Skills body calls for agency help

Learning and Skills Council rethinks comms amid increased controversy over scheme.

The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has started a search for fresh PR support to help promote its controversial skills and apprenticeships scheme.

With an estimated three million people due to be out of work by the end of 2009, the Government is investing heavily in re-skilling. Ministers have argued that it is vital for adults to have the skills they need to find work during the recession.

But some critics have claimed that adult literacy and numeracy skills are a waste of money. Institute of Education in London Professor Anna Vignoles said last week that while basic skills were essential, they were only truly effective if learned during childhood.

The new PR brief, being handled by the Central Office of Information (COI), is an extension of the LSC's 'Our future. It's in our hands,' skills campaign, designed to improve attitudes towards the benefits of skills, training and qualifications.

Explaining the new brief, an LSC spokesman said: 'Our delivery partners are key to helping us achieve this aim. The LSC wants to further deepen the knowledge and understanding of the skills campaign so it continues to be applied to the benefit of our partners. Our aim is to increase the opportunities for adults to learn new skills and gain qualifications.'

One agency insider said: 'It is going to be a stakeholder relations brief; i.e. helping to bring partners on board to spread the word about the importance of skills and apprenticeships.'

The activity supports the national advertising campaign led by Sir Alan Sugar, which sees him talking to apprentices and witnessing the difference they are making in today's business world.

The LSC has recently launched a multimedia online gallery to raise aware-ness of its apprenticeship scheme.

This follows news that LSC chief executive Mark Haysom has quit following the halt of construction work at 79 further education colleges because funding has run out. The cancellation of the construction programme has attracted criticism from the colleges themselves.

It is not known how much is being spent on the comms drive. LSC director of comms Jaine Clarke was unavailable for comment.

Last month, Brahm was appointed by the LSC to execute its national apprenticeships campaign in Yorkshire and the Humber to inform and educate employers.

HOW I SEE IT

Tanya Joseph, MD of public affairs, Grayling UK

The resignation of chief executive Mark Haysom two weeks ago and the damning report by Sir Andrew Foster last week are proof enough that the LSC is in dire straits. What this brief apparently means is that it wants a consultancy to help restore relationships. Any journalist worth his or her salt would ask the LSC just how much money it was spending on comms at a time when colleges may be forced to close down and students might lose their training places. So while it is the right thing to do, the LSC and its chosen provider must be able to explain how and why it is spending the money on comms.

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