Colleges dismiss training go-betweens as 'damaging'

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Fears over relationships with employers

The latest government scheme to raise skills levels and training in companies is causing concern among food industry training providers, with some colleges fearing that the scheme would damage relationships between employers and training providers.

Train to Gain, a Learning and Skills Council (LSC) initiative, promises to target businesses that have not previously offered training to staff by using skills brokers to act as a go-between for employers and training providers. The scheme is being rolled out nationally following a series of pilots.

Val Braybrooks, director of the University of Lincoln's Holbeach campus, which specialises in food technology and manufacturing, said the scheme was unnecessary and would confuse the relationship between employers and local training providers. "All the time we've spent building up relationships with employers is at risk under this brokerage scheme," she said. "Now there's a middle man, there's another load of dialogue you have to go through."

LSC said the scheme would not stop employers and training providers that already worked together from continuing to do so. Nevertheless, Braybrooks feared pressure to participate in the scheme. "The only way to secure increased participation will be to go through the brokerage. It will be very confusing and challenging for the sector."

Tony Mutukumira, food and drink development manager at Pershore College agreed. The scheme was not the best way to address the skills gap, he said. "I don't think it will give the result we are looking for in the long term. It's a quick fix and it will be difficult to establish long-term relationships." Competition between the private and public sector would also be more cut-throat, he warned.

However, Paula Widdowson, commercial director at the food and drink sector skills council Improve, said the scheme would be beneficial. "The middle man has always been there. Government is just trying to reduce the number of brokers while driving down the cost so that more funding goes to the learner," she said.

For information on the scheme go to http://www.traintogain.gov.uk​.