Previous Article Next Article The ink has just dried on the licence for five model Sector SkillsCouncils. Elaine Essery assesses theirpotential impactThe trailblazing Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) that will pioneer the new SSCnetwork received their licences from adult skills minister, John Healey lastmonth. The five councils, which were announced in December, were chosen after 31expressions of interest had been received from would-be participants. Thepioneers, which met the extremely tough criteria, will cover: land-basedindustries; audiovisual industries; apparel, footwear and textiles; retail; oiland gas extraction, petroleum refining/distribution and chemical manufacture.Not only do they represent a cross-section of the sectors which may be includedin the future SSC network, but they also provide models for different types ofbodies. Two are based on single NTOs, two on new groupings of NTOs and one –retail – represents a sector which did not have its own NTO. The vanguard has been working with officials from the DfES and the devolvedadministrations to determine how the SSC network will work as an integralpartner with agencies including RDAs, LSCs and the Small Business Service inEngland and their equivalents in Wales and Scotland. They have also beenmeeting to discuss policy issues. Among the new challenges is how to arrive atperformance measures by which SSCs will be judged on the achievement ofworkforce development plans – the Government will need to be flexible inallowing targets that make sense to sector employers. Dinah Caine, chief executive of the audiovisual SSC, Skillset, is excitedand encouraged by the Government’s desire to work actively with sectors. “Industry is the biggest investor in skills post-16 so it makes senseto be working in partnership with public agencies to maximise the way in whichwe match industry investment with public investment,” she says. “There’s a burden of responsibility to ensure that what we’rediscussing helps pave the way for the rest of the network. We’re eager to seethe rest of the network in place as we’ll all be wanting to co-ordinate effortsand share models of good practice.” John Ramsay, chief executive of Cogent the petrochemicals SSC, regardstrailblazer status as recognition of the innovative proposal put forward forbringing together three significant industries in the UK. “I don’t see it as a merger, but as a new organisation built on theresources of existing NTOs,” he says. “It’s a new proposition with avision and strategy different from NTOs and is looking to work in a differentway. We have an opportunity to review the way we work with employers, todemonstrate the contribution that skills and training and development can maketo business performance, and to have an impact. The main difference we can makeas an SSC is that we can really become the voice of employers. There’s no doubtthat an additional injection of funding by Government will help SSCs leverincreased capability.” Reputations Ramsay is concerned not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, however.The new organisation must continue to engage with employers in delivering theservices that they have come to value, he insists, and maintain the reputationthat all three NTOs have been able to build with employers. Caine is equallyanxious that, across all sectors, the SSDA properly addresses issues aroundcoverage and managing the transition from NTOs to SSCs. Skillset’s main priority for its own sector is to tie skills andproductivity firmly together. The senior employers and unions which form itstraining group, have already helped formulate Skillset’s strategic agenda andit will be looking to implement and build on that. Caine believes the key elements will be similar across different sectors: tobuild on the research base provided by Skills Foresight and labour marketinformation; to build on careers advice and guidance; and to addresssector-specific issues around investment in skills. Ramsay sets out three priorities for his organisation: – at sector level, to provide leadership on the contribution skills can maketo business improvement – at the individual business level, to act as a partner and provider oftailor-made solutions – at an individual level, to advise and help existing employees and thosethinking of entering the industry identify the skills and knowledge they willneed to market themselves now and in the future. It will also seek to highlight to the Government one of the root causes ofskills gaps and shortages in its sector. “The three industries we’rebringing together to create the SSC are all dependent on engineering, scienceand technology skills and the focus tends not to be on these in secondary andhigher education, so it’s a big issue for us.” Caine and Ramsay agree that the power to influence is the key attraction foremployers. To that end, Caine is conscious of Skillset’s dual role. “Onthe one hand we’re representing our own sector but as a trailblazer we’re alsohaving to outline what the issues are for SSCs generally,” she says. “A lot of our time is being put into policy development which has takenus away from industry-specific issues to an extent. That’s why the influenceissue is so important to us. Having put that effort in, it’s got to come goodso we can go back to our sector and say: the time was well spent. I feelconfident this is a new era and that there are plenty of opportunities.” Related posts:No related photos. Skills pioneers forge aheadOn 1 Apr 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed.