Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (ES 13)


  1.  The Learning and Skills Act 2000 set up the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which became operational in April 2001. The LSC is a single unitary organisation with 47 local arms covering all of England. It has been set up to create a learning system which is driven by the needs of the learner and includes significant involvement of employers. It has strong linkages with key partners nationally and locally, eg Jobcentre Plus, local authorities, Regional Development Agencies, Learndirect, Connexions Partnerships and the new Sector Skills Councils. As the lead body responsible for the planning and funding of post 16 learning and skills outside Higher Education, it has a wide remit which includes:

    —  Improving quality and raising standards;

    —  Education and training of young people, including in school sixth forms, colleges in the further education sector and Modern Apprenticeships;

    —  Supporting adult learners, including Adult and Community Learning; and

    —  Supporting workforce development, improving skills and raising productivity.

  2.  Jobcentre Plus has observer status on national and local Councils. This reflects the need for Jobcentre Plus and the Council to work closely together. This is important because:

    —  Jobcentre Plus is the lead partner in the delivery of the Government's welfare to work strategy of which building relevant national and local skills capacity is a vital component. Contracting with providers to offer skills training for adults and managing performance, quality and standards coherently will require consistent systems between Jobcentre Plus and the Council;

    —  Through its contacts with benefit recipients, Jobcentre Plus is able to articulate the education and training needs of unemployed people and thus inform the Council's planning and commissioning of its own provision, including the important provision made for unemployed people by further education sector colleges; and

    —  Jobcentre Plus has extensive contacts with national and local employers and can advise the Council on labour market issues and employer needs.

  3.  The original remit letter for the LSC was issued in November 2000. It set out a vision for the LSC in creating a learning society and key priorities for the next few years. Annual grant letters, setting out annual priorities and budgetary arrangements, have supplemented the remit letter. The latest grant letter for 2002-03 allocates the LSC over £7.3 billion in 2002-03 to meet its challenging agenda. This includes £3.9 billion for Youth Programmes and just under £2.6 billion for Adult Learning.

  4.  The LSC has a duty to promote the importance of lifelong learning and is spearheading the drive to widen adult participation in learning and to develop ways of drawing into learning those who have not been engaged in structured learning in the recent past. This includes providing high quality information advice and guidance (IAG) so that people make the right choices about learning; and ensuring there is a suitable range of high quality learning opportunities, including Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills which are vital to boosting the confidence of jobseekers, preventing social exclusion and improving labour market attachment and employment prospects.

  5.  The LSC works closely with Jobcentre Plus to identify and tackle the basic skill needs of all unemployed and inactive people receiving benefits, and to plan provision and help deliver the right local strategies for getting people the skills and qualifications they need to get into work. This includes considering how basic skills learning might lead to further learning where appropriate. In response to "Skills for Life", the Government's strategy for improving adult literacy and numeracy skills, the LSC has produced a delivery plan "Improving Adult Literacy and Numeracy". This plan sets out the LSC's role in the basic skills strategy and outlines how the LSC will work through the 47 local LSCs to expand and improve the quality of provision for literacy and numeracy and meet the national target of improving the basic skills levels of 750,000 adults by 2004. Local LSCs have also produced basic skills delivery plans, setting out how they intend to achieve their local basic skills target. Local LSCs will encourage providers that already deliver good quality literacy, numeracy and ESOL provision to develop and expand their provision and increase their capacity. In addition to funding their own provision, Jobcentre Plus can refer clients to LSC funded provision.

  6.  The LSC is also working with the National Employment Panel to develop a sector-based approach to helping unemployed people get and keep jobs through the Ambition Initiative. For example, the LSC has helped ensure that the qualifications associated with Ambition: Energy meet Gas Industry standards; and has provided funding to help with the cost of training for gas occupations. We expect that a number of local LSCs will be involved in further initiatives as the Ambition approach is extended.

  7.  The LSC aims to maximise the contribution of education and training to economic performance. The key objectives here are to raise the sustainable level of employment through the updating of skills and the embracing of new technology and to reach out to those who have been economically inactive or affected by economic and industrial change. By raising the skills of the working population we will have a flexible, skilled workforce who can support a prosperous economy and meet the needs of business. The LSC is updating and developing the information provided by the Skills Task Force on current and future skills needs and skill gaps in the workforce. It is working with Jobcentre Plus and Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) to improve intelligence about the labour market and in particular to support the Frameworks for Regional Employment and Skills Action (FRESAs) which are being led by the RDAs. In his recent budget statement, the Chancellor announced a pilot scheme for 16,000 low-skilled employees to improve their skills. The £40 million pilot will run from September 2002 to August 2003 in six local LSC areas.

  8.  To respond flexibly to local needs, the LSC has a £90 million Local Initiatives Fund which it uses to provide innovative solutions. An example of such an initiative is shown below:

    Fourteen unemployed local people fluent in another language found jobs after completing a 12 week interpreting training programme funded by the Learning and Skills Council London North's Local Initiative Fund. The Bilingual Health and Community Care Interpreting Certificate course, run by Select Training Partnership, provides agency knowledge, communications and interpreting skills and shows how to work with health professionals. With 14 out of 16 people gaining employment as a result of obtaining their certificates, equal to an NVQ Level three, the course was a success in reducing unemployment levels within linguistic communities (refugees, asylum seekers and speakers of other languages) and assisting participants to take advantage of growing employment opportunities in the health sector.

May 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 12 July 2002