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Recent changes in OFQUAL’s (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) approach to regulating the UK’s awarding organisations will have a real impact on Proskills’ ability to match skills supply to demand in the process and manufacturing sector. As of 18 July, there is no longer any regulatory requirement for Proskills to formally approve qualifications relevant to the sector, meaning that awarding bodies will be free to develop qualifications in the ways that they choose.

This move is intended to remove unnecessary administrative burdens

on awarding organisations. This is an aim Proskills fully supports, particularly given the complexity of the current skills system, but it is not going to radically reduce the time it takes to develop qualifications for the sector, as most of the awarding organisations in the sector are already close partners of Proskills. It is important that in making these changes, OFQUAL do not dilute the qualifications that exist for our sector or the buy-in employers have for them.

The process and manufacturing sector is a major part of the British economy, employing approximately 800,000 people across the country, and supplying goods and services on which a wide range of other sectors depend. Many of the companies in the Proskills footprint require very specific and niche skills to maintain and grow their businesses; Proskills helps to ensure that the existing qualifications help to meet these needs through working with the specialist awarding organisations in the sector

Impartial employer engagement must still be a key part of the skills

system, helping to drive the development of qualifications that truly develop the skills that industry needs. The removal of these regulatory requirements on commercially-driven bodies has already resulted in some awarding organisations prioritising the development of the most profitable qualifications ahead of those that meet the specific needs of employers. In a sector such as ours, with such diverse needs, this is a real concern.

As the Sector Skills Council for the process and manufacturing sector, with a

great depth and breadth of engagement with employers, Proskills will continue to offer vital insights into the demand for skills in the sector. We would encourage awarding bodies to continue to work with us to ensure that the qualifications that are developed continue to meet the real needs of employers.

It is essential that qualifications and training for the sector continue to be relevant and targeted in order to help people to develop the skills they need to develop and build for the future.


Two Members of Parliament recently paid a visit to City College Plymouth to meet employers and students involved in a pilot scheme which aims to encourage more construction firms to take on an apprentice.

The Pathway to Construction scheme has been piloted in Plymouth thanks to funding from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the largest trade association in the UK construction industry, and support from the Cross- Industry Construction Apprenticeship Task Force (CCATF). First year students from City College Plymouth have spent their summer on work experience placements with local construction businesses, giving the students valuable on- site experience and both parties the opportunity to see how well suited they are to working with one another in the long term.

Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View said: “At a time when the construction industry is struggling, especially smaller firms, it is good to see in Plymouth the pilot for Pathway to Construction. I was delighted to meet two apprentices who have been taken on by firms in the city. The Federation of Master Builders and those involved in getting this scheme up and running in Plymouth are to be congratulated. I hope other employers will take advantage of any opportunities offered where funding is being made available.”

Oliver Colvile, who is Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport added: “It’s very pleasing to see local businesses building close ties with City College Plymouth and the benefit this brings to students. Construction has a major role to play in the transition to a green economy so it is essential the industry has people with the right skills for the job, which is why schemes like Pathway to Construction are so valuable. I hope the rest of the country will follow Plymouth’s example.”

Ron Willers, FMB South West Director commented: “The FMB knows that

the initial cost of employing an apprentice can put businesses off, especially in the current, difficult economic climate. This is why the FMB provided funding to help cover the costs of the Pathway to Construction placements. Businesses can really benefit from the opportunity to test a young person’s suitability for an apprenticeship, and we are especially pleased to see our members so enthusiastic about training the next generation. Pathway to Construction shows how much is possible when different groups from a local area all pull together.”

Head of Construction at City College Plymouth, Adrian Heath, said: “We are

incredibly grateful to the Pathway to Construction scheme for involving our students in community based activities - which give our students a real sense of belonging and achievement. For students to work alongside industry professionals and gain real hands-on practical experience can only be of benefit to both the construction industry and the students themselves. The college has been undergoing major refurbishment during the summer and we are very excited about the enhanced facilities that will further benefit students and local employers.”



The coalition Government has committed itself to radical education reform, including the expansion of apprenticeship programmes. Proskills CEO Terry Watts welcomed the news, but also sounded a note of caution. In a recent interview with Mr Watts said: “I am a bit concerned that the Government views apprenticeships as a panacea for all ills.

Government has a tendency to work out what its problems are and implement the solution top-down. Ministers, however, recognise that this is about giving people, who are not necessarily the best academically, a route into employment,” he said.

34 « Clearview NMS « September/October 2011 «

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