. CEF fully supports the valuable role of migrant workers to our economy but we also want to ensure that the industry continues to cultivate an indigenous skillbase. It is essential that the apprenticeship programme incentivises employers, both financially and through support structures, to develop local talent.

Training for Success is due to commence in September 2007. As we approach the end of June employers in the construction industry, young people, training organisations, CITB and the unions are all very unsure how Training for Success will operate successfully. These are some of the key questions that remain:

Key Questions

1. What centrally controlled system is in place to match young people wanting to become a construction apprentice with employers in the construction industry seeking an apprentice?

2. What employer support services are in place regarding both initial recruitment and support during the period of apprenticeship?

3. What measures are being taken to rebuild construction employers’ confidence in the apprenticeship system?

4. Over the last three years what proportion of apprentices were in construction related apprenticeships? On the basis that this is a high proportion, coupled with the central importance of the industry to the economy and jobs, what special consideration is being given to the needs of the construction industry regarding apprenticeships?

5. In the likelihood that very many young people can not find an employer to take them on as a construction apprenticeship under the Training for Success apprenticeship what will they do?

6. What measures are being taken to protect the heath, safety and welfare of young people starting construction apprenticeships?

Thank you for considering this paper.

For further information please contact: Ciarán Fox, Federation Manager, CEF
Email cfox@cefni.co.uk or phone 9087 7143.

CEF Discussion Paper on Construction Apprenticeships in 2007/2008 under Training for Success

1. Contents

2. Preamble

The construction industry is of central importance to the economic growth of Northern Ireland. The industry is delivering the infrastructure upon which our prosperity can be founded but is also delivering more jobs. Construction accounts for 14% of Gross Value Added (GVA) or wealth created in Northern Ireland and employs 80,000. The industry is forecast to continue to grow and the annual demand for new entrants is estimated at 3000. This needs to be met.

The experience of Jobskills has damaged the construction industry’s confidence in apprenticeships. The change of programme offered an opportunity to put a system in place which could rebuild that confidence. The support of employers for the new system is vital to its success. Until September 2007 DEL had ignored the views of employers and other partners in the construction industry, an industry which accounts for a high proportion of total apprentices. This has not built confidence and it is our fear that an insufficient number of employers are supporting the scheme. This will severely affect job opportunities for young people.

It is important that we now accurately establish the size of this potential problem. We need to know the annual intake of construction apprentices over the last number of years, the number of the 07/08 candidates that have been employed from day one as apprentices and the number of candidates that have been directed onto a non-employed training programme.

The construction apprenticeship situation is particularly serious due to the ready supply of well trained, highly motivated migrant workers that are now available to local industry. CEF fully supports the valuable role of migrant workers to our economy but we also want to ensure that the industry continues to cultivate an indigenous skillbase. It is essential that the apprenticeship programme incentivises employers, both financially and through support structures, to develop local talent. Unlike its predecessor, Training for Success must be genuinely employer led rather than being led by training providers if it is to be a success itself.

3. The Objectives of This Paper

The objectives of this discussion paper are:

A. To try to ensure that enough construction employers take on apprentices to meet future demand, to provide jobs for local young people and to develop indigenous talent.

B. To agree on and clarify the routes into a construction apprenticeship for the 2007/08 intake.

C. To provide clear guidance to construction employers on what is involved in taking on an apprentice in 2007/08. (Benefits, costs, on the job training, off the job training, contract conditions etc)

D. To consider the options for matching employers who are seeking apprentices and young people who want to be employed as an apprentice.

E. To agree the numbers of apprentices we should expect to place based on previous years.

F. To begin to re-establish a sense of achievement and pride in securing an apprenticeship.

4. Routes to a Construction Apprenticeship in 2007/08

(i) Jobskills?

(ii) Directly into employment as an apprentice under Training for Success

(iii) Entering employment as an apprentice under Training for Success following a period of employability/pre-apprenticeship

(i) Jobskills

We believe it is important to establish exactly the status of Jobskills apprenticeships for the 2007/08 year as DEL manages the transition from Jobskills to Training for Success.

Q. How many people commenced a Jobskills construction related apprenticeship/traineeship during the period 1 January 2007 to 2 September 2007?

Q. When did the last Jobskills apprentice/trainee commence the programme?

Q. Will the training programme for Training for Success apprentices be the same as it was for Jobskills apprentices?

(ii) Directly into Employment as an Apprentice Under Training for Success

As this discussion paper is only being considered in early October 2007 we must accept that there will be a number of candidates for construction apprenticeship that will already be placed with an employer.

Q. How many candidates for a Training for Success construction apprenticeship have secured employment as an apprentice and how many have not?

(iii) Entering Employment as an Apprentice Under Training for Success following a period of employability/pre-apprenticeship

This route to a construction apprenticeship is discussed in section 5 below.

5. Proposal on Pre-Apprenticeship

We propose that if a candidate is not placed with an employer by an agreed cut off date they must enter a pre-apprenticeship programme. How long they are on that programme will depend on two things:

1. Their performance in assessments during the programme

2. Their ability to secure an apprenticeship

The pre-apprenticeship course should be a 12 month course but should be split into two stages:

STAGE 1 – 13 Weeks (or slightly shorter)

STAGE 2 – 39 Weeks

If a candidate has not secured employment by week 13 they will automatically enter into Stage 2.

6. What Exactly Would Be Covered in STAGE 1 and STAGE 2?

STAGE 1 (0-13 weeks): Aims and How to Achieve Them

1. AIM – To lower apprenticeship drop out rate by ensuring candidates are making a well informed decision about what particular construction apprenticeship they are choosing

HOW – job sampling, education, information, advice, guidance

Examples – site visit, talk by a current tradesman, off site working with tools, mini projects etc

2. AIM – To lower apprenticeship drop out rate by ensuring candidates develop a clear idea of what will be expected of them as apprentices

HOW – Education, information, advice, guidance

Examples – Time keeping/attendance records, working hours, contract conditions, employers’ expectations talk by an employer etc.

3. AIM – To ensure that candidates are prepared for the dangers involved in working in the construction industry, to educate them about how to work safely and to enable access to public sector sites.

HOW – A specially designed practical H&S training course, CSR test and, on passing, CSR card.

Examples – Candidates will need to see scaffolding, practice safe lifting, try on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hear about/see the injuries that can result from unsafe working etc.

4. AIM – To lower apprenticeship drop out rate by ensuring that candidates who are highly unlikely to be able to succeed in an apprenticeship are identified.

HOW – an aptitude test, assessment by careers advisor.

5. AIM – To lay the foundation for learning of essentials skills

HOW – education (linked to construction related tasks – embedded)

Examples – When learning about maths relate the learning to real life situations that the candidate will probably encounter like dealing with money, taking measurements etc.

6. OVERARCHING AIM – to make the candidates a more attractive employment option within a short time frame.

HOW – H&S trained, sufficient aptitude, understands employers expectations and rigours of job, more likely to see apprenticeship through.

STAGE 1 (0-13 weeks): Payment and Role of Employers

Candidates would receive £40 per week from Government whilst attending STAGE 1of the course. At this stage there would be no formal links with employers.

STAGE 2 (14-52 weeks): Aims and How to Achieve Them

1. OVERARCHING AIM – To make candidates a more attractive employment option

HOW – To develop practical skills that would allow the candidate to be productive on site as soon they secured an apprenticeship.

2. AIM – Give candidates an in-depth understanding of the workplace and the apprenticeship of choice

HOW – work experience

3. AIM – Provide the candidates with useful qualifications that will enable them to progress more quickly through their NVQ once they start their apprenticeship

HOW – Provide candidates with the opportunity to achieve a technical certificate in the relevant area and accreditation of their essential skills.

STAGE 2 (14-52 weeks): Payment and Role of Employers

Candidates would receive £40 per week from Government whilst attending STAGE 2 of the course until the candidate is fully employed as an apprentice.

In the first instance employers would be encouraged to take the candidates on as fully employed apprentices at any point throughout STAGE 2.

Q. Is it practicable for the colleges to have a rolling intake of newly employed apprentices at any point throughout STAGE 2?

Secondly employers would be encouraged at the start of STAGE 2 to sign a contract to employ the candidate as an apprentice after they have completed their 12 month pre apprenticeship and contract to give the candidate work experience for the duration of the pre-apprenticeship.

Thirdly employers would be encouraged to give candidates work experience during the pre-apprenticeship with no guarantee of being employed as an apprentice on completing the pre-apprenticeship.

7. Incentive to Employers to Employ Candidates as Apprentices at the end of STAGE 1

If a candidate is employed as an apprentice at the end of STAGE 1 the Government will save the cost of the weekly allowance for STAGE 2 – £40 per week for 39 weeks which totals £1560.

Q. Is the cost of training for STAGE 2 higher than the cost of day release training under the apprenticeship? If so, this is another saving for the Government.

A proportion of this saving should be used as an incentive to employers to employ candidates as apprentices at the end of STAGE 1.

Q. How does the Government’s expenditure on Jobskills compare to that of Training for Success?

8. Construction Apprenticeship Wages

CEF believes that apprentices should receive fair remuneration for the work that they do. The Federation recommends that all construction related apprentices should receive the wages as agreed by the Joint Council for the Building and Civil Engineering Industry as detailed in the table below.

  Up to 21 years
  Hourly Rate Weekly Minimum Wage Percentage of Craft Rate (current = £9.03)
1st 6 months £3.43 £133.77 38%
2nd 6 months £4.60 £179.40 51%
After 12 months £5.42 £211.38 60%
At NVQ 2 £6.77 £264.03 75%
At NVQ 3 £9.03 £352.17 100%

Q. Could DEL grant be dependent on employer paying Joint Council rates?

Q. Do apprentices get paid for their day at college?

9. The Central Register of Construction Apprentices

Suggestions: (The mechanics of this need more serious consideration)

10. Clarity for Employers

Examples of Questions that Employers Need Answered

Department for
Employment and Learning
30 January 2008

Employment and Learning Logo.ai

Adelaide House
39-49 Adelaide Street
BELFAST
BT2 8FD

Mr Rab McConaghy
Committee Clerk
The Committee for Employment and Learning
Northern Ireland Assembly
Parliament Buildings
Stormont
BELFAST
BT4 3SW

24 January 2008

Dear Rab

Monitoring and Scrutiny of the Rollout of Training for Success

1. In order to inform the Committee’s enquiry and scrutiny of the Training for Success programme, I thought it would be useful if the Department provided further information about what has been done to monitor the introduction and operation of the programme. This information is being provided subsequent to the Committee’s meeting on 28th November 2007 to discuss this provision, and in advance of the scheduled update that is to take place on 30th January 2008.

2. You have already received some information in relation to the provision of this training, including information on the arrangement between the Donnelly Group and Carter and Carter (I refer to my letter to you of 28th November 2007).

3. Enclosed is a further dossier of information, addressing the following issues that were raised at the meeting on 28th November 2007:

Current Occupancy

4. The Training for Success occupancy as at 23rd January is 5,492, which can be broken down per strand as follows:

Apprenticeships

Job-Ready

TOTAL 5492

5. This is compared with last year’s figures for overall new starts under Jobskills (September 2006 – January 2007) of 7,664. Data from the Northern Ireland Research & Statistics Agency, however, demonstrates that the population of 16 year olds in Northern Ireland fell by 3.4% over the period 2003 – 2006, and is projected to fall by a further 5.2% over the period 2006 - 2010. This decrease in Training for Success’ key demographic is therefore likely to have an impact on the provision’s current and future uptake.

Meetings with Stakeholders

6. The Department is currently arranging for 5 separate focus groups to take place in late January and early February, with participants on the Training for Success programme. These focus groups will cover a variety of training suppliers, occupational areas, and apprenticeship and Jobready strands.

7. Departmental officials also met with Work-Based Learning Suppliers on 6th December 2007 to discuss the roll-out of Training for Success. The main points emerging from this discussion were:

8. Departmental officials also met with Further Education College Training Suppliers on 17th January 2008, to discuss what aspects of Training for Success are working, and which areas require further consideration. The main points emerging from these discussions were:

9. The outcomes of these discussions are currently being taken forward in the Department’s review of the provision, on which we hope to consult with key stakeholders in mid-February. A list of all Training Suppliers who took part in these consultations is attached at Annex A. The Department will also be establishing a Working Group for each strand of Training for Success, to discuss any issues emerging from the initial workshops and any further consultation.

Engagement with CITB and CEF

10. The Department is aware that representatives from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) gave evidence to the Committee this week and intimated that the Department had not fully engaged with the construction industry. The Department is a little disappointed with this suggestion, as we have been fully engaged with both CITB and the Construction Employers Federation (CEF), through both meetings and discussions papers, to try and resolve the issues that they have with Training for Success. The Department has also established a Working Group specifically to resolve these issues. I attach, at Annex B, all recent correspondence between the Department and CITB/CEF to demonstrate this.

ETC/SEMTA

11. David Hatton, Chief Executive of the Electrical Training Council (the NI representative body of the SEMTA, which is the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering, Manufacturing and Technology) recently gave a presentation to the DEL Committee. Departmental officials subsequently met with Mr Hatton on the 22nd and 23rd January, to discuss the issues that he raised with the Committee.

Expert Group for Young People with Disabilities

12. The Minister wrote to the Committee on 21st January 2008, providing an update on the establishment of this group.

Programme of ETI Inspections and Inspections of New Providers

13. The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) has provided the Department with its Business Plan for 2008/09 (beginning 1st April 2008), which is attached at Annex C. This should be treated as confidential, and should not be shared outside the DEL Committee.

Motor Vehicle Apprentices

14. Please find below, a table that sets out the current levels of occupancy for Motor Vehicle apprenticeships, as of 18th January 2008:

Supplier

Current
Occupancy
Level 2/3

Current
Occupancy
Level 3

Leavers

Belfast Metropolitan College (Bifhe)

1

   

Belfast Metropolitan College (Castlereagh)

4

   

Carter And Carter (Blackwater House)

6

   

Carter And Carter (The Travel Training Company)

9

   

North West Regional College (Training Direct)

3

   

North West Regional College Ctec

7

 

3

Northern Regional College (Causeway)

8

 

2

Nrc (Eaifhe Newtownabbey)

10

 

1

Nrc (Neifhe)

27

1

5

Rutledge Joblink - Braid

1

   

Rutledge Joblink - Limavady

1

   

South Eastern Regional College (Lifhe)

8

 

2

South Eastern Regional College (Ndai)

2

 

1

South West College (Fermanagh)

12

 

4

South West College (Omagh)

8

   

Southern Regional College (Armagh)

16

 

1

Southern Regional College (Nkifhe)

   

1

Southern Regional College (Upper Bann)

10

   

Transport Training Services

50

 

12

Workforce Training Services Ltd

   

1

Totals

183

1

33

Carter & Carter has reported a total of 58 starts in Motor Vehicle, but not all have been registered as yet on the Department’s TMS/CMS Information Management System.

ETT Regional Training Facility

15. Since 1998, the Electrical Training Trust (ETT) has been contracted by the Department to manage all entrants to the electrical installation apprenticeship programme. The training framework (Electrotechnical Services) takes approximately four and a half years to complete and ETT has an annual intake in excess of 300 apprentices.

16. In practice, delivery of the programme is handled locally between employers and FE Colleges, except for 3 days at the end of the training period when individual participants are required to attend the ETT premises at Ballymena to undertake the AM2 test which is essential to gaining the required qualification to work in the industry. This is the only time when apprentices are required to go to Ballymena. ETT is one of 16 accredited centres within the UK, and the only one in NI.

17. As of 18th January 2008, there are 1,338 apprentices in total undertaking Electrotechnical Services: 955 under Jobskills and 383 under Training for Success.

PwC Report into Apprenticeships in the North West

18. The Department has already arranged for copies of this report to be forwarded to all members of the Committee.

Future Procurement Processes

19. The Department of Finance and Personnel’s Central Procurement Directorate has confirmed that it is normally assumed that if a tenderer proposes to use another organisation or an individual as a subcontractor, then an agreement is either already in place between those parties, or will be put in place if the tender offer is accepted by the Contracting Authority. The legal nature of such an agreement is not a concern for the Contracting Authority, because its rights of redress are normally with the contractor and not with the subcontractors. Furthermore, contracts are awarded on the basis of accepting the proposal offered and if the contract is not performed in accordance with the proposal, it could be constituted as a breach. Any changes to that proposal are subject to approval from the Contracting Authority and, in circumstances where the Contracting Authority is not content with the changes, then, the contract may be terminated. In relation to Training for Success, tenderers were not asked to name individuals as part of their tender offers, and the experience or ability of individuals was not a criterion for assessment.

Please do not hesitate in contacting me further, should the Committee require any further information on this issue.

Yours sincerely

Chris McConkey.ai

C G McCONKEY

Departmental Assembly Liaison Officer

Annex A

List of all Training Suppliers that took part in Departmental Workshops

Annex B

27 September 2007
Mr Allan McMullan
Construction Industry Training Board
Nutts Corner Training Centre
17 Dundrod Road
CRUMLIN
BT29 4SR

Dear Allan

Training for Success – CITB/CEF

I refer to our meeting on 11 September last when we discussed Training for Success and the training requirements for the construction industry. I have also enclosed a copy of your letter to Heather Stevens, February 2006, and the CITB and CEF submissions to the Training for Success consultation.

Clearly the current CITB position has changed from wanting a one year full-time pre-apprenticeship. Job Ready is well suited to deliver that requirement and I believe the Pre-Apprenticeship strand offers a sound package of technical training, base skills, health and safety, personal and employability skills in preparation for employment and apprenticeship.

However, you and Ciaran agreed to clarify the CITB/CEF requirement and were to forward a paper setting out how the Employability Skills component of Job Ready could be developed to meet the industry need. For the record I am not convinced about the concept of using Employability Skills as a means to create a recruitment pool for the construction industry. For those who are unsuccessful in getting a job they would need to be able to progress into further training.

I hope to receive your proposal very soon.

Yours sincerely

Catherine Bell Sig.ai

Catherine Bell

cc Ciaran Fox

CEF Discussion Paper on Construction Apprenticeships in 2007/2008 under Training for Success

1. Contents

2. Preamble

The construction industry is of central importance to the economic growth of Northern Ireland. The industry is delivering the infrastructure upon which our prosperity can be founded but is also delivering more jobs. Construction accounts for 14% of Gross Value Added (GVA) or wealth created in Northern Ireland and employs 80,000. The industry is forecast to continue to grow and the annual demand for new entrants is estimated at 3000. This needs to be met.

The experience of Jobskills has damaged the construction industry’s confidence in apprenticeships. The change of programme offered an opportunity to put a system in place which could rebuild that confidence. The support of employers for the new system is vital to its success. Until September 2007 DEL had ignored the views of employers and other partners in the construction industry, an industry which accounts for a high proportion of total apprentices. This has not built confidence and it is our fear that an insufficient number of employers are supporting the scheme. This will severely affect job opportunities for young people.

It is important that we now accurately establish the size of this potential problem. We need to know the annual intake of construction apprentices over the last number of years, the number of the 07/08 candidates that have been employed from day one as apprentices and the number of candidates that have been directed onto a non-employed training programme.

The construction apprenticeship situation is particularly serious due to the ready supply of well trained, highly motivated migrant workers that are now available to local industry. CEF fully supports the valuable role of migrant workers to our economy but we also want to ensure that the industry continues to cultivate an indigenous skillbase. It is essential that the apprenticeship programme incentivises employers, both financially and through support structures, to develop local talent. Unlike its predecessor, Training for Success must be genuinely employer led rather than being led by training providers if it is to be a success itself.

3. The Objectives of This Paper

The objectives of this discussion paper are:

A. To try to ensure that enough construction employers take on apprentices to meet future demand, to provide jobs for local young people and to develop indigenous talent.

B. To agree on and clarify the routes into a construction apprenticeship for the 2007/08 intake.

C. To provide clear guidance to construction employers on what is involved in taking on an apprentice in 2007/08. (Benefits, costs, on the job training, off the job training, contract conditions etc)

D. To consider the options for matching employers who are seeking apprentices and young people who want to be employed as an apprentice.

E. To agree the numbers of apprentices we should expect to place based on previous years.

F. To begin to re-establish a sense of achievement and pride in securing an apprenticeship.

4. Routes to a Construction Apprenticeship in 2007/08

(i) Jobskills?

(ii) Directly into employment as an apprentice under Training for Success

(iii) Entering employment as an apprentice under Training for Success following a period of employability/pre-apprenticeship

(i) Jobskills

We believe it is important to establish exactly the status of Jobskills apprenticeships for the 2007/08 year as DEL manages the transition from Jobskills to Training for Success.

Q. How many people commenced a Jobskills construction related apprenticeship/traineeship during the period 1 January 2007 to 2 September 2007?

Q. When did the last Jobskills apprentice/trainee commence the programme?

Q. Will the training programme for Training for Success apprentices be the same as it was for Jobskills apprentices?

(ii) Directly into Employment as an Apprentice Under Training for Success

As this discussion paper is only being considered in early October 2007 we must accept that there will be a number of candidates for construction apprenticeship that will already be placed with an employer.

Q. How many candidates for a Training for Success construction apprenticeship have secured employment as an apprentice and how many have not?

(iii) Entering Employment as an Apprentice Under Training for Success following a period of employability/pre-apprenticeship

This route to a construction apprenticeship is discussed in section 5 below.

5. Proposal on Pre-Apprenticeship

We propose that if a candidate is not placed with an employer by an agreed cut off date they must enter a pre-apprenticeship programme. How long they are on that programme will depend on two things:

1. Their performance in assessments during the programme

2. Their ability to secure an apprenticeship

The pre-apprenticeship course should be a 12 month course but should be split into two stages:

STAGE 1 – 13 Weeks (or slightly shorter)

STAGE 2 – 39 Weeks

If a candidate has not secured employment by week 13 they will automatically enter into Stage 2.

6. What Exactly Would Be Covered in STAGE 1 and STAGE 2?

STAGE 1 (0-13 weeks): Aims and How to Achieve Them

1. AIM – To lower apprenticeship drop out rate by ensuring candidates are making a well informed decision about what particular construction apprenticeship they are choosing

HOW – job sampling, education, information, advice, guidance

Examples – site visit, talk by a current tradesman, off site working with tools, mini projects etc

2. AIM – To lower apprenticeship drop out rate by ensuring candidates develop a clear idea of what will be expected of them as apprentices

HOW – Education, information, advice, guidance

Examples – Time keeping/attendance records, working hours, contract conditions, employers’ expectations talk by an employer etc.

3. AIM – To ensure that candidates are prepared for the dangers involved in working in the construction industry, to educate them about how to work safely and to enable access to public sector sites.

HOW – A specially designed practical H&S training course, CSR test and, on passing, CSR card.

Examples – Candidates will need to see scaffolding, practice safe lifting, try on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hear about/see the injuries that can result from unsafe working etc.

4. AIM – To lower apprenticeship drop out rate by ensuring that candidates who are highly unlikely to be able to succeed in an apprenticeship are identified.

HOW – an aptitude test, assessment by careers advisor.

5. AIM – To lay the foundation for learning of essentials skills

HOW – education (linked to construction related tasks – embedded)

Examples – When learning about maths relate the learning to real life situations that the candidate will probably encounter like dealing with money, taking measurements etc.

6. OVERARCHING AIM – to make the candidates a more attractive employment option within a short time frame.

HOW – H&S trained, sufficient aptitude, understands employers expectations and rigours of job, more likely to see apprenticeship through.

STAGE 1 (0-13 weeks): Payment and Role of Employers

Candidates would receive £40 per week from Government whilst attending STAGE 1of the course. At this stage there would be no formal links with employers.

STAGE 2 (14-52 weeks): Aims and How to Achieve Them

1. OVERARCHING AIM – To make candidates a more attractive employment option

HOW – To develop practical skills that would allow the candidate to be productive on site as soon they secured an apprenticeship.

2. AIM – Give candidates an in-depth understanding of the workplace and the apprenticeship of choice

HOW – work experience

3. AIM – Provide the candidates with useful qualifications that will enable them to progress more quickly through their NVQ once they start their apprenticeship

HOW – Provide candidates with the opportunity to achieve a technical certificate in the relevant area and accreditation of their essential skills.

STAGE 2 (14-52 weeks): Payment and Role of Employers

Candidates would receive £40 per week from Government whilst attending STAGE 2 of the course until the candidate is fully employed as an apprentice.

In the first instance employers would be encouraged to take the candidates on as fully employed apprentices at any point throughout STAGE 2.

Q. Is it practicable for the colleges to have a rolling intake of newly employed apprentices at any point throughout STAGE 2?

Secondly employers would be encouraged at the start of STAGE 2 to sign a contract to employ the candidate as an apprentice after they have completed their 12 month pre apprenticeship and contract to give the candidate work experience for the duration of the pre-apprenticeship.

Thirdly employers would be encouraged to give candidates work experience during the pre-apprenticeship with no guarantee of being employed as an apprentice on completing the pre-apprenticeship.

7. Incentive to Employers to Employ Candidates as Apprentices at the end of STAGE 1

If a candidate is employed as an apprentice at the end of STAGE 1 the Government will save the cost of the weekly allowance for STAGE 2 – £40 per week for 39 weeks which totals £1560.

Q. Is the cost of training for STAGE 2 higher than the cost of day release training under the apprenticeship? If so, this is another saving for the Government.

A proportion of this saving should be used as an incentive to employers to employ candidates as apprentices at the end of STAGE 1.

Q. How does the Government’s expenditure on Jobskills compare to that of Training for Success?

8. Construction Apprenticeship Wages

CEF believes that apprentices should receive fair remuneration for the work that they do. The Federation recommends that all construction related apprentices should receive the wages as agreed by the Joint Council for the Building and Civil Engineering Industry as detailed in the table below.

Up to 21 years

Hourly Rate

Weekly Minimum Wage

Percentage of Craft Rate (current = £9.03)

1st 6 months

£3.43

£133.77

38%

2nd 6 months

£4.60

£179.40

51%

After 12 months

£5.42

£211.38

60%

At NVQ 2

£6.77

£264.03

75%

At NVQ 3

£9.03

£352.17

100%

Q. Could DEL grant be dependent on employer paying Joint Council rates?

Q. Do apprentices get paid for their day at college?

9. The Central Register of Construction Apprentices

Suggestions: (The mechanics of this need more serious consideration)

10. Clarity for Employers

Examples of Questions that Employers Need Answered

28 November 2007

Mr Allan McMullan
Chief Executive
CITB
Nutts Corner Training Centre
17 Dundrod Road
Crumlin
Co Antrim
T29 4SR

Dear Allan

Thank you for your letter dated 29 October 2007. Ciaran Fox also e-mailed to us, 30 October, and copied to you, CEF’s discussion paper on ‘Construction Apprenticeships in 2007/2008 Under Training for Success’.

I appreciate that the CITB Board has asked that the matter be discussed at the Board’s Training Committee and I understand that CEF will be present. However, we are disappointed that, given the apparent urgency to have this Department give a clear direction on this matter, there will be no agreed input from the construction industry until the New Year. I am willing to attend the Board and give the Department’s perspective.

Meantime, we will consider Ciaran Fox’s paper and respond to the questions contained in it. Our occupancy figures for Training for Success will be available at the start of December and we can then begin to analyse the impacts on the construction industry. A further discussion in advance of the Board’s Training Committee’s meeting in December may be helpful.

Yours sincerely

Catherine Bell

cc: Sean Campbell, Chair CITB

Mrs Catherine Bell
Deputy Secretary
Department for Employment and Learning
Adelaide House
39/40 Adelaide Street
Belfast
BT2 8FD

5 December 2007

Dear Catherine

Construction Craft Apprentices

Thank you for your letter dated 28 November 2007. CITB’s Training Committee is due to meet on Tuesday 18 December 2007. CEF have 2 representatives on the Committee, Ciaran Fox and Nigel Henry.

In the joint submission from CITB, ANIC, the Jobskills Provider Forum and the Joint Council for the Building and Civil Engineering Industry it is clear that the consensus view is the need for a full time “off the job” pre- apprentice year, prior to employers taking young people on as paid apprentices. Training for Success now offers a pre-apprenticeship route which appears to part way meet this requirement. At our meeting on 11 September, I agreed to review how these two options could be integrated and pointed to the Programme Led Apprenticeship arrangement in England, This is the issue, which will be considered by the Training Committee and then by the main Board at it’s next meeting on 31 January 2008.

Occupancy figures for Training for Success in respect of construction and plumbing and mechanical services would be most helpful if they could be made available to us by the 17 December 2007.

I would be happy to meet before then as you suggest and have asked Katherine to contact your office to see if a suitable date/time can be arranged. It would be helpful if Eddie O’Neill, CITB Board member could also attend but this can be arranged after we have agreed a date.

Yours sincerely

Allan McMullen

Chief Executive

Mr Allan McMullen
Chief Executive
CITB
Nutts Corner
17 Dundrod Road
CRUMLIN
BT29 4SR
20 December 2007

Dear Allan

Working Group on Construction Training

I refer to the meeting, 18 December, that you and Eddie O’Neill attended with Catherine Bell, Nuala Kerr and myself. I am writing to confirm that the Department agreed the setting up of a working group, to be chaired by yourself, to make recommendations on the design and content of a 13-week Employability Skills course and a 52-week Level 2 Pre-Apprenticeship course.

The Employability Skills training would be seen as a pre-cursor to young people entering employment and Level 3 Apprenticeship training in the construction industry. Whether it could be stipulated as a mandatory requirement is an issue to be determined. Similarly the Pre-Apprenticeship programme will begin with a 13-week period followed by up to 39 weeks of skills and technical training. The young people would not be working towards an NVQ but a VRQ qualification.

The make up of the working group would comprise, CITB, CEF, Federation of Master Builders, the three Centres of Excellence, ETI and a representative from Training Programmes Branch in DEL. Due to commitments given by the Department to the DEL Committee to report back at the end of January 2008 on progress with the Construction Industry, early advice would be welcomed. That being said we must be careful that any recommendations are robust and will provide a training package that will be wholly acceptable to the industry and will address the Public Accounts Committee concerns about employer exploitation of young people.

Yours sincerely

Des Lyness

Head of Training Programmes

Dear

Construction Craft Apprenticeships

Prior to CITB’s Training Committee on 18 December 2007 the Committee Chairman, Eddie O’Neill and myself met with Catherine Bell, Nuala Kerr and Des Lyness from DEL to discuss how Training for Success could be tailored to meet the requirements of the construction industry’s view of apprenticeships.

We clarified that the industry was not in favour of employment or work placement from Day 1 without significant health and safety and practical training having taken place and that employed apprentices should only have to attend 1 Day ‘off the job’ training thereafter. It was suggested by DEL that school leavers assessed as capable of achieving NVQ Level 3 should enter the 13 week Employability strand of the Job Ready programme and those capable of achieving Level 2 should be directed to the 52 week Pre-Apprenticeship strand.

I undertook to meet with the Centres of Excellence, the ETI, the employer bodies and a representative from DEL to determine the exact nature, content and ‘off the job’ aspect of the training provision for both programmes. I therefore invite you, or a suitable representative from your organisation, to attend a meeting at CITB on Wednesday 9 January at 0930 to discuss this specific matter.

I realise this is short notice but we are under some pressure to get back to DEL by mid January.

Yours sincerely

Allan McMullen

Chief Executive

8 January 2008

Mr Ciaran Fox
Federation Manager
Construction Employers Federation
143 Malone Road
Belfast
BT9 6SU

Dear Ciaran

CEF Discussion Paper on Construction Apprenticeships

Thank you for your paper received 31 October last which I have discussed with colleagues. I apologise for the delay in responding although I know you have already met with Des Lyness. Officials have also met with CITB.

Before responding to your substantive points I am disappointed that you believe that DEL has only now listened to CEF’s concerns. The consultation on Training for Success was extensive and I believe the Department responded appropriately.

It is important that we are agreed on the need for the support of employers but we cannot design a training provision that might give some employers the scope to continue exploitation of young people. We must also be able to offer young people on placements, a high quality of work-based-training with a realistic opportunity and expectation for employment when the training is completed.

Unless changed by the Sector Skills Councils, apprenticeship training frameworks under Training for Success will remain the same as for Jobskills. Between January and September this year 213 young people joined Jobskills as construction trainees and 772 joined as apprentices. However, due to the change over from using Training Occupational Classifications to National Database of Awards and Qualifications we cannot at this time segment our Training for Success data by occupational area. We would expect to have this facility by mid-January 2008.

Apart from the Personal Development strand the content of the remaining Job-Ready programmes should meet employer requirements. Therefore I have, in general, no problem with the aims and training content you have proposed for a construction pre-apprenticeship. Obtaining the CSR card at the early stage would most certainly be an advantage but I would not see Careers Service being involved with aptitude testing beyond that which is carried out at pre-enrolment.

In your description of ‘Payment and Role of Employers’ under Stage 2 you give three options for employers. On the basis of previous experience I would suspect that many employers, if offered a choice, would take your third option which has no guarantee for employment. Your paper continues with the premise that DEL could make incentives based on savings gained from not having to pay training allowances if a young person was employed. This would not be the case in that the cost of training level 2 and 3 construction apprentices (Groups 5 and 6) is higher than in the Job-Ready strands . The funding also already contains an element for employer incentive.

It seems unfortunate that financial incentives are being suggested as the only way to get some construction employers to take on apprentices. There are examples in certain construction sectors where employer engagement at the outset is excellent and the success rates for apprentices exceed the 80% level. Apart from the current funding structure there are no additional employer incentives given and the apprentices get paid at acceptable rates.

Your paper ends with a suggestion of how to bring potential apprentices and employers together and the concept of a central register is something that we could explore. Most of the answers to the list of questions (section 10) you have posed, lie within your own industry and are not for the Department. However, Training Programmes Branch would be pleased to work with CEF to draw up an information pack for construction employers.

In summary, there is small difference between what you have proposed by way of programme structure and content and what exists already under the Pre-Apprenticeship strand of Job-Ready. I think this is a very good base from which we could work together, including with the colleges and other organisations, to refine the structure content.

Finally, regarding further incentives I would find it difficult to be able to be selective towards the construction industry especially when there are existing apprenticeship models that work well. I think the industry itself must look to how it can educate and encourage its members to invest and train apprentices.

I have indicated already that officials met with representatives from CITB. As a result, Allan McMullen has agreed to organise a meeting to include CEF, the colleges, CITB, the Inspectorate and the Department to agree the content and organisation of the Apprenticeship and pre-Apprenticeship programmes. I hope this forum will be successful in responding as much as possible to your proposals.

I look forward to continuing discussion on the matter and, in the meantime, I hope you have a happy, healthy and peaceful 2008.

Yours sincerely

Catherine Bell

cc: Nuala Kerr
Des Lyness

Mrs Catherine Bell
Deputy Secretary
Department for Employment and Learning
Adelaide House
39-49 Adelaide Street
BELFAST
BT2 8FD

21 January 2008

Dear Catherine

Construction Craft Apprenticeship

As agreed at our recent meeting please find attached a paper outlining the Job Ready training programmes proposed by the Working Group which comprised of individuals from DEL, CITB, CEF and the three college Centres of Excellence. ETI and FMB were unable to attend the meeting.

As I explained none of this has been ratified by our respective organisations due to time constraints and is therefore subject to a number of caveats set out below.

The main trades included within the Construction Craft Apprenticeships are wood occupations, bricklaying, plastering and painting & decorating. Minority trades e.g. roofing, flooring, stonemasonry, with low intake numbers, may have to have slightly different training patterns, such as block release.

My understanding is that you envisaged the Job Ready Employability strand (13 weeks) as the route for NVQ L3 candidates and the Pre-Apprenticeship strand (52 weeks) for NVQ L2 candidates. The Working Party’s view was that the chosen route is more likely to be determined on whether or not the young person has obtained employment. Entry requirements were not discussed in any detail, but this is an area that will need further consideration. A major concern is that the intake permitted by DEL and accepted by training providers does not match the new entrant numbers projected by ConstructionSkills’ Labour Market Information. This is likely to explain the reason why so many cannot find employment.

It is assumed that such programmes would commence from September 2008. Given contractual and financial constraints the colleges can only provide 20 hours class contact time per week. There appears to be some confusion over the recommended teaching hours for the new technical certificates; something we are trying to clarify with the awarding body. They also feel that the initial 13 week period should perhaps only be 10 weeks as the young people will have a better chance to obtain employment in November than at Christmas time when the industry slows over that period. This has not yet been ratified by industry. Similarly it is considered that the pre-apprenticeship period will be completed by the end of the academic year in June rather than complete 52 weeks until the end of August, which does seem reasonable and pragmatic. No doubt the colleges have major concerns with delivery in terms of financial and logistical problems.

From the employers perspective the expectation is that all course participants will have achieved significant practical skills prior to seeking employment and it is considered absolutely essential that all will have achieved their Red Apprentice CSR Card. However Ciaran and I will have to convince the industry to buy into employment from Week 14 or as soon as possible thereafter, pay the Joint Council recommended wage rates and permit day release in terms of time off with pay for ‘off the job’ training. It is anticipated that the Joint Council (or CITB initially if necessary) will take ownership of the scheme, which will be promoted, marketing and monitored by CITB on their behalf. It is also essential that CITB underpins the scheme through its Grants to Employer scheme.

Despite these caveats and in anticipation of the support of our respective organisations, I am confident that we have here the basis of a TfS Construction Craft Apprenticeship scheme, which can be promoted with confidence and will be accepted by parents, young people and employers.

I do hope this is of some help in making Training for Success a success within the construction sector. I am more than happy to meet again with my colleagues and the Department to discuss the matter.

Yours sincerely

Allan McMullen

Chief Executive

Construction Craft Apprenticeship

1. CITB has been asked by DEL to recommend training for the following Training for Success Job Ready programmes for construction.

1. Employability - 13 weeks full time for NVQ 3 candidates

2. Pre-Apprenticeship - 52 weeks full time for NVQ 2 candidates

2. A working party was facilitated by CITB comprising the three College (NWRC/NRC/SERC) Centres of Excellence for the Built Environment, ETI, DEL, CEF and FMB. A meeting of the group was held on 8 January; apologies were received from ETI and FMB.

3. The following training programmes were recommended.

Employability (13 weeks prior to full time employment)

4. First week general induction (8% of programme) including:

5. 12 weeks to include:

6. Outcomes to be achieved by end of 13 week programme

Progression from EMPLOYABILITY Programme

7. On successfully completing the 13 week Employability programme candidates will enter full time employment as a Construction Craft Apprentice.

8. Thereafter for the remainder of the ‘academic’ year (Sep to Jun) the apprentice will attend ‘off the job’ training for 2 days per week.

9. In the second ‘academic’ year the apprentice will attend ‘off the job’ training for 1 day per week and will be expected to achieve:

10. In the third ‘academic’ year the apprentice will attend ‘off the job training’ for 1 day per week.

11. In the fourth ‘academic’ year the apprentice will attend ‘off the job training’ as required to achieve:

Pre-Apprenticeship (52 weeks fulltime)

12. Candidates following the Job Ready Pre-Apprentice Programme will complete the same 13 week programme as the Employability Candidates.

13. Thereafter they will attend a full time course, with a maximum of 1 day per week work experience/placement ‘on site’ or in a ‘workshop’.

14. At the end of the 52 week programme each candidate will be expected to achieve:

Progression from PRE-APPRENTICESHIP Programme

15. In the second ‘academic’ year the apprentice will attend ‘off the job’ training for 1 day per week and will be expected to have achieved:

16. In the third ‘academic’ year the apprentice will attend ‘off the job training’ for 1 day per week.

17. In the fourth academic year the apprentice will attend ‘off the job training’ as required to achieve:

Annex C

ETI Programme of Inspections

1. ETI has prioritised its Training for Success inspections into 3 main categories:

2. All of the Group 1 organisations are “new” providers, in that they did not have contracts under the former Jobskills programme. All Group 1 inspections will be longitudinal, with the first part commencing during the period April – June 08, during which time a report on progress will be issued. The final stage will be carried out towards the end of the second period (September - December 2008), after which the final report will be published. ETI will be inspecting the following Group 1 Training Suppliers:

3. The following Group 2 Training Suppliers will also be inspected:

4. One Group 3 Training Supplier will be inspected:

5. ETI will also be carrying out a number of follow-up inspections in the following Training Suppliers:

6. In addition to their inspection work during 2008/09, ETI will also be carrying out 2 surveys; the first in relation to on all 4 strands of the current Job-Ready Provision, and the second on Level2/3 apprenticeships. The dates for the above inspections will be set in due course.

Sector Skills Councils
13 February 2008

Skillsmart Retail.psd

Background information for DEL Assembly Committee from Skillsmart Retail

The Purpose of this document is to provide members of the DEL Assembly Committee a brief overview of the skills needs and issues in the Retail Sector, and also provide some initial feedback on the Department’s Training for Success Programme.

Who we are

Skillsmart Retail is the Sector Skills Council for Retail. Licensed by UK Government since 2004, we aim to be the authority for retail skills development and promotion, contributing to improved sectoral productivity.

Our key activities are

Who we work with

We have had a full time presence in N.Ireland since 2004 and work strategically with retailers of all sizes and with stakeholders across Government Departments, Local Government, Regulators and Awarding Bodies, Higher Education, Colleges and independent Training Providers, Schools, Town and Shopping Centre Managers, Trade Associations, business interest groups including the wider Skills for Business Network and Community and Voluntary organisations.

The importance of Retail to the Northern Ireland economy

Of Northern Ireland’s 66,000 business enterprises, over 9,000, or 14%, are in the Retail Sector.

As one of the few sectors of mass employment, retail is of critical importance in terms of generating tax revenue and also having key potential to engage those entering the workforce, the economically inactive and unemployed.

Providing the focal point of our communities, cities, towns and villages, it is one of the key sectors driving regeneration and post conflict social cohesion, fuelling much of the commercial property and construction boom.

Retail is the route to market for all production – notably local agriculture, and rather than merely moving money around in the economy, the rise of on-line retailing has made retailers exporters with intrinsic links with tourism and hospitality encouraging cross border and international trade.

In our SME economy, the sector is a key source of business start ups and entrepreneurialism, and whilst of late much focus has been on the incoming large multinationals, it should be noted that the independent sector continues to do well. Only 25 out of 9,000 establishments employ more than 250 people. Around 78% of retail businesses here employ less than 10 people.

The nature of Retail Employment

The majority of Northern Ireland’s retail workforce is to be found in sales and service occupations (c. 49,000 workers). It is noteworthy however that 20% of employees (c. 18,000 workers) are at management level. If the current occupational structure is maintained, the retail sector will need to recruit or develop more than 3000 new managers by 2014. Career opportunities are excellent within the sector, but this fact is often overlooked due to a lack of understanding and a combination of erroneous and outdated preconceptions and poor careers advice. 70% of parents in Northern Ireland would not wish to see their children working in retail, despite the opportunities for quick progression and remuneration packages that compete favourably with many graduate schemes. Furthermore, some of Northern Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs and family businesses have been retail based.

Main occupations in Northern Ireland/UK retail sector 2006

 

N. Ireland

%

UK

%

Sales and customer service occupations

48,559

54

1,496,696

51

Managers and senior officials

17,824

20

535,084

18

Elementary occupations

8,388

9

344,177

12

Administrative and secretarial

5,505

6

188,931

6

Associate professional and technical

1,823

2

129,238

4

Skilled trades occupations

4,074

5

101,194

3

Process plant and machine operatives

2,940

3

84,017

3

Professional occupations

1,229

1

57,339

2

Personal service occupations

103

0

6,698

0

Total

90,446

100

2,943,374*

100

A much fuller analysis of the sector can be found in our Northern Ireland Sector Skills Agreement (SSA) Stages 1-3 (available from www.skillsmartretail.com), but the above information provides background. It is against a backdrop of expansion and continued growth and competition that the major skills issues for the sector need to be considered.

Research and consultation with employers has highlighted that the most urgent skills issues facing Northern Ireland’s Retail sector are as follows:

If these issues are not addressed it will be a major barrier to the productivity of the sector and have an adverse effect on the economy as a whole.

Potential solutions

Potential solutions are discussed in stages 1-3 in our SSA, and will be developed in stages 1-4. There are two main strands of discussion that will be useful to consider more fully with the DEL Committee:

1. The obvious impact that a successful Apprenticeship programme could have on each of the 4 areas of concern outlined above, and a summary of the employer and provider view to date of Training for Success.

2. Skillsmart Retail’s proposed primary initiative to tackle skills issues in the sector – the Retail Skills Network (also known as Retail Skills Academy)

1. Apprenticeships

Retail is a sector that relies heavily on in house training as a means to upskill its employees. Largely disengaged with the public sector, and in many cases distrustful of the ability of FE to deliver the high quality flexible upskilling interventions necessary in a virtually 24/7 52 week a year working environment, UK employer funding accounts for 93p in every £1 spent on training in the sector.

Only in the field of Apprenticeships do retail employers appear to take a part in government programmes, but even this has been limited. For example less than 400 individuals each year started the programme in 2004/05 and 2005/06. It was been difficult for Skillsmart Retail to obtain comprehensive and reliable up to date statistics on traineeships and apprenticeships under the old Jobskills programme, though there are welcome signs of improved communications between ourselves and DEL in this area. We will be able to comment much more intelligently on trends and information if we have the data required to make meaningful analysis.

The opportunity for an overhaul of the system provided by the introduction of Training for Success has been welcome.

Skillsmart Retail was an eager participant at all stages of the consultation process and discussed the proposals widely both with our Employers and Providers.

Based on these discussions and our experience elsewhere in the UK, we welcome the introduction of a Level 2 Apprenticeship, and support the employed status of trainees. Apprentices should be employed. If not, they are on a pre-employment programme and cannot be realistically or fairly assessed as occupationally competent.

Our goal is to use Apprenticeships as a vehicle to increase employer engagement, improve skills and drive the take up of qualifications resulting in an increase in Apprenticeship take up and completion rates. By working in conjunction with employers, learning providers and DEL we aim to:

We believe that the Apprenticeship programme contributes to improvements in recruitment (of the right people), retention, progression and increased profitability. Skillsmart Retail feel there is much work to be done on a sectoral and cross sectoral basis in the area of pre-employment (“Job Ready”) and welcome proposals to overhaul New Deal. Skillsmart Retail is also exploring opportunities to maximise the efficacy and potential of Local Employment Partnerships with the “Big 5” retailers. We are also delighted to continue involvement with other pre-employment initiatives (such as Belfast City Councils upcoming HARTE programme.) The sector looks forward to playing a critical role in this area, but feels it is an entirely separate piece of work to Apprenticeships. Skillsmart Retail welcomes wholeheartedly the Departmental emphasis on quality improvement, trusting that this will not be confused with a target driven emphasis that ignores the needs of learners. However, our ongoing consultations with employers and Training for Success Providers, underline the concerns that we expressed very clearly in our initial consultation response.

Our headline objections and the main reason that the sector is currently unable to engage wholeheartedly with Apprenticeships under Training for Success are as follows:

1. The belief that the programme is discriminatory on grounds of age. Whilst 31% of all retail employees are ages 16-24, 68% are aged 25-65.

2. The belief that the programme is indirectly discriminatory on grounds of gender. The programme is not available to part time staff in retail – the majority of whom are women. The retail sector relies heavily on the flexibility delivered by a part time workforce. (40,000 in Northern Ireland) Denying part timers access to qualifications may prevent them from progressing to higher GVA full time positions. The practicalities of delivering to part-time workers are problematic but not insurmountable. Furthermore, the majority of employees (both male and female) are employed on ‘minimum hours contracts’. Whilst their contractual hours may be for, say 16 hours per week, in reality many employees work longer hours. The requirement of Training for Success apprentices to be contracted for a minimum of 35 hours per week with one employer is a major barrier.

3. There is now much evidence that employers are not engaging with the programme due to the mandatory inclusion of Essential Skills units. There are many objections to this – notwithstanding that the sector understands the need for an overall improvement of literacy and numeracy in Northern Ireland.

Their inclusion gives the impression that the programme is overly and irrelevantly academic in an arena that is supposed to be for those who have chosen a different career path. The length of time required for a person to be out of the workplace to gain the Essential Skills element is off putting and unworkable – particularly now Apprentices are of full employed status.

4. We have concerns that the methods of contracting with providers preclude seamless progression. An apprentice who has completed their Level 2 Apprenticeship will generally have to find another provider who can offer the Level 3 programme.

In simple terms we feel that Training for Success is a one size fits all solution. It simply does not meet the needs of the retail sector, and because of this opportunities are being missed both for individual progression and for the sector as a whole. We have outlined the major skills issues arising in Northern Ireland, and would like to emphasise that a meaningful, flexible Apprenticeship programme could make a contribution to addressing at least three of these areas.

We are not ignorant of the cost constraints on public programmes, but feel that adjustments could be made and measures introduced that would not necessarily drive up costs.

We have discussed our views of Training for Success with DEL and they have expressed their thanks for the feedback. We have also provided a detailed breakdown of the data we would find useful at their request. We are committed to working with the Department to ensure that Retail Apprenticeships are more widely taken up.

We welcome the opportunity to come to the Committee to give evidence and discuss training for Success and how it affects our sector in more detail.

2. The Retail Skills Network

Skillsmart Retail would also like to take this opportunity to raise awareness of our primary initiative to tackle skills issues in the retail sector. The success of the proposal will depend upon wider partnerships than those between the Sector Skills Council and the Department, but it is based upon tried and tested interventions and a model that is about to benefit from significant capital investment via the Retail Skills Academy.

As part of our work to promote and address skills needs in the retail sector, Skillsmart Retail has worked collaboratively with a number of partners in various locations across the UK to establish Retail Skills Shops.

These Skills Shops have been established in areas where retail upskilling or recruitment interventions have become an imperative for the economic prosperity of that location.

The core purpose of a Skills Shop

The relentless pace of retail expansion here, whilst welcomed by most consumers, creates tensions between the prosperity of our cities and towns and also between traditional or established shopping locations and new developments. This tension is evident not only in the competition for customers between various destinations, but also increasingly in competition for the excellent, well trained and motivated employees that will be essential to guarantee business success and prosperity going forward. Indeed, many independent retailers and town centre shopping destinations will rely increasingly on the customer service levels and expertise of their staff as their unique selling point when competing against the might of shopping centres and the multiples that can rarely be beaten on price alone.

Recruitment difficulties faced by Retail Employers

The solutions offered by Skills Shops

Retail Skills Shops have been proven to address these and other issues in a number of ways:

Examples of existing initiatives

There are already 30 Skills Shops across GB. Examples are the Tayside Retail Academy in Dundee; the Retail SkillShop in Dorset; The Learning Shop at Bluewater Shopping Centre; Swansea College Skillsmart Shop; Shop for Jobs at Newcastle upon Tyne; Plymouth Skills Shop, and the newly opened shops at Swindon and Derby.

Some Skill Shops are located within an FE College, or are virtual in nature, but evidence would suggest that the most successful skill shops are situated on the high street, or in a unit of a shopping centre – accessible to all.

What all the above initiatives have in common is that they have been made possible by collaborative working between partners. Generally these partners consist of the local FE College, Local Government Agencies, devolved Government departments or Agencies, Town Centre Managers and/or Shopping Centre Managers. Skillsmart Retail has been involved in most developments either to instigate partnerships or support and advise on the scheme.

The Retail Skills Network

The role of Skillsmart Retail will become more formal in coming months with the recent announcement that the Sector Skills Council has been successful in a bid for a National Skills Academy. This will take the form of a Retail Skills Network which will essentially provide the infrastructure to unite and bring together all existing Skills Shops, and to roll out a UK wide programme to establish new provision.

In Northern Ireland, The Skills Shop model has already received much interest and support form FE, HE, Private providers, Employers, Local Government, Department for Social Development, Shopping Centre Managers and some developers. It is Skillsmart Retails firm belief that the model will work at it optimum when working in synergy with DEL’s Skills Strategy and in partnership with the Department – signposting to DEL programmes and initiatives and providing that much needed sustainable strategic bridge between Public and Private sector.

Skillsmart Retail welcome the opportunity to discuss this initiative with the Committee and will be happy to answer any questions either directly on 13th February, or if time constraints do not permit, at any later date.

Sector Skills Councils
27 February 2008

Automotive.psd

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI)

Submission to the DEL Committee: February 2008

1. The IMI in Northern Ireland.

The Automotive Skills division of the Institute of the Motor Industry is the Sector Skills Council (SSC) representing employers from the automotive retail industry. The issues raised and recommendations in this submission on training within our sector in NI - including the roll out of the ‘Training for Success’ Programme- are based on responses from employers in Northern Ireland , including members of the IMI Northern Ireland Employers Forum. The membership of the Forum is included in the attached document.

2. Issues

3. Recommendations

The consensus among employers, with whom we engage, is for good quality training delivered locally across NI. We suggest here some recommendations which we are confident would help towards achieving that objective:

A. The Level 3 Employed Apprentice contract should be awarded to a range of high quality training providers in NI, including employers who opt to set up their own professional training provision ‘in house’.

Rationale:

B. Initiate a single, full time Training & Education programme which would allow progression from induction, (L1 for those that need it), L2 and upward (As per the full time FE option). Most importantly these students would be a source of recruits who could transfer, at any time, to employed apprenticeships.

Rationale

C. Numeracy & Literacy delivered by Vocational Tutors with appropriate training and resources.

Rationale

Attending the committee on Wed 27th February on behalf of the IMI (SSC) will be:

Martin Hutchinson MIMI TBFThompson
IMI/Automotive Skills National Manager –
Northern Ireland Terence Donnelly
Tel 07887591739 Managing Director
Local office 028 90860053 Donnelly Bros Motor Group

Raymond Crilly

Finance Director

Motor Vehicle Programmes –
Current options for school leavers

Apprenticeship

To be a qualified Technician (Mechanic)

You need paid employment to start an Apprenticeship

Week 1 Induction to make sure you are safe and learn some useful skills for when you go to work.

1 day per week after that for up to 4 years. (perhaps some extra days in agreement with your employer)

Qualifications:- NVQ level 2 then 3. Technical Cert L2 then 3 in Maintenance & Repair.

If you don’t have grade C’s in Maths and English you will do a more practical equivalent called Essential Skills.

National Award (or 1st Diploma) and National Cert/Diploma

If you haven’t got a job yet, you can join one of these Further Education (FE) courses and transfer to an Apprenticeship at any time. The knowledge studied is almost the same.

Attendance 4 days per week. (20hrs)

Depending on your home circumstances you would be entitled to Education Maint Allowance (EMA),

Bus pass as per school entitlement.

Qualifications:- IMI National Award 1 year.

You will do a more practical equivalent to Maths and English GCSE called Essential Skills.

IMI National Cert.1 year complete 2nd year for National Diploma gives you all the knowledge part of a full Apprenticeship.

Pre Apprenticeship

A 1 year course to prepare you for an Apprenticeship.

Full time 5 days in College for 13 weeks (35 hrs)

then 3 days in College and 2 Work Placement for 13 weeks,

then 2 days in College and 3 Work Placement for 26 weeks. (Attendance under review by DEL)

At the end you should secure employment and progress on to an Apprenticeship.

£40 per week Training Allowance plus cost of travel less £3 per week.

Qualifications:- Vehicle Fitting (Servicing) Level 2.

If you don’t have a grade C’s in Maths and English you will do a more practical equivalent called Essential Skills.

Skills for Work

A 1 year course to prepare you for an Apprenticeship for those who are weak in Maths and English.

Full time 5 days in College for 8 weeks,

then 3 days in College and 2 Work Placement for 13 weeks,

then 2 days in College and 3 Work Placement for 26 weeks. (Attendance under review by DEL)

At the end you should secure employment and progress on to an Apprenticeship.

£40 per week Training Allowance plus cost of travel less £3 per week.

Qualifications:- Vehicle Fitting (Servicing) Level 1

You will do a more practical equivalent to Maths and English GCSE called Essential Skills.

Job Ready

A 13 week full time course to allow students to ‘sample’ different vocation training areas. Also includes tuition in ‘Life Skills’, CV and job interview preparation.

Employer Forum – Northern Ireland, February 2008.

The Automotive Skills division of the Institute of the Motor Industry is the Sector Skills Council (SSC). As part of our engagement with the local industry is the Employer Forum who meet 3 times a year. This is a dynamic group who help ensure activity is focussed on benefiting our industry and whose membership is constantly reviewed to ensure it encompasses views from the entire Automotive Sector in Northern Ireland.

Raymond Crilly (Chair) Representing Heavy Vehicle & Plant sub sector
Finance Director
TBFThompson

Nick Lindsay Representing Franchise Dealer sub sector
Lindsay Cars
Aftersales Director

Karen Bailey Representing Franchise Dealer sub sector
Lindsay Cars
Group HR Manager

Helen Bready Representing City and Guilds
NI Manager
City & Guilds Northern Ireland

Robert Fitzpatrick Representing Franchised Dealers sub sector
Group Personnel Manager
Donnelly Brothers Citron

Gerry Fleming Representing the Institute of Road Transport Engineers
Service Manager
Belfast City Council

Philip McCallen Representing Motorcycle Dealers sub sector
Proprietor
Philip McCallen Motorcycles

Martin McConville Representing Franchised Dealers sub sector
After Sales Director
Wilsons of Rathkenny

Noel Smyth Representing Retail Motor Industry Federation
Regional Manager NI & Isle of Man

Jim Porter Representing Body Repairers sub sector
Proprietor
Porters Bodyshop, Portadown

Discussion Points for Improve Presentation to DEL – February 08

Introduction

This brief overview is given by Geoff Lamb who is the local operations manager for Improve Ltd., the Sector Skills Council for the Food and Drink Processing and Manufacturing Sector (represented locally by the Food and Drink Training Council). This will take the part of a discussion based upon the agenda items listed.

The local Agri-food Sector

This consists of a variety of sub-sectors along the supply chain from farm to fork.

Approximately 19000 people directly and as many again are engaged indirectly.

Annual industry turnover is approximately £2.5bn.

The sector is the largest contributor to sales (18.5%), external sales (15.2%), and employment (23%) of the local manufacturing sector.

The 10 largest companies are responsible for 44% of the gross turnover and employ 40% of all employees.

Average profit levels across the industry are 3.1% of sales

1. An overview of the issues facing the global food industry

2. The impact of these issues locally

3. Where does Improve fit in?

The Food and Drink Sector Skills Council tasked with ensuring that the sector attracts the best people and also that those currently employed are given the opportunity to develop their career within the industry to the utmost of their potential

The Key is to work towards a situation where the needs of employers are better matched to the availability of training supply

Improve Ltd have developed an evidence and locally based Sector Skills Agreement to focus these issues

8 Key Actions within the SSA

• careers development

• promoting productivity

• flexible qualifications

• training, learning and development

• information, advice and guidance

• skills as a strategic business driver

• a future in food

• networking for success

This SSA will inform our actions going forward and takes advice from the various strategies which have been published by DEL, particularly the Skills Strategy.

4. The Importance of Training for Success for the local Agri-food Industry

5. Issues with Training for Success for Improve

Association of Northern Ireland Colleges (ANIC)
27 February 2008

FE means business

anic logo

Briefing for the Committee for Employment and Learning

Introduction

1. The Association of Northern Ireland Colleges (ANIC) is the membership body for all six colleges of further and higher education in Northern Ireland. A key role of ANIC is to represent the views of all colleges to key stakeholders.

2. ANIC welcomes the opportunity to brief the Employment and Learning Committee on colleges’ experience of the new Training for Success Programme. Colleges welcome the committee’s interest in this important programme for Northern Ireland and the committee’s monitoring activities. Training for Success has the potential to make a significant contribution to the economic development and social cohesion of Northern Ireland.

3. This response covers a range of issues and colleges, through ANIC, are willing to provide any additional information required by the committee. This paper reflects the combined views of all six colleges of further and higher education in Northern Ireland.

Context

4. Colleges note the imperative set by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for the Department for Employment and Learning to replace the former Jobskills programme. The Department set itself a challenging timeframe to introduce the new programme, Training for Success. While this commitment to change is welcomed, colleges believe that the compressed timescale allowed to develop and implement the programme has contributed to the operational issues facing providers, participants and employers.

Procurement

5. Colleges have had a number of concerns about the procurement process used by the Department through Central Procurement Directorate (CPD). These included the implied but not substantiated collaborative arrangements with colleges cited in tenders submitted by some private sector bidders. The use of letters of assurance from claimed partners will be an important improvement in future procurements. Colleges were also concerned at the extent of high scoring within tender assessments awarded for facilities and resources ‘proposed’ by providers new to Northern Ireland compared to scores for bidders with existing facilities and resources. This anomaly was identified through individual feedback from CPD to a number of colleges. While understanding fully the need for open competition, the rationale for such scoring is a concern. Colleges welcome the fact that the Department has undertaken to look at the procurement exercise and to build on lessons learned. However, if the application of a flawed process led to an inappropriate award of contracts Colleges believe that the situation should be rectified.

Planning

6. The Department has responded quickly to the required demands of the PAC in relation to the former Jobskills programme. While that response is to be commended, it has to be noted that providers, not just colleges, have been concerned at the limited timeframe for planning and development which the Department left itself. Upon reflection, given the importance of the programme to Northern Ireland, employers and learners, it might have been preferable to have had a pilot period to assess the feasibility of several of the innovative aspects of Training for Success in order to ensure a smooth introduction across employment sectors and regions. Colleges flagged their concerns on a number of occasions to the Department and detailed the areas in which they believed problems could arise.

7. Colleges are also concerned that the planning process envisaged only a single avenue to apprenticeships. In England and Wales, the employer-led model is complemented by a programme-led route. Such an approach has two benefits. Firstly, it provides a mechanism for those young people who cannot, for whatever reason, access an employer-led route. Secondly, it allows for the delivery of planned numbers of skilled workers which cannot be achieved by a scheme which is dependent on the cyclical business flow.

Marketing and Promotion

8. The tight implementation timeframe posed considerable issues for all providers, including colleges, with regard to the marketing of the new Programme to employers, school leavers, careers advisers and parents. The required level of clarity was still in the process of development at a time when colleges and other providers would normally be fully engaged with the potential intake.

Performance of the programme

9. Training for Success is designed to cater for a broad range of participants ranging from highly motivated employees (up to 25 years old) to 16 year old school leavers with significant learning deficiencies and low levels of maturity. A review of the performance of the programme must therefore consider the different strands of the programme. Colleges welcome the fact that the Department for Employment and Learning has entered into dialogue to address areas requiring amendment.

10. Apprenticeships at Level 3 are an established area and have not had a flow of new entrants. This element, from a college perspective, has operated reasonably well.

11. Training for Success requires all participants to have gained GCSE C, Mathematics and English or equivalent within the last five years. For mature entrants holding GCSEs outside the five year rule this is unnecessary barrier. The effect of this is that employers are required to release already qualified for a minimum of 40 hours per subject.

12. A key element of the programme must be to meet the needs of school leavers – particularly those individuals with low level skills who would not be in a position to gain employment. While employed status for Level 1 students will always be an issue because employers in particular sectors will require young people to have acquired workplace skills at a higher level – particular with regard to health and safety, some sectors (such as retail) employed status for Level 1 students can work successfully.

13. There are similar issues for Level 2 in a number of sectors. Sectors such as hospitality and retail can offer suitable opportunities. Colleges would ask whether, from an employer perspective for example in the construction sector, a 16 year old school leaver would be able to successfully and safely go onto site from day one. There are similar issues facing disciplines such as hair and beauty and, in particular, the health and social care sector cannot offer employed status to potential entrants on the basis of age. There is also the underlying problem that many employers are unwilling to commit to employed status without having first experienced the trainee’s capabilities and aptitude for the workplace.

14. For Level 2 provision, colleges would suggest that employer-led programmes might not be the best pathway for all students. One size may not fit all across the range of employment sectors covered by Training for Success.

15. Direct employer engagement may not be best even for employers within the Northern Ireland economic environment. The offering of employed status from day one on top of demands for work placements is providing a significant challenge for employers, particularly SMEs.

Job Ready Strands

16. From their experience of this aspect of Training for Success, colleges agree that there is scope for improvement. Specifically, the programme needs to reflect fully the needs of young people leaving school, particularly those who are performing at levels below which they are suitable for employment.

17. The pre-apprenticeship strand of Training for Success caters for participants to begin Level 2 training who have not been able to secure full-time employment. The availability of jobs depends on the industry sector and geographical factors. Colleges are providing for significant numbers of participants within this strand. Given changing labour market trends, colleges believe the focus of this strand should be to train these people for the emerging labour markets. It will therefore be important that the achievement of a relevant vocational qualification is recognised and valued as valid training outcome. Colleges have found the funding allocated to this strand does not reflect the high levels of directed training required in operational guidelines. Currently pre-apprenticeships are required to access work placements after 13 weeks. This increases the difficulties in securing suitable placements.

18. Participants within the Skills for Work strand require levels of high personal support and directed training. An issue emerging from colleges has been that young people have been given a training credit for this programme whose needs would be better met within the Personal Development strand. Colleges have found the funding allocated to this strand does not reflect the high levels of directed training required in operational guidelines.

19. The range of needs demonstrated by young people on the Personal Development programme is extensive, ranging from those who have emerged from special schools to those at Level 1. There is a need for appropriate referral to providers. It is suggested that training credits should not identify the proposed level at which a young person enters the programme until the provider conducts suitable diagnostics to best match the needs of the young person to the best provision.

20. Although there are many potential benefits of the Personal Development strand, there needs to be a greater multi-agency strategy and planning to ensure the needs of these young people are best met.

21. Colleges believe that greater efforts need to be made in signposting young people to the best route for them. There is some anecdotal evidence of parental pressure forcing advisers to recommend training options when a personal development route would be more appropriate for the young person at that time.

22. Colleges are concerned that, in the development of Training for Success, young people with development needs form a “forgotten majority”. Few young people are being allocated to the personal development programme. There remains a need to develop this element Training for Success provision to facilitate training and development .

23. A particular difficulty in the first year of Training for Success has been the provision for young people who were eligible to undertake Level 2 training but who have not been successful in securing employed status.

24. A key assumption for the Training for Success model is that there is appropriate growth within the employment market to create sufficient opportunities for employers to be able to recruit trainees on a regular basis. Minor fluctuations in business activity have a major impact on employers’ ability to do this. Key changes in the construction industry pose a problem for young people hoping to secure entry through employed status. In the classic model of skills training there should either be a steady flow of apprentices or the training cycle should be a contra-flow to the business cycle for the area concerned. A purely employer-led model cannot fully deliver the skills needs of a forward looking society.

Meeting the needs of Programme for Government

25. Training for Success is a critical part of the provision and partnership model with employers to drive the Northern Ireland economy to meet the targets within the Programme for Government. While the Programme’s potential is clear to see, colleges propose that in order to fully develop new skills for new areas of economic activity (such as health and life sciences, new materials technology etc) which will be critical for economic development, the programme must have the ability to provide training that is not currently available within the employer-base. This poses challenges for training providers in the college and private sectors but models from other parts of the world demonstrate that such speculative and forward-looking training can be successful.

26. Colleges do not have a difficulty in engaging with employers to develop and deliver training. With input from employers, Sector Skills Councils and Workforce Development Fora, Colleges have an essential role in providing an opportunity for young people (particularly those who do not have the opportunity to enter employment from day one) to avail of vocational training and qualifications which will equip them for employment and to meet the changing skills needs of Northern Ireland.

Progression for participants

27. A suitable progression route from the pre-apprenticeship strand is required to ensure that young people not only gain suitable work and life skills but also remain motivated to build a future for themselves.

How to make it work

28. Colleges suggest that the Programme has had some success in its first year. However, given its importance for young people, businesses and the wider economy, a range of further developments are required. The regional pattern of employment opportunities in particular sectors make it difficult for capacity in key careers to be developed across Northern Ireland. Therefore there is a case for programme-led training to assist the employer-led aspects of the programme. Clearly such provision must be supported by enhanced labour market information – in particular, data from the Workforce Development Fora should be used in addition to Sector Skills Council information.

29. The Department should as part of its monitoring of Training for Success consider lessons learned from similar training initiatives in England and Wales – in particular, the allocation of resources to similar provision should be noted. Colleges in rural settings, in particular, have strong concerns about the payments for travel costs within the Training for Success programme.

30. It is suggested that training credits should not identify the proposed level at which a young person enters the programme until the provider conducts suitable diagnostics to best match the needs of the young person to the best provision.

Conclusions

31. Training for Success is an important programme for Northern Ireland and it has an essential place in achieving the economic and social vision outlined by the Executive. Colleges recognise the challenges faced by the Department for Employment and Learning in designing a replacement for Jobskills against a tight timescale. Colleges commit to working positively and proactively with the Department to ensure the evolution of a programme which meets best the needs of young people, employers and Northern Ireland.

32. For further information or clarification, please contact John D’Arcy, Chief Executive, Association of Northern Ireland Colleges, Millennium Community Outreach Centre, Springvale Educational Village, 400 Springfield Road, Belfast, BT12 7DU. Telephone: 02890 900067; mobile: 07809 426477;email: john.darcy@anic.ac.uk.

Department for
Employment and Learning
23 April 2008

Employment and Learning Logo.ai

Adelaide House
39-49 Adelaide Street
BELFAST
BT2 8FD

Mr Rab McConaghy
Committee Clerk
The Committee for Employment and Learning
Northern Ireland Assembly
Parliament Buildings
Stormont
BELFAST
BT4 3SW

18 April 2008

Dear Rab

Del Assembly Committee -
Monitoring and Scrutiny of the Rollout of Training for Success

Following the Committee for Employment and Learning’s meeting on 30 January 2008, I attach the information requested from the Department:

provision statistics;

an update on the Department’s engagement with participants on Training for Success, to establish their views of the provision; and

information on the establishment of an Expert Group for young people with disabilities.

To further inform the Committee’s scrutiny of Training for Success, in advance of the scheduled update that is to take place on 23rd April 2008, the Department has provided further information arising from its ongoing review of the programme. I therefore attach the Department’s proposed revisions to the structure of the provision, in light of a series of consultation focus groups held with Training Suppliers and Sector Skills Councils.

Yours sincerely

Chris McConkey.ai

C G McCONKEY

Departmental Assembly Liaison Officer

Training for Success

Current Statistics for Training for Success

1. The Training for Success occupancy as at 10th April 2008 is 5,895, which can be broken down per strand as follows:

Apprenticeships

Level 3 Apprenticeship - 222
Level 2 Apprenticeship - 2,899

Job-Ready

Pre-Apprenticeship - 1,371
Employability Skills - 3
Skills for Work (Level 1) - 1,208
Personal Development - 192
TOTAL 5,895

2. This is compared with the intake figures for Jobskills during the preceding year:

Apprenticeships

(MA1) Modern Apprentices - 1,750
(MA2) Modern Apprentices - 1,042

Training

Access - 1,333
Traineeships - 3,717
TOTAL 7,842

3. Breakdown by main NDAQ (National Database of Accredited Qualifications) occupational areas:

Pre-Apprenticeship

Level 2 Apprenticeship

Level 3 Apprenticeship

Health, Public Services and Care

93

185

102

Agriculture, Horticulture & Animal Care

18

16

5

Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies

232

919

16

Construction, Planning & the Built Environment

676

808

19

Information & Communication Technology

50

18

8

Retail & Commercial Enterprise

202

809

37

Leisure, Travel and Tourism

1

8

14

Art, Media & Publishing

0

8

1

Preparation for Life and Work

3

0

0

Business, Administration & Law

96

128

20

Total

1,371

2,899

222

4. Breakdown by main towns in Northern Ireland:

(A further breakdown specifying participation per all towns can be provided if required.)

Town

Participants

Antrim

135

Armagh

116

Ballycastle

30

Ballyclare

60

Ballymena

252

Ballymoney

80

Ballynahinch

63

Banbridge

81

Bangor

131

Belfast

1,370

Carrickfergus

135

Coleraine

115

Cookstown

87

Craigavon

130

Downpatrick

120

Dromore

39

Dungannon

172

Enniskillen

60

Larne

92

Limavady

91

Lisburn

160

Londonderry

428

Lurgan

104

Magherafelt

95

Newry

361

Newtownabbey

221

Newtownards

164

Omagh

166

Portadown

90

Strabane

110

5. Breakdown by certain equality groups:

Gender

Male

Female

Personal Development

124

68

Skills for Work

809

399

Employability Skills

3

0

Pre-Apprenticeship

1,029

342

Level 2 Apprenticeship

2,058

841

Level 3 Apprenticeship

62

160

Total

4,085

1,810

Religion

Catholic

Protestant

Other

Personal Development

51

42

99

Skills for Work

435

289

484

Employability Skills

1

0

2

Pre-Apprenticeship

519

328

524

Level 2/3 Apprenticeship

1,053

950

896

Level 3 Apprenticeship

73

77

72

Total

2,132

1,686

2,077

Age (at start of apprenticeship)

Level 2 Apprenticeship

Level 3 Apprenticeship

16

924

0

17

530

16

18

315

33

19

294

51

20

217

32

21

181

26

22

203

26

23

126

21

24

94

16

25

11

2

Engagement with Participants in Training for Success

6. The Department previously made a commitment to consult with participants on Training for Success to inform its ongoing review. This work supplements the focus groups that the Department held with Training Suppliers and Sector Skills Councils.

7. The Department funds LSDA (NI) under a central contract, to provide training and curriculum support to both FE Colleges and Training Suppliers and includes carrying out benchmarking and surveys to ascertain the current standards of provision. Under this contract LSDA (NI) carried out a survey of all participants in Training for Success.

8. The survey captured responses from over 1,400 participants, comprising residual Jobskills participants (25% of respondents) and Training for Success participants (75% of respondents). Please find below a summary of the main findings of the survey:

Statement

Agree/Strongly Agree

My learning programme is well matched to my individual needs, abilities, and skills

91.8%

Assessments are always clear and it is easy to understand what is expected of me

90.8%

The feedback I receive helps me to improve

92.7%

Tutors have a good knowledge of the industry or business that I work in

93%

My progress is reviewed regularly on a one-to-one basis

84.2%

It is easy for me to get to, and from, my place of study

91.4%

I receive suitable career advice during my programme

89.2%

I know how to access additional help to improve my Maths, English, or ICT

89.1%

I know how to access information to help me get a job

90%

The programme matches my personal aspirations and potential

91.1%

I feel that I have chosen the right course for me

92.6%

I have learning targets, set by my tutor, which I must complete and are reviewed regularly

87.1%

The skills I am taught are relevant in the workplace

91.6%

I can apply what I learn on the course to the workplace

90.8%

I hope to secure employment, or I have already got employment, as a result of this course

90.3%

9. Some additional comments from participants included that there is no need to change the provision, as it is highly suitable for all types of people, and leads to better employment opportunities. A copy of the full survey has been attached.

10. Whilst these results are very encouraging, there are however a number of figures and comments that will require further consideration and action. For example, the survey demonstrated that 17.4% of participants did not yet have a Personal Training Plan (PTP) at the time of taking the questionnaire (29th February 2008), although this could be explained by the logistical problems that have surrounded PTPs in the first year. Furthermore, 13.7% of respondents advised that they had a learning difficulty or disability, but 35.4% of those respondents did not receive any support for that difficulty or disability. Furthermore, where additional support was received, 29.3% advised that it was not useful.

11. There were also a few further suggestions from participants on how to improve their experience of the provision:

12. These are issues with which the Department is already familiar, and we consider that the proposed revisions to the structure of Training for Success will allow for these to be remedied. Details of these revisions are included later in this paper.

Expert Group for Young People with Disabilities

13. At the previous presentation on 30th January 2008, the Committee requested specific details of the members comprising the Expert Group for young people with disabilities. The Minister wrote to the Committee on 20th March 2008, outlining the Group’s membership and providing a copy of its Terms of Reference. The Minister has promised to write to the Committee again, once the Group has completed its report at the end of June 2008.

14. The Group has met on two occasions: 6th March 2008 and again on the 2nd April 2008. The Department has provided the Group with information, at its request, on the existing provisions within Training for Success in the context of participants with disabilities. The Department is also currently examining data from its Trainee Management System, in order to provide the Group with information on participation rates across the provision for those with disabilities. The Group intends to consult with young people in May and compiled a questionnaire at its April meeting to facilitate this consultation.

Proposed Revisions to the Structure of Training for Success

15. The Department has consulted with Training Organisations, Further Education (FE) Colleges, and Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) to discuss issues that have emerged during the roll-out of the new provision.

16. In general, Training for Success is seen by Training Suppliers as being a positive step forward. The concept of front-ended training and use of placements later in the training experience has been acknowledged as a positive change. The requirement for full assessment of the participant’s abilities and training needs and the production of Personal Training Plans has also enabled better tutor/participant relationships to be established.

17. However, there have been a number of negative issues raised which are affecting the fundamentals of the provision and which, if not addressed, will impact on the success of the programme and the retention and achievement of the young people taking part. It was also considered that the confusion arising from JobReady was impacting on the implementation and delivery of the Apprenticeship strands.

Issues

18. There needs to be an improved process to ensure that the young people are correctly assigned to the most appropriate training for their needs. This will prevent later regression and improve retention and achievement, especially for those participants who have significant barriers to employment.

19. The pressure on Training Suppliers to deliver 35 hours of in-house training over the first six weeks of the training, until work placements can be phased in, is having a noticeable impact on tutors and participants alike. Tutors are stressed and have little time to prepare for lessons. Participants are restless, discipline is deteriorating, and retention has been difficult to manage.

20. The requirement for greater hours in the ‘class-room’ has also created a capacity issue, in particular for FE Colleges where now the expanded demand for tutor and workshop resources is competing with full-time FE provision. FE Colleges also claim that the funding available under Training for Success is insufficient to cover the extended resource required.

21. Of particular interest to SSCs has been the appropriateness of the Pre-Apprenticeship provision. Emerging from these considerations and from monitoring participant progress in certain sectors, it has been noted that the current 52 weeks allowed under the Pre-Apprenticeship provision may not be sufficient time for participants to achieve the Technical Certificate qualification.

22. The construction industry have also lobbied for bespoke training for young people as a pre-condition for employment as apprentices and to be allowed onto building sites. Construction has historically been one of the main sectors where trainees were exploited. While CITB and CEF pledge support for the concept of employment from day one they also support the stance for pre-training.

23. Concern has also been voiced that any revisions to the structure and content of the programme must not compromise the principles of employer-led training, employment from day one, and must not be seen as increasing the risk of employer exploitation of no-cost work placements.

Proposals

24. It is now proposed that:

(a) a non-validated Training Credit is developed, which would not be validated until a rigorous assessment of the participant’s abilities, motivations, and barriers to employment has taken place by the Training Supplier. All JobReady training components will commence with this assessment (up to six weeks) as well as an appropriate level of employability training (up to six weeks).

(b) the current requirement to attend 35 hours per week of in-house training under JobReady is reduced to a lower initial attendance requirement (approximately 21 hours in the first 12 weeks), with participants gradually building up to a total of 35 hours per week attendance, including work placement. The current restriction on the length of time before a participant can enter a work placement will also be reduced. Work placements will be a maximum of 3 days per week.

(c) Under the Pre-Apprenticeship strand SSCs will be asked to declare occupationally specific frameworks that can be completed in one year with, as appropriate, a Level 2 qualification. A few SSCs would be able to deliver this approach now, but some, such as the construction industry, are not in a position to comply. Where a one year framework is not currently available, SSCs will be required to develop a programme by 2010. Until then, the current provision may be extended to two years with the re-introduction of the opportunity to additionally achieve an NVQ. This provision can also run parallel to Apprenticeship provision, allowing easier transfer/progression from the Pre-Apprenticeship strand, if the participant is able to find employment at any stage in their training. This training will include work placements up to a maximum of three days per week in the second year.

(d) Employability Skills will no longer remain a distinct component under JobReady, with the integration of participant assessment and employability training as a prerequisite in all other strands.

(e) Apprenticeship training will be removed from TfS and will be developed and branded as a separate ‘flagship’ programme. Until the Pre-Apprenticeship provision has been further developed, it will remain under the TfS JobReady umbrella.

(f) Without wishing to guess the recommendations of the recently established Disability Sub-Group on Training for Success, it is likely that consideration will have to be given to how training is delivered within the current structure to young people with severe disabilities and learning difficulties. Options may include revisiting the current contracts for specialist support or indeed bespoke contracts for specialist suppliers.

25. The above changes have now been agreed by representatives of the Training Suppliers who took part in the consultation focus groups.

26. There are still a number of procedural and mechanistic issues that need to be examined. These can, however, only be addressed once the structural changes to the provision have been agreed.

Educational Maintenance Allowance

27. Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA) that are paid to young people in education are means tested and currently paid at £10, £20, or £30 per week, plus three £100 bonuses depending on household income. Where the household income exceeds £30,000, EMA is not payable. The weekly minimum attendance is 15 hours.

28. Young people in unwaged training are currently required to attend for a minimum of 30 hours per week, and are paid a non-means tested Training Allowance of £40 per week plus bonuses (up to £200). However, this current Training Allowance is taken wholly into account when assessing entitlement to means tested benefits.

29. In England, from 30th June 2008, non means-tested EMA (£35 per week, currently under review) will be paid to all unwaged trainees participating in the E2E training provision (analogous to the JobReady components of Training for Success).

30. The Department is therefore considering introducing extending a non means tested EMA of £40 per week to unwaged trainees, aged 16 to 19, who are following the JobReady components of Training for Success, from 1st September 2008. This is being considered for a number of reasons:

EMAs are disregarded when assessing entitlement to means tested benefits. It is therefore advantageous for young people who are living in low income or benefit-dependent families or who are living independently (e.g. single parents and young people leaving care) to receive EMA. This could therefore act as an incentive for young people from disadvantaged areas to participate in Training for Success;

The extension of EMAs to unwaged trainees would remove the current disadvantage for them and their families compared to families and young people in similar financial circumstances where the young person is in education;

The higher EMA rate would also be advantageous in that it redresses the current inequity surrounding minimum hours of attendance between those in education and those in training; and

The proposed £40 EMA is in line with the current £40 Training Allowance. There would therefore be no additional expenditure required over that which is currently in payment.

31. Final approvals are currently being sought from the Department of Finance and Personnel.

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Irish Congress of Trade Unions
30 April 2008

Northern Ireland Assembly - Committee for Employment and Learning

Training for Success

Congress welcomes the invitation of the Committee to provide an opportunity to comment on the Training For Success Programme.

Congress acknowledges the assistance of DEL officials in providing information and data helpful to the development of our position.

Congress is supportive of attempts by government to provide training opportunities to post school trainees and adults. Our concern is to ensure that such training meets the needs of participants, to assist them into employment and to progress in employment towards higher skills and rewarding career opportunities. Congress is also concerned to ensure that happens in a non-exploitive context and in a manner which is not wasteful of public finances and resources.

1. Congress accepts that Training for Success commenced last September and that it is somewhat early in time to be conclusive regarding its operation. Initial research conducted by the Learning and Skills Development Agency suggests that participants consider the training approaches to be an improvement upon the former Jobskills Programme however a more considered analysis is necessary perhaps after the first year of operation of the Scheme. Already a number of issues have arisen which are of concern to Congress.

2. One concern relates to the process of tendering for contracts. We appreciate that all departments are bound by European regulations re procurement hence tendering is open to any organisation across the EU. There is a concern that all contracts at Level 3 have been awarded to the private sector – in some instances to organizations from outside Northern Ireland and which have no infrastructure locally to deliver the programmes they sought to provide. Congress would wish the basis upon which contracts to be transparent and in the public domain so that the public may be satisfied that contracts met the criteria demanded and that an organisation awarded a contract best met those criteria compared with other applicants.

3. It is not known and not recorded by DEL as to the number or type (large, SME,) nor location (urban rural) of employers participating in the scheme. There is a need for the collation and retention of accurate data so as to track the engagement by employers and to monitor access to the scheme across all areas.

4. The scheme is aimed entirely at the private sector - public sector bodies who wish to train apprentices cannot do so under Training For Success - this is because it would be seen a double funding from the public purse. This excludes public sector employers in areas such as health, education, local authorities environment etc, from being able to recruit apprentices and have them as trainees under the scheme. It is probably more to do with government attempts to grow the private sector than with concern over double funding (which could be easily addressed) but it is detrimental to having access to as wide an employer base as possible to enable higher level training for employment and it reduces access to training.

5. Anyone under 19 or starting at age 19 is exempt national minimum wage entitlements. There is evidence that level 2 trainees in particular are not being paid a wage equivalent to other employees but are being given £40pw which is the level of trainee allowance paid to pre-apprentices. There is no monitoring of wage levels nor is there a requirement by an employer to indicate the level of wage to be paid when that employer recruits an apprentice. Congress understands that in England it is a condition of receiving funding that the employer pays the current wage rate - but not in NI. This needs to be addressed. DEL take the view this is an employment matter and it is outside their remit. Congress however is of the view that in order to prevent the exploitation of young persons there ought to be provision in the securing of contracts for the employer to declare the level of wages to be paid and that this be monitored on a sectoral basis.

6. There is evidence that because of a downturn in construction in particular apprentices are being laid off - thus they cannot complete their apprentice training. When this happens they are re-directed into the pre-apprentice strand. This means they are out of the apprenticeship. There is a need to ensure that once recruited the apprentice can continue with the apprenticeship in a programme led arrangement through the likes of an FE college. Congress understands such happens in England. DEL have a concern that if there were to be programme led apprenticeships this would encourage employers not to take on apprentices as employees but to wait and have free labour when the colleges place these apprentices for work placements - That is a genuine concern which would replicate all the evils of Jobskills - however on the other hand it is highly damaging to the concept of apprentice training if it all falls apart because the employer cannot keep the apprentice on. We need these trainees to have a guarantee that when they are signed on to an apprentice scheme they will be guaranteed to be able to complete it.

7. There is also concerns that these apprentices are not receiving travel allowances for days spent in colleges engaged - those on pre-apprenticeship programmes get travel allowances - there is no obligation for apprentices to receive same. There is a case for equity of treatment with regard to all participants being able to attract travel allowances and at the actual costs of travel. The current restricted arrangement is a deterrent to access to participants from rural communities.

8. For the apprenticeship strand each trainee has employed status - the 222 at Level 3 are higher qualified entrants and information from colleges and LSDA indicate that this strand is relatively working well so far as industry led standards are concerned. There are some concerns regarding the level of wages paid to apprentices with regard to industry rates. There are also concerns that employers are not monitored to ensure that each apprentice is provided with hands on job training. There is a need for monitoring in both cases.

There are 2899 on the level 2 strand again spread across a range of occupational areas. Again these trainees have employed status - there is a concentration in engineering construction and retail - again the standards are set by the industry.

Compared with jobskills at a similar point in the year the overall number on the programme is down by around 2000 - it is not known why this should be so and this is a matter which requires investigation.

9. Whilst the scheme is not confined to 16 - 19 year olds the figures show small numbers at age 23+ - thus there is little take-up by persons who missed out in earlier years. More need to be done to promote the scheme amongst young adults who have been in the workforce for some time.

10. The Job Ready Strand has 5895 participants. 1371 are on the pre-apprenticeship element and 1208 on the Skills for Work element. These trainees are training organisation or college based for 52 weeks. After that the hope is they will progress to an apprenticeship. There area number of issues here to be looked at.

(a) If a trainee cannot progress to an apprenticeship after 52 weeks at college - something needs to be put in place for them to be able to continue in training for employment.

(b) there needs to be a clearer target for these trainees to achieve some vocational qualification as a result of their participation. Those on the pre-apprenticeship element work towards a Technical Certificate but those on Skills for Work don’t have a structured programme.

(c) there is a need for more diagnostic testing during the first month of the programme to assess the competencies, aptitudes, needs and abilities of the trainees - the Training Credit should not be issued until that has been accomplished.

(d) A young person presenting at level 1 and who has employment, cannot join this strand of the programme. This has a number of consequences. Those young people are placed into Level 2 which may be above their current abilities, or they have to leave the job, or they don’t come on the programme for structured training because they want to keep the job. There is a need to have flexibility at this strand which would allow these young people to remain employed. A young person who is a full-time student would be able to work part-time without restriction - why should Training for Success trainees be treated differently - after all the whole purpose of these schemes is about getting young people job ready

(e) Training providers claim that they are suffering financial losses because of the current level of travel costs and want the funding model to be revised.

(f) Colleges argue that only 60-80% of the Technical Certificate can be obtained in one year and that there needs to be scope to go beyond the 52 weeks to enable trainees to complete and to progress.

11. Congress wishes the programme to be successful and offers the above suggestions to seek to improve its operation. Along with the DEL Committee we will continue to monitor its development.

Appendix 4

Additional Submissions

People 1st

Submission by People 1st to the Assembly Committee for Employment and Learning: A summary of the skills issues impacting the Hospitality, Leisure, Travel & Tourism Industries in Northern Ireland

1.0 People 1st

People 1st is the Sector Skills Council for the hospitality, leisure, travel & tourism industries. The 14 sector industries People 1st represents are: Hotels, Restaurants, Pubs, Bars & Nightclubs, Contract food service providers, Hospitality Services, Membership Clubs, Events, Gambling, Travel Services, Tourist Services, Visitor Attractions, Youth Hostels, Holiday parks, Self catering Accommodation.

People 1st is tasked with raising the productivity of the sector in Northern Ireland, by ensuring sector employers have access to people with the right skills and that employers have the right infrastructure to increase their own investment in skills development. We do that through the implementation of standards, training and qualifications and represent the interests of the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism related businesses, to Governments and partners on these and other education and training issues. Our remit is to engage with employers on a sectoral basis and represent their needs to key partners and stakeholders within the UK countries and regions.

2.0 Strategic Tourism Context

The quality and competitiveness of the tourism product is directly related to the ability of the industry to attract, retain and develop the people it needs to provide visitors with the type and quality of experience that exceeds their expectations.

The NI Programme for Government firmly recognises tourism as a strategic priority in growing a dynamic and innovative economy with challenging targets being set to increase tourism’s potential. Workforce development and skills remain a vital ingredient in ensuring such growth ambitions are met. Currently, skills and training needs impacting the sector are placing major constraints on the industry’s ability to compete and innovate and sustain the delivery of a premium tourism product in the long term.

The NI Affairs Committee Inquiry into Tourism has also highlighted the need to ensure skills provision is better focused and that resources are aligned behind delivery of key strategic priorities for tourism.

To ensure that skills gaps and labour supply do not become constraining factors on tourism’s true potential there is a need for a sustained and co-ordinated approach to workforce development to move the industry forward.

3.0 Size & Scope of sector and employment impact

Employment

The industry has experienced sustained employment growth over the last 10 years and has the clear potential for further growth to counter both further decline in manufacturing and textiles and any reductions in public sector employment. Employment forecasts by DETI predict the creation of an additional 13,000 new jobs in the main hotels and restaurants sector by 2013, a third of the total 54,000 new jobs forecast for the Northern Ireland economy as a whole.

4.0 Skills challenges impacting sector productivity

The industry is faced with a number of challenges if it is to respond to the ever changing expectations of visitors. Robust research undertaken by People 1st with over 400 NI employers identifies skills issues impacting the sector. The four critical priority areas highlighted are:

Retention

Management & Leadership

Customer Service

Chef Skills

4.1 Other issues:

Allied to the skills issues impacting the sector are continuing concerns voiced by industry in respect of:

Smarter Spending

The findings from People 1st Smarter Spending Review estimate that £23m is spent on skills and training for the sector in Northern Ireland and it appears to be having a limited impact.

While government funding is available:

5.0 Recommendations:

Through a programme of employer research & consultation activities; overseen by a Strategic Advisory Committee comprising leading sector employers and chaired by Howard Hastings, MD Hastings Hotels; a set of innovative and strategic proposals for action were developed to inform the Sector Skills Agreement and effect a viable shift in the tourism skills arena.

The following recommendations set out strategic proposals to ensure that an integrated and cross departmental approach is pursued to deliver a demand-led system and that funding for skills is deployed in a way that meets industry needs and delivers the growth ambitions set for tourism.

There is a need for an umbrella funding and delivery framework to deliver a programme of strategic & operational activity in Northern Ireland to drive the implementation of the recommendations specific to the localised context and policy framework over the next 3 years.

This will require:

1. Co-ordination & Delivery Mechanism

2. Single Communications Channel

3. Ensuring Right Qualifications attract the right funding

4. Raising Management Capability

5. Sector Small Business Support

There needs to be greater effort to provide training which is easily accessed to a large proportion of small businesses who are much less likely to receive government funding to help them train. This requires:

6. Raising Service Quality

7. World Class Skills Delivery

8. Attracting High Calibre Entrants

9. Broadening the Appeal of the sector

10. Raising craft skills for chefs

6.0 Conclusion

It is critical that the necessary resources are directed to implementing the required actions to drive improved skills levels, increased competitiveness and productivity and realise the growth ambitions set for tourism. Without this the future growth, quality and competitiveness of the tourism product is at risk of being undermined.

The need for a robust and fit for purpose apprenticeship system has been identified as a key strategic priority for our sector and is acknowledged as having a critical role to play in addressing the productivity, retention and appeal issues the industry faces in developing international competitiveness. The following paper outlines the issues and key recommendations in respect of apprenticeships for our sector.

Submission by People 1st to the Assembly Committee for Employment and Learning: A summary of key issues around apprenticeships within the People1st footprint

1. Introduction

It is widely felt that apprenticeships are an effective means of providing employees with the appropriate skills and knowledge they require to carry out their job effectively. People1st value and recognise the contribution that such a programme can make to the hospitality, travel, tourism and leisure industries. Putting in place robust frameworks that meet the needs of the sector and are clearly identifiable as doing so is a key priority. The development of such a framework has been identified in the 10-point Sector’s Skills Strategy which specifies the need for attracting high quality people to the sector. We have therefore developed an apprenticeship strategy to ensure that the sector can benefit from apprenticeships that are valued by both employers and learners.

2. Background

People1st completed their Sector Skills Agreement (SSA) in December 2006, which highlighted that the sector suffers from severe skill gaps and shortages around a number of specific areas across the sector. Two of the main priorities for the industry were identified as management and leadership and craft skills for chefs. However, at the same time the sector lacks robust qualifications and programmes to develop the skills and knowledge required in these areas. Employers have told us that there are too many qualifications available in the sector and that their content may not always match what the job role requires. People1st are working on developing a sector qualifications strategy to address these issues.

Both of the above priority areas highlighted in the SSA are covered by current apprenticeship frameworks, making it more important that these frameworks are effective. The SSA also identified that in Northern Ireland, the majority of formal, government funded, work-based learning is undertaken through the Apprenticeship scheme. Both these factors make it vital that we ensure the apprenticeship programme is right in Northern Ireland.

3. Issues

3.1 The Apprenticeship needs to be refocused in order to ensure it is delivering the skills required by employers. The current frameworks lack a clear identity and suffer from poor success rates. In 2005/06 105 apprentices started the Hospitality Traineeship on the Food Preparation and Cooking route and 44 achieved the framework. In the same year 81 apprentices started the Modern Apprenticeship on the same route and only 20 apprentices achieved the framework. This represents a huge loss of opportunity for the sector, which the sector needs to address.

People 1st research has shown that the main reasons for low completion rates are:

3.2 There is a view that the current hospitality apprenticeship needs to contain an element of formal learning. Separate qualifications for the knowledge based element have been removed from the framework and is assessed through formal testing of the underpinning knowledge within the NVQ.

3.3 In addition, there appears to be barriers to accessing an apprenticeship. From an employer perspective these include:

From a learners perspective the barriers mainly involve a lack of awareness of what the apprenticeship is and who it is aimed at.

4. Apprenticeship Reform

In its apprenticeship strategy, People1st has identified its vision for apprenticeships in the sector as follows:

‘The apprenticeship should be a prestigious programme offering high quality learning and development enabling employers and the sector to benefit from a skilled, motivated and flexible workforce.

It also identifies the four main objectives of the apprenticeship strategy as follows:

The development of the apprenticeship strategy has been primarily based on previous research that has been conducted by People1st in this area[1]. This research highlighted that in addition to the content of the framework, there were wider issues around apprenticeship delivery. People1st have therefore developed ten recommendations to help meet the above objectives (see Appendix 1). These recommendations have been based on initial feedback from employers and learning providers on the strategy.

The main priority for the sector is to have in place a robust apprenticeship programme that meets the needs of employers (see recommendations three, four and five). In addition to this, we have recommended some wider initiatives to improve completion rates, of which the following are considered most important:

It is also important that the essential skills component of training is contextualised throughout the rest of the framework to enable apprentices to understand its relevance. As mentioned above, this has historically been an issue for learners and proved a barrier to completion.

People1st are currently consulting on the ten recommendations and the proposed apprenticeship model, with the aim of having a new apprenticeship framework available for August/September 2009. The work on the above four recommendations will take place prior to this date. However, some of the IAG and CPD activities will be carried out following the implementation of the new apprenticeship framework.

5. Conclusions

In summary, we believe that the sector must have robust apprenticeship programmes in Northern Ireland that are valued by both employers and learners, and supported by wider initiatives to increase quality, awareness and access. People1st believe that the apprenticeship should be a programme of learning which is not just a recognition of what an apprentice is currently doing, but which offers the opportunity for development and progression. We must take a more long-term view, as well as meeting the immediate needs of employers we feel that the recommendations outlined in our apprenticeship strategy will help ensure that this happens.

Appendix 1

Recommendation One: All apprentices should be ‘employed’ in order to complete.

An apprentice should be in employment whilst completing the programme. The apprenticeship should enable the apprentice to develop knowledge and competence and apply that in the workplace. The content and delivery of the apprenticeship should be directed by the needs of employers. The new Apprenticeship model will state that the competence element must be work-based with assessment being geared towards work-place practice.

Recommendation Two: Apprenticeships should be available to all ‘employees’, however there should be different structures dependent on the stage of career.

There are different types of learners at which apprenticeships should be aimed dependant on their career aspirations, but which each have very different requirements. The age of the apprentice should not be a barrier and the apprenticeship and its funding should be open to all. There are a number of starting points for an apprentice, however the completion point - the competence, knowledge and ability to do the job - should be understood, agreed and the same industry standard for all candidates.

Recommendation Three: Apprenticeships should have two different approaches depending on the apprentice and the type of employer

A more ‘rounded’ multi-skilled form of apprenticeship will allow learners to gain experience and knowledge within different areas of the industry/organisation and provide them with the skills and knowledge to move to supervisory/junior management roles. This type of apprenticeship may also be more suitable for a smaller employer.

A more occupational specific apprenticeship will provide the specific skills and knowledge to be able to have the capability and competence to undertake a specific job role eg chef or travel agent. This type of apprenticeship may be suitable for a larger employer.

Recommendation Four: Apprenticeships should be ‘national’ programmes with flexibility on the elements being approved by People1st.

Any differences in the programme across the UK should be removed as much as possible so that all apprentices obtain similar experiences as part of the programme. There should be a national standard enabling a transient workforce. However, the apprenticeship framework should allow for the incorporation of in-house training programmes if they are mapped across to the National Vocational Qualification. Through the Sector Qualification Strategy, People1st will develop specific units and qualifications which will form part of the apprenticeship.

This should be made up of industry core and industry pathway units with the possibility of incorporating in-house programmes as part of these additional units. Any new qualifications or units should be developed in conjunction with employers and then accredited as part of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).

Recommendation Five: People1st recommends that we move towards unitised routes with all transferable skills being contextualised and integrated.

A core set of units for both the competence and knowledge element should be defined carefully and led by the business model. Thus units in safe and legal that would prepare candidates for actual work, and knowledge and transferable skills that would be required of employees at a very early stage would be considered the priority. There should be additional units based on the route they follow. Transferable skills should be integrated within each of the units of competence and knowledge. They should be developed and tested in line with the tasks required for each job or industry. People1st should also develop criteria for the development of optional and additional units that can represent the needs of specific employers or local needs, and so that all relevant skills can be represented in the apprenticeship.

Recommendation Six: Apprentices should have access to appropriate opportunities upon completion.

This should be in terms of career development, opportunities to progress to management, higher salaries where appropriate, higher education, further vocational education and broader employability.

Recommendation Seven: People1st recommends the development of IAG, tracking apprentices using UK Skills Passport and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes for providers and employers

The provision of Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) should be for employers, providers and learners and should be equivalent to that of other programmes and qualifications. The apprenticeship should be promoted in such a way that it is seen as a valuable programme of learning and development. There should be opportunities for employers to share best practice with each other.

Recommendation Eight: Appropriate marketing options should be used and the success of each option monitored with employers in order to help ‘focus’

This should include:

Recommendation Nine: There should be appropriate funding rates that are channelled in the most appropriate way

People1st should consider the current funding models including the methodology for deciding how funds are to be delivered as well as for deciding funding levels, making recommendations to funding bodies and supporting providers and employers in their work enlightening them.

Recommendation Ten: All apprentices should be in possession of a UK Skills Passport

This will enable the apprentice to undertake a thorough skills assessment and then allow People1st to track the Apprentice’s progress throughout their programme. This may result in intervention to ensure the provider, employer or apprentice is given access to support. This would also make the apprenticeship more transportable and encourage the learner to complete as it will enable them to credit achievement as they go along.

Appendix 2

The Proposed Apprenticeship Model

The Proposed Apprenticeship Model.ai

[1] How should the framework and wider delivery issues be addressed to improve the retention rate of apprentices in hospitality? (2005) People1st

Diversity Works

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Include Youth

Include Youth Logo.psd

The Give & Take Scheme

The Give & Take Scheme is run by Include Youth and works with predominately care experienced young people (aged 16 – 21) from across NI who have been assessed as being unable to participate in mainstream training and employment opportunities

The aims of the Give and Take Scheme are:

This is achieved in the following ways:

  1. Induction and Assessment - All young people and their Give and Take key workers undertake a detailed induction and assessment programme where a work plan is agreed between the Scheme, the young person and the young person’s social worker. This plan is based on the needs, capabilities and aspirations of each young person and includes a formal introduction to the Careers Service.
  2. Supported work placements – All young people are given graduated exposure to responsibility in particular areas of work that interest them. Each placement is individually tailored to address the specific needs of the young person. Skills are learnt in such a way that they build self-esteem. Types of placement include; work with children, the elderly and people with disabilities, manual work such as painting/decorating, mending bikes etc., office work including computer training, plus catering and shop work.
  3. Essential skills - For the majority of young people on the scheme literacy and numeracy training or basic ICT training is required. The scheme provides in-house training with our own trained tutors or we use local college tutors. Where it is practical and appropriate we support young people to attend local colleges.
  4. Training –Young people are assisted and supported to access job specific technical skills needed to achieve sustained employment.
  5. Social education/personal development programme – Young people are supported to explore the wider issues impinging on their lives. This involves a variety of activities both informal and formal. These may include regular drop-ins, assertiveness training, drug and alcohol use, relationships, sexual health, sexuality, independent living skills, identity etc.
  6. Social/cultural awareness – Young people are provided with the opportunity for positive social contact in a non-threatening environment. As well as undertaking formal work in areas such as gender awareness and cross community issues we attempt to provide a flexible programme structure that can respond to the needs of young people as they arise, whether it is helping an individual to resolve a crisis situation, or participating in a shared groupwork or leisure activity. We aim to build the self-esteem of young people through this process as well as improve a young person’s co-operation skills through the provision of team building activities.
  7. Mentoring – All young people will be given the opportunity for additional support by a personal mentor. The mentoring relationship will focus on the personal development of the young person addressing key issues such as interpersonal skills, independence skills and coping skills. The relationship with the mentor will assist the young person in setting and achieving personal goals that will help them towards sustained employment.
  8. Employer Liaison – We will develop relationships with employers in both the public and private sectors to increase awareness of the needs of the young people on Give and Take. We will also work with employers to help them create a more supportive working environment for our young people while on placement. This may include the provision of employment mentors from with the employer organisation.
  9. Move-on- through continuous engagement with the Careers Service young people are supported to access mainstream opportunities including Training for Success (Job Ready), full and part-time further education and employment.

By providing psychological and social supports for young people as they learn, the scheme acts as a positive experience for such young people who characteristically have been treated as “no hopers” by one institution after another. The experience of success can be transferred from one situation to another as the person starts to believe in his/her own capabilities. For example, young people on the scheme often become much better at advocating for their rights in different situations in their lives, whether it is to do with employment, training, accommodation, or relationships. Furthermore, by placing them in a work setting near their home young people are able to build networks of support for the future, a crucial preventive measure. In essence, we work to help vulnerable young people develop successful and creative coping strategies to enable them to live independently in the community.

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Give and Take Evaluation

Interim Report October 2007

Tim Chapman

CTC Associates

CTC
Associates

transforming your vision into value with integrity

1. Introduction

CTC Associates was commissioned to conduct an evaluation of the Give and Take Project in 2006. This evaluation will be conducted over a period of three years. A final report will be available in 2008. This report summarises some interim findings.

The Give and Take project is delivered by Include Youth. It provides work placements, training and personal development programmes to young people referred by Health and Social Services Trusts, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Youth Justice Agency. These young people have been unable to engage in mainstream training schemes and employment due to their history of abuse and exclusion. They are generally vulnerable young people who lack confidence and whose behaviour is often very challenging.

This report evaluates the quality of the delivery of the programme and its outcomes. It also makes recommendations on improvements which could be made to the programme’s quality and effectiveness.

2. Methodology

For the purpose of this evaluation I have:

Had access to:

Had contact through:

Observed:

3. Quality of delivery

Include Youth has developed several methods of assuring quality of delivery. The organisation has agreed service level agreements with Craigavon and Banbridge Community Health and Social Services Trust regarding the delivery of the Give and Take Scheme. This clarifies expectations of service in relation to referral, induction, work placement, reviews and contact with referring social worker. A similar agreement with Newry and Mourne Health and Social Services Trust specifies objectives for Give and Take. The agreement with the Western Health and Social Services Board comprehensively covers governance, accountability and monitoring arrangements for the delivery of the Give and Take Scheme. The Service and Budget Agreement with Homefirst Community Trust specifies objectives, the scope of the scheme, criteria for admission, review and discharge process, mutual responsibilities, and the procedures for the delivery of the scheme. Detailed specifications for service have been agreed with South and East Belfast Health and Social Services Trust and North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust. There is a similar Service and Budget Agreement with The Youth Justice Agency.

Each referring agency has a monthly meeting with the local Give and Take worker. The progress of the young people and the waiting lists are reviewed. The Trust ‘gatekeepers’, (managers who oversee the contract with Give and Take), are very satisfied with the project workers’ performance, describing them as ‘pro-active’ and ‘open to ideas’ and ‘hands-on approach’.

The project provides written progress reports to each referring Trust every quarter. This report comments on the progress of each young person referred by the Trust. It also lists those on the waiting list. Performance is rated by comparing the target number of referrals from the Trust with the actual number of young people participating on the scheme. In consulting with managers in the referring agencies, they have found this reporting mechanism very effective in relation to accountability and problem solving. One Trust manager commented that she would welcome more detail on qualifications gained and any other positive outcomes.

“The Give and Take Scheme has provided quality input and been prepared to operate a flexible and user friendly service that supports young people in very difficult circumstances to achieve within a supportive and realistic time frame.” Leaving and Aftercare Services, Craigavon.

Records are kept on contact with each young person, on reviews and on any communication with referring social workers. They demonstrate the vulnerability of the young people, the challenges they pose and the efforts of the workers to engage with and stick with them.

The staff and management of Give and Take have a range of qualifications relevant to the nature of the project. The manager holds a teaching qualification and has extensive experience of management in the voluntary sector, including working as a Senior Development Officer in a Youth Training Workshop. Among the staff, three have professional youth and community work qualifications and two are qualified social workers. All the other field work staff have third level qualifications except for one staff member who will be supported to complete an appropriate course in the near future. The staff have considerable experience of working with marginalised youth and have a range of other useful qualifications (Duke of Edinburgh Award assessor, Certificate in Teaching Basic Skills, counselling). All staff participate in child protection training and other relevant in-service courses.

The young people rate the staff highly. They describe them as patient yet firm about rules and fair in their enforcement. “They always give you another chance because they know you are worth it”. (Can you box this and attribute to a name?) Staff are perceived as good listeners who make an effort to understand young people. They are available when the young people need them.

Referring agency service managers describe the workers as pro-active and very responsive to their agency’s needs. They perceive Give and Take as adding value through its ability to engage very resistant young people, its ability to develop working relationships with social workers, its value for money, its flexible, responsive programmes tailored to individual’s needs, its resourcefulness in finding appropriate placements, its understanding of, tolerance for and commitment to young people, and the positive outcomes young people achieve. 1

4. Young people participating in Give and Take

The Give and Take project aims to engage with young people whose needs would not be met by mainstream training organisations and who struggle to compete in the job market. Referrals come predominantly from Health and Social Services Trust social workers working with young people at risk and those who have been accommodated and from Probation Board and Youth Justice Agency staff supervising young people involved in offending.

Source of participants

  1 April 2006 –
31 March 2007
1 April 2007 –
30 June 2007

EHSSB

42

17

NHSSB

19

12

SHSSB

18

9

WHSSB

31

13

Youth Justice Agency

10

5

Probation Board

7

2

New Leaf Project

6

5

Quakers

1

1

Other

1

 

The table below breaks down sources of referrals further illustrating the use of the programme by individual Trusts.

Source of new referrals

  1 April 2006 –
31 March 2007
1 April 2007 –
30 June 2007

Homefirst Community Trust

11

3

South and East Belfast HSST

9

2

North and West Belfast HSST

6

1

Down and Lisburn Trust

12

3

Newry and Mourne HSST

6

Craigavon and Banbridge HSST

5

1

Foyle HSST

9

3

Sperrin Lakeland Trust

11

1

Youth Justice Agency

8

2

Probation Board

5

 

New Leaf

2

1

Quakers

1

 

Other

1

 

Young people who participate on the Give and Take scheme are amongst the most vulnerable people in society. Most have substantial experience of school refusal or exclusion, of not being in training or employment, of being in care, and of economic and social deprivation. They are likely to have behavioural problems or a record of offending. They may have experienced abuse and have learning difficulties and mental and emotional health problems.

The Trust ‘gatekeepers’ recognise that these young people are a very needy group. They are grateful that Give and Take fills a gap in service provision allowing social workers to attend to other needs.

5. Throughput

The Give and Take project has no problem in attracting sufficient referrals.

Number of young people attending the scheme

 

1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007

1 April 2007 – 30 June 2007

Male

78

32

Female

57

32

Total

135

64

The table below includes numbers of new referrals, completers, early leavers and of those on the waiting list. They provide an indication of the demand for the service and its effectiveness in enrolling and sustaining the participation of vulnerable young people who almost certainly would not be able to sustain mainstream vocational training.

  New Referrals Completions Early leavers Waiting list
Male Female Male Female Male Female

Oct-Dec 2006

8

11

8

4

4

3

15

Jul-Sept 2006

10

8

10

7

7

6

21

Apr-June 2006

14

5

5

6

5

1

23

Jan-Mar 2006

5

12

4

2

3

3

22

Totals

37

36

27

19

19

13

Ave 20

Jan-Mar 2007

17

12

5

5

6

4

14

Tim I have given the figures for the last quarter of the year for you to choose if you want to use them instead of the Jan to March 06 figs. This is entirely up to you because it will mean lowering the waiting list down from 20 to 18 and rewriting the subsequent paragraph. I will leave this with you to decide.

The Give and Take project engaged 73 new referrals in 2006. Of the 78 who either completed the programme successfully or dropped out, 32 (41%) young people did not complete the programme and 46 (59%) completed the programme successfully. The Trusts appreciate Give and Take’s ability to engage and support young people. There is an average of 20 young people at any one time on the waiting list. More details on early leavers are provided in the section on outcomes below.

These statistics demonstrate that there is a steady demand for this service among referring agencies and that around 60% will achieve the goals that they have set for themselves.

6. The Give and Take Programme

Consulting the referring agencies, I can verify that the referral process is straightforward and effective. The Give and Take programme has distinct, but connected and mutually reinforcing, components:

1. The Information Session

2. The Induction Programme

3. The Work Placement

4. Training

5. Personal Development

1. The Information Session

Once a referral is received an information session is arranged. Normally the young person, the referring worker and a parent or carer meets with the Give and Take worker. The purpose of the information session is to ensure that the young person has sufficient relevant information to decide whether to enrol in the Give and Take programme. The worker explains what the Give and Take programme offers in relation to work placements, training and personal development. A leaflet providing this information is also given to the young person. The young person is given the opportunity to ask questions. It is made clear that the induction programme is in part an opportunity for the young person to demonstrate the commitment required to sustain a work placement. Staff were observed to provide information in an appropriate manner using language, a style and pace that were young person friendly. Workers come across as supportive and flexible e.g. about fitting work placements with the young person’s current commitments and routines.

Young people are naturally a little nervous when meeting a new person. Consequently most of the talking was done by the worker. When asked at the end of the meeting by the evaluator, the young people all said that they had been given enough information to make an informed decision. The session succeeds in passing on relevant information about what Give and Take offers and what is expected of the young person. It may be less effective in engaging the real motivation of the young person who remained quite passive throughout most observed meetings.

The Induction Programme

There is a written manual for the Induction Programme. It contains seven structured and planned sessions including:

1. Introduction to volunteering

2. Why volunteer?

3. Personal development assessment

4. Meeting careers advisor

5. Getting ready to start

6. Placement preparation

7. Individual action plan.

Each session contains forms designed to gather information relevant to the session’s purpose and to engender conversation with the young person contributing to his or her awareness of the Give and Take programme and his or her motivation to participate actively in all that is on offer as well as building a positive working relationship with the worker. Attendance at these induction sessions is also used to assess the young person’s commitment and reliability in relation to work placement.

In the course of this evaluation I was asked to address difficulties that workers and young people were experiencing in their use of the Rickter Scale which forms an integral part of the Induction Programme. In doing so it was necessary to review the whole Induction Programme so as to understand the Rickter Scale’s contribution to it.

As mentioned above each session contains forms to be completed by the young person and the worker. There is no guidance as to the purposes of the sessions or the methods to achieve the purposes. There is a danger that these forms and conversations could be done in a fairly mechanical way and lack meaning to both worker and young person. I am informed that the young person does not have the results of some tests fed back.

It seems to me that the induction programme should be fully participative involving the worker and the young person working together to make sense of the young person’s reality and the obstacles to his or her well being particularly through employment and to develop goals and an action plan which will transform the young person’s reality and enable him or her to overcome the obstacles.

Such a process requires a theoretical framework which makes sense to both young person and worker. The induction programme contains the components of such a theory. However, it is not fully articulated so there is a danger that the participants will be unsure what its purpose and meaning are.

If this is valid the induction programme should enable the young person both to become aware of their current purpose, identity, beliefs and values and capabilities and how these might be obstacles to their achievement of employment and to develop the motivation to change these to improve their chances of achieving their goals. This means that the assessments should address these levels and that the Rickter scale should act as a measure of where the person is at the beginning of the programme and of progress made throughout the programme. For this reason I would argue that the Rickter Scale should measure progress towards positive goals rather than movement away from problems and needs.

I would recommend that:

1. Consideration should be given to the order in which these assessments are undertaken.

2. After each assessment is completed there is a conversation with the young person about the results and a conclusion is scored using the Rickter scale. In this way the Rickter scale is not done separately but in the context of each factor. It should be completed by the end of the induction programme.

3. The key factors associated with successful achievement of training and employment goals should be defined by the assessments and measured by the Rickter scale through dialogue with the young person.

4. These key factors will then be addressed through personal development, training and work placements.

The project has begun work on changing the Rickter Scale’s criteria so as to integrate them more closely with the aims of the overall Give and Take programme.

Young people develop their action plan having completed the Induction Programme. It covers what type of work placement they are interested in and what their training and education needs are. These provide the programme with focus and direction. However, the plan lacks clear long term and medium term goals. Goals define why the young person is undertaking specific work placements and training courses and thus give these action steps meaning and purpose.

2. The Work Placement

In the year 2006-2007 47% of the total participants were on placement. Of these 27% dropped out within 4 weeks leaving 73% sustaining their placements for over 4 weeks. In the months from April to June 2007 72% of those who had completed induction were on placement. Of those who commenced a placement 30% did not sustain their placement beyond 4 weeks.

“At the start of the programme John did struggle within the working environment. Originally the schedule was full-time and proved too much for John to adapt to.....Since October last year John’s social and inter-personal skills have improved. He now understands the importance of rules and regulations within a structured business. Through his time here the organisation has been very supportive with counselling and coaching of John, when there were difficulties with procedures.” Store Manager T-K- Maxx

“In fact Brenda who volunteered in the shop for over a year managed to get full employment shortly after leaving his placement here. The support that was given from the Give and Take organisation I found very professional and personal and would recommend any employer to take part in this rewarding scheme.” Bicycle Shop Owner.

Young people are very appreciative of staff’s efforts to arrange placements that suit them and to support them with any difficulties that they are experiencing.

“During the placement Give and Take gave both us (the employer) and the young person constant support. There were regular catch-ups to discuss how the placement was going and we were fortunate to give a positive report each time on the young person we had with us. But, we also knew that should there have been any difficulties Give and Take would have sorted it out.” Voluntary Organisation.

The time that the young people commit to placements is flexible and allows for other commitments that they may have. They receive subsistence for attendance at work placement. The project has accessed an impressive range of work placements in a variety of occupational sectors.

Sector

Number

Percentage

Private

48

60%

Voluntary

24

30%

Community

6

7.5%

Public

2

2.5%

It is admirable that the private sector is supporting the scheme to this extent. It is disappointing that the largest employment sector in Northern Ireland makes the least contribution.

3. Training

Young people are offered accredited training in information technology, essential skills (both numeracy and literacy) and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. During 2006-2007 Give and Take engaged between 50 and 60 young people in both numeracy and literacy training. Over 50 participated in computer training (e.g. CLAIT and ECDL). Over 40 enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh award.

“Encouraged by a dedicated team of youth workers all the participants have been sufficiently motivated to endeavour to improve their numeracy and literacy skills. They have already completed relevant AQA units of work and some have expressed an interest in pursuing GCSE qualifications next year.” Literacy Tutor

This training is perceived by the young people as relevant to their needs. They like the way it is delivered. The trainers work in small groups and adopt an informal, active and facilitative style that suits young people who generally have had negative experiences of formal education.

It should not be forgotten that many of these young people have been labelled by successive schools as being beyond redemption. Despite all this baggage that they bring with them the youth workers do a tremendous job i.e. arranging work experience, residentials and general team building exercises to raise the self esteem of the young people and to make sure that each and everyone can reach their full potential and can look forward to a useful and productive life.” Maths Tutor

5. Personal development

In addition to formal training, Give and Take offer a range of personal development activities designed to develop self esteem and social skills and to encourage participation in positive activity. These include one to one support from workers, social activities, day trips, residential, and a drop-in facility. Young people, especially through the Advisory Groups (set up to facilitate young people’s participation), can have a major say in what activities are planned. The worker’s responsibility is to ensure that the activities are within the budget and are well organised. Young people may have two substantial contacts per week with the programme in addition to the work placement.

6. Engagement in planned activity

The Give and Take quarterly reports to referring agencies compares target engagement of young people with actual participation of young people in the scheme. In over 50% of the months of 2006 – 2007 Give and Take were engaging in more young people than they were contracted to. In about 12% of the months they were working with less than they were contracted to.

In 2006-2007 young people were engaged on Give and Take activities for 23,141 hours. This time is divided between:

Indications from recent figures (April – June 2007) suggest that the proportion of time spent on placement is increasing. It is impossible from these figures to estimate accurately how many hours individuals are engaged as young people are starting and completing continuously. However, given the throughput and new starts over the year one could make an approximate calculation that on average each young person would be engaged in planned activity of at least 200 hours over a year. (Comment. Tim I still have problem with this average figure. Some people will remark that this means 4 hours per week average. The problem is that this figure includes those young people who are on induction and only engage for 1-2 hours per week. It does not reflect the average hours young people spend on the scheme once they have completed induction. Can we remove this?)

The reports on the individuals participating in Give and Take demonstrate that the process of engaging these very vulnerable young people in work placements leading to formal education, training or employment is not straightforward. It can be two steps forward, one step backwards. Placements do not always work out. Maybe the young person is not ready for the disciplines of work or she realises that this is not the work that she wants or difficulties in the individual’s life cause serious obstacles to progress. When any of these happen the project staff do not give up but provide other appropriate activities, supports or experiences designed to develop the individual’s capacity or to re-awaken motivation. It is unlikely that other vocational programmes would have the tolerance or capability to continue to engage with such challenging young people for so long. However, if the individual does not demonstrate any commitment or to the programme, staff will eventually terminate the contract.

Some examples of successes during the time reviewed for this evaluation included enrolling as a full-time volunteer for a year at Corrymeela, progression to Jobskills or New Deal, getting a full-time job in a call centre, and enrolment in formal occupational training.

7. Outcomes

The table below lists the outcomes of 76 young people who completed the Give and Take programme in 2006-2007.

 

Number

Percentage

Moved on to education, training or employment

32

42%

Continued to work voluntarily

4

5%

Actively applying for Courses or jobs

11

15%

Referred to the Career’s Service

10

13%

Left due to family commitments

5

7%

Transferred from New Leaf to Give and Take

1

1%

Left due to health, imprisonment, homelessness, secure accommodation, lack of motivation

3

4%

Did not proceed to training or employment

10

13%

Totals

76

100%

While 42% of young people achieved the key outcome of engagement in education, training or employment, there is evidence that another 33% of them made tangible progress towards this outcome. Given that the Give and Take scheme engage with a highly vulnerable and marginalised group of young people (see profile above), this demonstrates substantial progression. This represents a 75% retention rate. This compares favourably with the ETI report on the Jobskills Pre-vocational Access Pilot Programme (2005) which evaluates a 61% retention rate positively.

It is not surprising that 11% left due to circumstances largely beyond the project’s control. 13% appear to have completed the programme and to have chosen not to engage in education, training and employment. They may have had very good reasons for this. However, they remain the group with whom the scheme may improve their effectiveness.

Young people’s feedback to their social workers and foster carers is very positive. Most want to stay longer on the programme than they need to. “I was a bad wee bugger. Now I’m working in Corrymeela!” (Can this be boxed and attributed to a name?)

The Trust ‘gatekeepers’ realise that positive outcomes are very difficult to measure. “Each individual is unique and each care plan is unique and depends upon the individual’s willingness to engage. Where they do engage they do make progress but maybe not as much as other young people. It’s tiny steps.” Social Worker, Craigavon and Banbridge Trust. (Can this be boxed?)

Other outputs

The Give and Take scheme aims to enable young people to gain qualifications which will enhance their employability. The table below itemises qualifications gained and other training undertaken by participants.

Course/Programme title Number of qualifications/
Credits gained
NVQ level 1
1
Essential Skills (literacy)
14
Essential Skills (numeracy)
14
Clait
13 credits
Computers
7 qualifications and
7 credits
Duke of Edinburgh (bronze)
24
Duke of Edinburgh (silver)
3
Driving theory
1
Health Matters (Boyz-2-Men)
1
Health Matters – SMART
7
Health Matters - SHARP
15
Health Matters – Mind Ur Head
3
Drama course
6
Social skills for Work
1
First Aid
7
Accept
11
Others
4

Many of these young people have never achieved any qualification. These achievements not only enhance their CV’s but also boost their self esteem and confidence.

Comments from referring officers

“Very happy with how Diane has done during her time on the Scheme. Her work skills have improved greatly as has her self-confidence.”

“Ann has progressed extremely well whilst with the Scheme and she’s been able to get into the course she wanted to do.”

Give and Take has been a lifeline for Gerard, he has had lots of opportunities that he wouldn’t otherwise have been able to access. His confidence and self esteem have definitely improved and he has been able to make and keep friendships with peers that previously would have been an issue for him.”

“Richard has made excellent progress while with Give and Take, they have helped him in his personal and professional life and given him the support and opportunity to learn from mistakes, to get his life back on track and above all real hope for the future and a self belief that he can have a future.”

The story of Ian (not his real name)

Ian was referred by the Youth Justice Agency’s Eastside project. He was living in supported accommodation. His mother had recently died and his father could not cope with him. Ian had mental and emotional difficulties, abused alcohol and cannabis and had refused to go to school. He lacked confidence to engage in mainstream employment. But he was highly motivated to participate in Give and Take.

Because he wanted to work with children, he had to be checked by the police. His first placement was not a success. He did not attend and went missing from the project altogether for a few weeks. The project workers tracked him down and found that he could not cope with working with physically disabled children.

Another placement on a summer scheme was found and this went well. However, the scheme ran into financial difficulties and Ian had to finish there. A third placement did not work out again due to a lack of self confidence.

Finally Ian worked with Corrymeela and excelled there. He grew in confidence and was eventually successful in gaining a 12 month full-time post.

During his time on the Give and Take scheme Ian also attended a programme with the Venture Trust, Young Voices and gained qualifications – SHARP, ACCEPT, E.S. Literacy level 3, E.S. Numeracy level 3, Duke of Edinburgh Award Bronze, Clait 1,2, and 3, SMART, Mind Ur Head, Boyz 2 Men and Youth in Community

8. Conclusions and recommendations for greater success

The Give and Take programme is supportive and caring. It enables staff to build strong positive relationships with vulnerable young people who tend to distrust adults. These relationships enhance the young people’s motivation to engage in work placements and to develop their confidence to seek training and employment. It is clear that Give and Take are delivering a service and achieving results that are highly valued by the young people and their referring agencies. The Trust managers who were consulted were very supportive of funding continuing to sustain this important project.

Some suggestions for improvement

In order to achieve even better results, attention should be focused on reviewing and improving the motivation and support processes. These could be improved through a clearer focus and a positive process of accountability. This would involve clear goals, specific action steps in the plan and regular reviews all of which would be done with the full participation and agreement of the young people.

The information session should be seen as an enrolment session. The process should be designed to create more engagement and participation by the young person. With training workers could improve the young person’s commitment to the programme.

The Induction Programme should focus on:

1. Raising the young person’s awareness of self and the opportunities that the Give and Take programme offer;

2. Developing motivation and commitment to