• Labour' New Deals;
  • business;
  • skills training;
  • vocational education

The success of the New Deal policies of the current Labour administration – particularly the Welfare to Work and University for Industry initiatives – will depend crucially on the co-operation of the vital small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector of British industry. In turn, the reaction of small employers to the new policies will be structured by the national vocational education and training (VET) efforts and the vocational qualifications system. Against the background of our recent research on SMEs in the West Midlands region, we argue that the New Deal policies will fail to engage with SME needs and interests unless the new Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) effectively abandons the old agenda of the former National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ) in its ongoing restructuring and radical review of issues and policies for VET.