Government funded training schemes seem to be in the news for all of the wrong reasons at the moment, with considerable controversy over the Get Britain Working scheme and fraud accusations at major training firm A4e making the headlines. The Government still wants – and needs to work with the private sector to meet its target of getting 40% of those claiming jobseekers allowance back into sustainable employment. This leads to the question of how can the Government and private sector ensure these partnerships work? The key to success lies in clearer guidelines which can only be achieved through better communication between Government, funding bodies and the training providers.
The private and public sectors alike are being squeezed, with the mantra of ‘delivering more for less’ uttered in virtually every business meeting across the country. It goes without saying that private firms working with the Government need to demonstrate value for money and be measured and rewarded against a set of targets. The Government needs to define clearly what the success of a training to work programme looks like in order for private training providers to deliver it effectively. The Government does not simply want to measure the number of people who complete the training courses. They want to report the numbers of those who go on to long term employment after ‘graduating’ from a training programme.
However, moving from the Flexible New Deal programme to the Work Programme, the working capital constraints on the private provider are considerable and will make it very difficult to deliver Government targets. Good for the taxpayer, not so good for the training provider and certainly in the short term profits will be diminished. This also plays into the hands of the very largest training providers such as G4S and Serco.
It is important to note, that in achieving value for money, ‘profit’ should not be a dirty word. Private firms need to be able to profit from their services to the Government; otherwise they will not be able to continue to conduct business. However, profit needs to come hand-in-hand with accountability. Unfortunately this is proving a problem for A4e. The need to avoid scenarios like this reinforces the importance of communication and the agreement of meaningful performance targets between all parties.
Government, the private sector – and the UK economy overall – will benefit from a quick resolution to these issues by reducing unemployment and getting Britain back to work.