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Home > News > May 2006 > 24-May-2006

Plea to employers to back food Skills Academy

A leading food manufacturer has urged fellow employers to back the proposed Skills Academy for food and drink manufacturing, with their time, resources, and money.

Speaking at the Federation of Bakers annual meeting, Brett Warburton, managing director of Warburton's, said that tangible commitment by employers was crucial if the business plan for the Skills Academy, scheduled to be submitted to the government by the end of June, was to get the go ahead.

"We have to convince the government that we, the employers, recognise that investment in skills for the sector as a whole will benefit us all in the long run, and that we are prepared to back the plan with our time, our resources, and our share of the money.

"We have to be alert to the fact that if we want training provision to be employer led, and to meet the needs of employers, it follows that employers will have to support the initiatives that deliver what we have asked for.

"If we can make the business plan a convincing one, and secure the next, crucial round of government funding - worth up to £5 million - then I believe the Skills Academy will become the focus for a whole new approach to training, which could close skill gaps, reduce skill shortages, and make all our businesses more productive, and more profitable.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the idea of the skills academy is a good one. It will cement together all of the building blocks of training and qualifications reform currently underway, to create a pinnacle of excellence for the food and drink manufacturing sector. It should be the start of our industry becoming more attractive to bright young people planning their careers."

Mr Warburton, who is a member of the Skills Academy steering committee, said that the achievement by Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, in gaining the government's approval to start planning the Skills Academy, was without doubt its most important achievement in the last 12 months. "The time frame for producing a business plan to secure the next round of government funding is incredibly tight, but so far I have been very impressed by Improve's response to the challenge," he said.

Improve hopes to have the Skills Academy operational by September this year. It will comprise a network of what Improve are calling 'centres of excellence' specialising in different sub-sectors of food and drink manufacturing.

Applications for centre of excellence status have been submitted by colleges, private training organisations and large-company training centres. Submissions are currently being considered by Improve as part of its preparation of the academy business plan.

Improve says each centre of excellence is expected to become a fount of specialist knowledge for training and skills for its sub sector, as well as delivering training, or licensing other training centres to deliver courses.

At the hub of the network, there will be a central management function, which will also manage a opportunities for on-line learning, distance learning, and a resource centre for learning aids.

Improve says employers will be expected to be involved in the management of the Skills Academy and of individual centres of excellence, and will need to take on at least part of the burden of funding.

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