Sector Skills Council launched for textiles and footwear

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Douglas Alexander, Minister for Competitiveness, has launched a new #1m Sector Skills Council (SSC), Skillfast-UK, for the textiles and footwear sector.

The council, made up of leading industry figures, will provide a new collective voice for the sector to address skills and training issues. The council aims to boost business efficiency through strategic development of skills and training.

Douglas Alexander, Minister for Competition, presented the leading members of the council with a licence to operate. Skillfast-UK will provide influential leadership and will work with employers, trade unions, government and other partners to improve competitiveness and business performance.

Douglas Alexander said: "The creation of this trailblazing council is a great step forward for the footwear and textiles industry. Skillfast-UK has the opportunity to develop a cohesive and strategic approach to training and skills development in the sector which employs more than 300,000 people in the UK. This is a vital investment in the future of an important UK industry. The sector is constantly evolving and needs a good supply of skills to help the industry survive and thrive."

Skillfast-UK has been licensed for two years. It is one of five councils to be set up in the first wave, all representing significant sectors of the UK economy. The five councils are the first step in creating a new network giving employers a stronger voice in planning and delivering learning and skills.

The apparel, footwear and textiles council will receive up to #1m in core funding a year, and will have access to further innovative funding to tackle skills and productivity priorities.

The Sector Skills Councils (SSC) have been set up to:
- reduce the skills gaps and shortages;
- improve productivity and services through strategic skills action, identification of best practice and use of innovative new approaches;
- increase opportunities to develop and improve the productivity of everyone within the sector by addressing equality and supporting inward investment and other developmental opportunities;
- improve the quality of relevant apprenticeships, higher education and national occupational standards.

The development and work of Skillfast-UK and the other Sector Skills Councils will be supported by the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA). It is a UK-wide public body which will review the progress of the councils.

A major review of the National Training Organisations( NTOs) was undertaken by the then Department for Education and Employment in October 2000. Estelle Morris, Secretary of State for Education Skills announced a major new approach to drive up the skills innovation and action in October 2001. The Sector Skills Councils were the key part
of the strategy to tackle skills and productivity problems in the UK.

The Sector Skills Council for the footwear and textiles sector is one of five new councils representing key UK industries. The others are the audio-visual industry, land-based oil and gas extraction industry, petrol refining and distribution and chemical manufacturing, and retail industry.

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