Government delays could harm IT skills initiatives

Fears are growing that employers could withdraw their support from government-backed IT training initiatives following serious...

Fears are growing that employers could withdraw their support from government-backed IT training initiatives following serious delays to the Government's plans to reform the its flagship national training organisations (NTOs).

Ministers announced plans to replace the training organisations with new employer-led sector skills councils in September last year, but although the NTOs were effectively abolished at the end of March, there is still no clear timetable for their replacement.

The delays have left the training organisations in limbo, and will to lead to a slow down in important training projects, critics claim.

It is feared that work by the E-Skills NTO on initiatives such as the Modern Apprenticeship Programme for IT and its regular forecasts of the IT training needs of businesses could be affected.

Although few of the NTOs are willing to jeopardise their chances of being selected to become a sector skills council by speaking publicly about the delays, privately they are scathing about the Government's policies.

"Really important work is slowing down. I think the risk is serious disengagement by employers. It impacts on the ability of national training organisations to make a difference," one senior IT training official told Computer Weekly.

Ian Bruce, former vice-chairman of parliamentary IT group Pitcom, said there is a growing risk that the former NTOs, which have been given funding to "tick over" until their replacements are in place, will lose the support of employers if the delays continue.

"Even if the NTOs get funding, they are losing a lot of their credibility. Even if industry, the people who need to be trained and trainers are all in agreement, they are being stopped from moving forward by the Government," he said.

The NTOs believe it will be at least August, and possibly longer, before all the new sector skills councils are in place, leaving months of uncertainty both for the former NTOs and the employers that are supposed to be backing the new bodies.

Geoff McMullen, former president of the British Computer Society, said he was alarmed by the delays. "It is quite presumptuous of the people who made that decision to think that business will continue to offer support. This gap is unfortunate because it could discourage volunteers," he said.

bill.goodwin@rbi.co.uk

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