Speaking at the TEC National Council conference today, David Blunkett has emphasised the key role of business in delivering the proposals in yesterday's 'Learning to Succeed' publication.
"Meeting the skill needs of business is vital for the national economy. The new post-16 framework will lead to learning provision that is better focused on demand and will respond much more flexibly to local needs - exactly what business has been calling for. We want more people in work to be trained and more people to be retrained, especially in the workplace, throughout their working lives.
"I can assure the business community that there will be a vital role for them to play in Local Learning and Skills Councils, local learning partnerships and through arrangements for the Small Business Service. I realise there will be a cost to making the new arrangements which will be met with £1m of new money for TECs to use this year to pave the way for successful transition.
"Learning is at the core of our policies for the future. The fortunes of employers and individuals in a modern economy are inextricably linked. There is a tripartite responsibility of employers, learners and government. Individuals without relevant skills and qualifications will find increasing difficulty in gaining and retaining good quality jobs. Businesses without a well motivated and skilled workforce will have increasing difficulty surviving in the modern world.
"If young people do not get the right learning opportunities when they leave school they may be turned off learning for the rest of their lives. We need a step change in participation and culture to make learning enjoyable and an intrinsic part of adult life.
"That is why we announced yesterday radical new proposals for the planning and delivery of all post-16 learning in England including that currently delivered through TECs and FE colleges. Current structures for post-16 education and training are complex and incapable of supporting our ambitions for the future. Our consultation has shown that we have been too provider driven rather than focusing on individuals, the economy and communities.
"The White Paper ‘Learning to Succeed’ sets out our proposals for a new Learning and Skills Council for England to oversee the planning, funding and delivery of learning for everyone over the age of 16. This will bring about greater coherence and responsiveness in meeting the needs of learners.
"It is vitally important that our new arrangements meet the needs of employers and engage them in shaping and influencing the range of post-16 provision. Employer influence on all elements of education and training is essential. This is why both nationally and locally, employers will have the largest single input into the new Learning and Skills Council. This will extend business influence over a wider canvas with expenditure of around £5 billion a year as against £1 billion of TEC spend. We want enterprises of all sizes to be represented nationally on the Learning and Skills Council as well as locally under the new arrangements.
"We are proposing, subject to the necessary legislation, to introduce the changes with effect from April 2001. The next 18 months will therefore be a challenging time for all of us. It is only with the continued commitment of everyone involved that we can continue to maintain the progress and performance we need to deliver the National Learning Targets."