Government white paper on skills launched

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The long-awaited white paper on skills strategy has been released by Education Secretary Charles Clarke today.

Among the key headlines emerging from the paper:

  • A rapid expansion of the Sector Skills Council network
  • Developing a national programme for employers based on the Employer Training Pilots scheme
  • Reform of qualifications to make them more employer-friendly and responsive to business needs
  • Getting more employer involvement in the design and delivery of Modern Apprenticeships
  • Developing business support services so that employers know who to turn to for help on skills, joining up the work of Business Link, local Learning and Skills Councils and JobCentrePlus
  • Publishing an 'Employers Guide to Good Training'
  • Introducing a new management and leadership drive, working with Investors In People
  • A new partnership of Government, the CBI, the TUC, the Small Business Council, and key delivery partners, will be brought together in a ‘Skills Alliance’ to drive forward the strategy, with their respective roles laid out at national, regional and local level.

    There are also developments within community learning, reforming adult education advice services, an expansion of the Adult Basic Skills programme, a weekly grant for adult learners in priority groups and funding for adults to achieve a level 2 qualification, and an increase in the maximum age for Modern Apprenticeships.

    Launching the new strategy, Charles Clarke said:

    "Skills matter. They help business to compete, and they help individuals raise their employability and provide a route to a better life. The success of the country depends on our skill base. For the first time, we have produced a skills strategy based on a true partnership to enable more businesses to win in the global economy, by developing a multi-skilled flexible labour force. Increasing the nation’s skills levels is not about endless piecemeal initiatives. It’s about a partnership between the Government, Business and the Unions, working together to forge a Skills Alliance."

    Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said:

    "The skills gap hits business hardest - and this strategy puts their needs first. It's a good result for business - and our economy. It recognises that our education system must meet the needs of the workplace. This is a strategy that responds to what business needs, enabling us to meet the demands of the economy."

    Digby Jones, head of the CBI praised the government for putting "fresh impetus" behind the drive for better workforce skills, saying the government's new skills strategy contains "useful and practical steps" that could help firms raise workforce competence. But he urged Charles Clarke to "turn paper promises into practical realities" as soon as possible.

    Mr Jones said: "Charles Clarke is right to recognise the role of employers and is giving them a greater say in the content and delivery of training programmes. For too long there has been a mismatch between the needs of employers and the services of training providers."

    Copies of the White Paper are available online at www.dfes.gov.uk/skillsstrategy. We'll be publishing more comment on the paper in the coming weeks - you can add your own views on this page too.

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