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Government unveils ambitious plan for skills

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The government has unveiled its three-year plan to help over four million adults learn new skills and improve existing ones.

It says the plans will help make Britain’s workforce one of the most skilled in the world by 2020.

World Class Skills, published in response to the Leitch review of skills, will introduce new legislation to strengthen the current funding entitlement for adults to training in basic literacy and numeracy, giving adults a legal right to free training for the first time.

It will also create Skills Accounts to help eligible benefit claimants access training that will support their return to work.

A new adult careers service will also offer tailored employment and skills advice to low-skilled and unemployed adults.

For employers, the government has pledged to introduce a new Commission for Employment, which together with Local Employment and Skills Boards and reformed Sector Skills Councils, it says will offer more leverage over the content and delivery of skills and employment programmes.

The changes aim to give employers a bigger role in the reform and development of vocational qualifications for their sector. The government has also promised to make it easier for employers to have their own training programmes accredited.

The Train to Gain service will also be improved and expanded, the government said, to support employers of all sizes and in all sectors in assessing and addressing their training needs.

Higher Education institutions are also to be encouraged to increase their focus on workforce development and collaborate with employers to deliver training that meets their needs.

Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham, said that skills were the key to greater social mobility.

“For our businesses, a more highly skilled workforce is the path to higher productivity, competitiveness and profitability. Increased skills will also contribute to the delivery of better public services,” he added.

The government plans to review the progress of the plan in 2010.

Lord Leitch welcomed the plan. He said: “Today’s plan marks a golden opportunity for skills and the future prosperity of this country. Government and its delivery agencies must now work in partnership with employers and individuals to realise that vision.”

Commenting on the government’s plans for implementing the recommendations of the Leitch Review of Skills, Richard Lambert, CBI director-general said: “Government plans to reform qualifications to better reflect the skills needs of employers will not be completed until 2010. So there is no way that the government’s 2011 qualifications targets can be met unless the system gives greater recognition to the £33bn spent by employers on raising employee skills.

“If this does not happen, there is a risk of chasing qualifications for their own sake, and that will have very little impact on productivity levels or business performance.”

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “The decision to legislate to strengthen the existing right for adults to achieve the equivalent of a school leaving certificate prepares the ground for the introduction of a legal right to training in three years time, should enough employers fail to give their staff access to learning at work.”

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Annie Hayes

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