New initiatives launched at Skills Summit 2005
Last week’s Skills Summit 2005 event saw the launch of a number of initiatives designed to help close the UK’s skills gap.
The event, hosted by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and supported by the Oracle Corporation, brought together employers, partners and other stakeholders involved in implementing the government's skills strategy.
Key outcomes from the day included an announcement from Education and Skills Secretary Ruth Kelly on the launch of the National Skills Academies prospectus, the announcement of trials to fund learning at Level 3 (equivalent to two A-levels) and increased employer uptake of Apprenticeships.
Chris Banks, Chairman of the LSC, said: "The productivity and competitiveness of our nation is dependent on the skills of our workforce. Today, new initiatives have been unveiled that will inspire employers to add their investment to the public funding. Only by working together can we ensure that young people and adults in our country have the knowledge and skills matching the best in the world."
National Skills Academies
Ruth Kelly announced the publication of a Prospectus describing the Government's vision for a network of National Skills Academies.
The National Skills Academy Prospectus invites expressions of interest from employers, working through colleges, universities or other training providers to set up four additional employer-led Skills Academies by September 2006, with a network of 12 by 2008.
The academies are designed to be national centres of excellence, providing their sector with high-quality training that truly meets skills needs. The Fashion Retail Academy was the first to be established by retail firm Arcadia with additional funding from the Learning and Skills Council.
The National Skills Academies announcement was welcomed by the network of Sector Skills Councils. Speaking on behalf of the network, Margaret Salmon, Chair of the Sector Skills Development Agency said: "The Skills Academies concept is very exciting, and a number of Sector Skills Councils are already working with employers in their sector to draw up plans for an Academy which will meet their particular needs.
Trials to fund learning at Level 3
The conference heard that England faces significant skills gaps in technician, advanced craft, skilled trade and associate professional skills, yet by 2012 two-thirds of jobs will be at this level and require Level 3 qualifications (equivalent to two A-levels).
To help meet this demand and improve individuals' career prospects, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills announced that employers in the North West and the West Midlands will be able to access a trial giving them additional support to train their employees to Level 3 within the National Employer Training Programme (NETP).
The NETP, which will be rolled out across the country later this year, aims to encourage more employers to get involved in workforce development to help raise the nations' skills levels.
Increased employer uptake of Apprenticeships
According to a report from the Apprenticeships Task Force, significant progress has been made in boosting employer involvement in Apprenticeships and demonstrating the business benefits of Apprenticeships. The Task Force reported that there are now record numbers of both young people and employers taking part in the Apprenticeship programme.
The Task Force members have pledged to double their own companies' Apprenticeship places to 10,000 by 2008. The Apprenticeship Task Force is a group of business leaders, chaired by Sir Roy Gardner, Chief Executive of Centrica plc. It aims to ensure that Apprenticeships respond to the changing needs of employers and young people.
Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, said: "Skills Summit 2005 is vital in providing a chance for us all - government, social and economic partners, employers, learners and provides - to come together. Now, two years on from first skills White Paper, we should take stock and celebrate the significant progress that has been made in addressing the skills challenges we face. We also need to look forward and recognise the challenges ahead and agree our priorities in tackling them."
Skills Minister Phil Hope said: "We have a moral obligation to support those who still lack the basic levels of literacy, language and numeracy, and those who have yet to achieve skills for employability. When we have done that, we need to leave them with a sense of responsibility to address and develop their own skills needs in the future."
Hope called for employers to get involved in Sector Skills Councils and make them work, to provide more Apprenticeship places and to get involved in sponsoring programmes, including Skills Academies.
Ian Smith, senior vice president and managing director at Oracle UK, Ireland and South Africa, delivered a keynote speech at Skills Summit 2005. He said: "Oracle recognises that our employees are our main asset and we have a long tradition of investing in professional development at all levels of the company.
"It is good to see some 'pioneer' UK companies are acknowledging the need to build the skills of their workforce if the UK is to remain competitive in the global economy, but this attitude must become universal if the country is to prosper. We hope that through our sponsorship of the Skills Summit 2005, we emphasise that training and skills development are integral to every company in this country and their future success."
Chris Banks concluded: "As the lead delivery partner in the Government's skills strategy, the LSC has a pivotal role to play in driving the skills agenda. That is why we have brought businesses, Government ministers and key partners together at the Summit to discuss how we can make the UK more productive and competitive in the future.
"It is our goal that by 2010 young people and adults in England will possess the knowledge and skills matching the best in the world and will belong to a truly competitive workforce."
Further information on the Skills Academies can be found at: www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/nsaprospectus/
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