Brief No - Department for Education

Research Brief
No 210
Georgia Siora, Dr Matthew Chiles
GHK Economics and Management
ISBN 1 84185 299 6
August 2000
The National Training Organisation Network was officially
launched in May 1998. The Network brought under one
umbrella such organisations as Industry Training Organisations,
Lead Bodies and Occupational Standards Councils whose
responsibilities with respect to sector training arrangements
often overlapped. There are 76 recognised National Training
Organisations (NTOs).
National Training Organisations (NTOs) were established to
help employers and employees to meet their sector training and
education needs in an increasingly competitive market. An
exclusively market-driven approach has resulted in underinvestment in skills in the past. The NTO policy represents a
significant intervention into the labour market in order to
correct this type of failure, and its success is critical to
achieving a step-change in the way individual sectors and
employers contribute to national competitiveness and
employability of the workforce.
The long-term vision of a successful NTO Network is described
by the Government ‘Expectations of NTOs’ in the 1999-2000
NTO Strategic Guidance. NTOs are expected:
Department for
Education and Employment
To be strategic;
To demonstrate ownership and commitment from
employers of all sizes across the UK;
To be centres of sector-related expertise and
To establish effective partnerships with a wide range of
organisations; and,
To ensure that their resources, staffing and structure are
sufficient in quality and quantity to influence the national
and sectoral learning agenda, and deliver all the above.
Key Findings
The study has shown that that there has been a
step change from the previous arrangements to
an NTO Network. This is manifested by the
progress made by NTOs towards meeting their
expectations, although some serious issues
have been exposed. The key findings are:
• There is some evidence that NTOs are performing
more strategically than when they were first
recognised. NTOs now cost specific actions within
their strategic plans and in some instances have
monitoring systems in place to check their
progress. However, there is still some doubt about
NTOs ability to be strategic given most NTO’s
poor knowledge of their respective sectors. For
example around 7 in 10 NTOs do not know how
many micro-firms or SME’s there are in their
respective sector. Nor do many have data on the
take-up of Modern Apprenticeships, National
Traineeships, Investors in People, NVQs etc.
• There is some concern about some NTOs ability or
willingness to represent the needs of smaller
businesses. For example, whilst 60% of NTO
Board members are employers, only 10% of Board
members are from employers with 20 or less staff.
• Despite virtually all NTOs distributing newsletters
and having websites only 7.5% UK employers
demonstrated an unprompted awareness of
National Training Organisations when asked who
they would contact in relation to training or skills
locally, regionally, nationally or for their type of
business. This increases to 38% of employers after
prompting for awareness. Only 12% of all
employers can provide an unprompted description
of what they thought to be the role of NTOs.
• Some doubt is cast on the future role of NTOs in
providing Skills Foresight and other Labour
Market Intelligence (LMI) to the Learning &
Skills Council, RDAs and others. Most NTOs still
do not know the make-up of their sector. Few
NTOs have robust data on employers and
employees. Most do not employ specialist staff
with LMI expertise and so use external
consultants. Between a third and one-half never
use major national statistical sources like the
Labour Force Survey, NOMIS or the Annual
Employment Census.
• NTOs and their major stakeholders question the
adequacy of resources available to them and the
fact that around half of NTOs have 5 or less
directly employed staff..
• There is still little evidence of employers seeing
the need to contribute financially to sectoral
arrangements. An NTO employer survey of over
3,500 employers revealed that of employers who
are aware of NTOs, 57% said the government
should be the sole funder of NTOs. Only 15%
said that it should be mainly employers who
should fund NTOs. Most current employer
support to NTOs is in staff time rather than
• There is encouraging evidence that NTOs are
taking their UK-wide remit seriously. Around
half of NTOs have a separate office or resident
representative in Scotland, with about a quarter of
NTOs likewise in Wales.
• Whilst there is evidence of increased partnership
working between NTOs and others like TECs,
RDAs and training providers, this is still limited.
understanding about the role and purpose of
NTOs since 1997, but many are sceptical that
NTOs have the capacity to play a meaningful
General Findings & Implications
Overall, things seem to work better than
three years ago. The NTO network has
enormous potential and the progress made to
date is the manifestation of this ability.
However, this progress is accompanied by
concerns and uncertainty about the NTOs’
embedded capacity and ability to sustain this
momentum. It is important to acknowledge
that this evidence does not apply to all
NTOs. The NTO Network is bringing
together a variety of organisations. NTOs
vary in terms of the nature and size of the
industry and occupations they represent, their
organisational capacity and management
structures, their available resources and
ability to raise additional funding, and their
The study has identified key issues that need
to be systematically addressed within the
next years for the Network to gain a credible
position in the context of sectoral, national
and regional infrastructures. For example, at
the moment, the increasing activity in LMI is
combined with the inability of over half the
NTOs to provide accurate information on
business and employment composition in
their sector. This raises serious questions
about the strategic ability of the Network.
There is limited evidence to suggest that the
LMI information is translated into intelligence
and is linked to NTO strategy to influence
industry and Government priorities. Without
good quality LMI, NTOs cannot perform their
basic operational tasks either i.e. produce
realistic Workforce Development Plans or set
Sector Targets.
The Network seems to be very active, but it is
not proactive. Government support has kept
new NTOs going, has promoted activities and
has helped to build capacity up to a certain
level across the Network. However, NTOs
tend to operate with uncertainty over future
income, administering their funding on a
project by project basis. In many cases,
particularly amongst smaller NTOs, a lot has
been achieved by very small teams.
Outsourcing of core activities such as LMI, is
very common. This approach may help to
implement government priorities, but does not
help build long-term capacity, which is
important for NTOs’ contribution to
At this stage, NTO activities do not have an
immediate impact upon competitiveness, and
do not demonstrate whether NTOs understand
more about competitiveness. Continuous
bidding for external funding to raise income
and undertake project work does not help.
However, NTOs need to establish clear
pathways to competitiveness. These should
consist of a series of steps that take NTOs
from LMI collection to implementation of
competitiveness initiatives and government
NTOs also need to market
themselves better and to accept that they need
to evaluate their activities and impact - this is
a legitimate expectation about raising quality
and continuous improvement.
Success also depends on a co-ordinated
approach and effective networking. Both
government agencies and NTOs have an
important role to play in order to strengthen
the voice of the Network and its influence.
The Government may need to continue
supporting NTOs and the Network in order to
raise the Network’s profile and capacity. On
the one hand, NTOs have been given a
challenging agenda in times when the
institutional context of delivery and promotion
of learning and enterprise/competitiveness
initiatives is still evolving. On the other hand,
the uncertainty over funding has implications
for medium and long-term planning. Core
funding may be needed in order to allow
NTOs to deliver their remit and play a truly
strategic role in the training and education
The Study Aims
In November 1997, GHK Economics and
Management were commissioned by the
Department to undertake A study of the NTO
Network over nearly three years until April
2000. The overall aims of the study can be
summarised as follows:
• To assess the effectiveness of the step
change from ITOs, Lead Bodies and
OSCs to an NTO network
• To evaluate the progress of the NTO
network towards meeting its overall
objectives and assess the appropriateness
of those objectives
• To examine the position of NTOs in the
context of sectoral, national and local
• To assess how far DfEE achieves value
for money from its direct funding of
NTOs, and to map and assess the
evolution of funding patterns over the
• To identify and provide feedback on good
practice and barriers to achievement of
Government requirements on NTOs or
interactions with NTOs should be
The Study was divided into three stages with interim
reports in 1998 and 1999. The final report was
published in August 2000. 17 NTOs (see below for
complete list) agreed to be case studies throughout
this project and at each stage there were:
• Reviews of these NTOs’ strategic and
business plans, and other relevant NTO
documentation e.g. LMI reports
• Interviews with key staff in the NTOs,
and participation in internal meetings of
10 NTOs. A total of 42 meetings were
• Interviews with 4/5 employers for each
case study NTO - 78 interviews in total to gather views on impact of the new
information about NTOs’ activities and
performance over time. The sample of
• Sea Fish Training
• Skillset
GHK also undertook the following:
• Review of related data including the
Modern Apprenticeship and National
Traineeship data held by the Department,
Annual Employment Survey and Labour
Force Survey data
• Reviews of other NTO research including
employer surveys and two successive
postal surveys of all NTOs (by Pye-Tait)
• Approximately 40 interviews with key
stakeholders (at each stage) covering a
wide range of organisations involved in
education and training provision in
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern
Ireland. These included Training and
Development Agencies, Awarding Bodies,
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority,
the Scottish Qualifications Authority and
the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Office
Industry and Training Department, and the
Department of Education Northern Ireland.
List of 17 case study NTOs
• Association for Ceramic
Training and Development
• Banks & Building Societies
• Cleaning and Support Services
• Construction Industry Training
Board (CITB)
• Employment NTO
• Engineering and Marine
Training Authority (EMTA)
• Engineering Construction
Industry Training Board
• Hospitality Training Foundation
• Information Technology NTO
• Local Government NTO
• Pharmaceuticals Industry NTO
• NTO for Sport, Recreation and
Allied Occupations
• The Higher Education Training
Organisation (THETO)
• Training Alliance for Surface
Coatings (TASC)
• Voluntary Sector NTO
Copies of the full report (RR210) - priced £4.95 are available by writing to DfEE Publications, PO
Box 5050, Sherwood Park, Annesley, Nottingham,
NG15 0DJ.
Cheques should be made payable to “DfEE Priced
Copies of this Research Brief (RB210) are available
free of charge from the above address. Research
Further information about this research can be
obtained from Peter Weller, Room N611, DfEE,
Moorfoot, Sheffield, S1 4PQ.
Email: [email protected]