Of the eight members of the board, two are college principals and the others are employer representatives.
The gaping hole is in representation of the large independent training sector, which has no board positions; in addition, the employer representatives are completely unrepresentative of the employment scenario in the UK.
The posts were advertised last June, so no one can accuse the government of rushing to a hasty decision; indeed, with under three months to go before the board starts work, there was considerable concern at the delay.
Explaining its choices for the board, the Department for Education emphasised the importance of employer representation. If this is the case, it is surprising that there are two further education college principals. A more balanced board could have found room for at least one representative from the commercial training sector, particularly given the patchy performance record of further education colleges in this area.
The board members are drawn from Pfizer, Nestlé, the British Army, music company Blue Raincoat Chrysalis, Walter Smith Fine Foods, Siemens, and two FE colleges. Notably missing from this list in any meaningful sense are financial services, mobile telecoms, IT, TV, film and gaming, tourism, hospitality, social care, health, retail and e-businesses – all significant UK employers.
Apart from Chrysalis, the other representatives work in industries with very traditional employment models. Pfizer employs 2,500 people in this country and made 1,400 redundant at its Sandwich site – does it really deserve a seat on the board? There are pub chains with more employees.
Siemens only employs 14,000, yet has the nerve to boast about providing highly-skilled jobs. The job creation is insignificant, particularly for the kind of people joining apprenticeship schemes. As a point of reference, the NHS, which is unrepresented on the board, employs 1.2 million people at locations throughout the country.
Are these employers able to look forward into a future of remote working, with agile processes and employees who do not go to a place of employment every day but work in distributed teams? The fact that two of them have army backgrounds does not give confidence that they understand the mindset of the kind of young people that recruitment agencies see every day.
The private training sector delivers the greatest number of apprenticeships in this country. The government’s defence to the lamentable lack of balance on this board is that there will be a stakeholder group to provide sector expertise. If sector expertise is required, it should be on the board, which is where decisions affecting young people are being taken.
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