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Home > News > July 2004 > 12-Jul-2004

Government getting it right on skills says Clarke

Education and Skills Secretary Charles Clarke has welcomed a statement from the CBI, TUC and Small Business Council confirming their support for the Government's Skills Strategy and outlining their commitment to a collective, partnership approach to developing the nation's skills.

The statement comes as figures released on International skills comparisons show that Britain is at last closing the gap with its major competitors at the intermediate and technician skill levels vital for productivity. Analysis of changes in skills levels in the UK, USA, France, Germany and Singapore between 1994 and 2003, shows that of all these countries the UK had the highest growth rate for qualifications at level 2 (equivalent to 5 GSCEs grades A-C) and above.

The UK is also closing the gap with Germany and the USA at level 3 (A level equivalent) and is already ahead of all the other countries except the USA at level 4 (degree level) and above. However, the report highlights the large gap still to be closed if the UK is to compete well with the major economic powers.

Speaking at the Skills Alliance conference at the Brewery - one year on from the launch of the Government's Skills Strategy - Charles Clarke said: "Our Skills Strategy White Paper published a year ago today set out an ambitious agenda for change to meet the skill needs of the nation. I am delighted that the CBI, TUC and SBC are urging employers, employees and learning providers to train the workforce to meet the needs of the economy.

"One year on we have the building blocks, frameworks and infrastructure all in place to begin to close skills gaps and increase our competitiveness. We now have the unprecedented consensus we need to back our call for everyone with an interest in improving skills to start delivering and making real progress on the ground."

Ministers attending the Skills Alliance conference with Charles Clarke were Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown; Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt; Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Skills and Vocational Education, Ivan Lewis; Minister of State for Work and Pensions, Jane Kennedy; and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Sainsbury.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown said: "The skills strategy launched a year ago, bringing together Government, businesses, trade unions and individuals in partnership is a testament to the growing and central importance of education, training and skills to the whole future of the British economy. Only by becoming number one for our skills will our economy become number one for its success. This is the first comprehensive strategy for years to tackle this.

"Skills are central to this spending review and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the CBI, the TUC, the Small Business Council - central and local government, employers and employees, as we continue to take this strategy forward."

Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt said: "Skills are central to the UK's competitiveness and a key driver of productivity. Successful business needs inspirational leadership, stronger management skills and a highly trained and motivated workforce."

Director General of the CBI Digby Jones, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber and chair of the SBC William Sargent, jointly said: "The Skills Alliance presents us with a real opportunity to improve skills in this country and catch up with our competitors. All of us have a role to play - employers, individuals, unions and all parts of government must work together effectively to achieve our shared goals".

Charles Clarke commented: "This joint statement shows that all those involved in the world of work - be it employers or employees - see the need to develop skills for a strong economy and prosperity for all. The CBI, TUC and Small Business Council support for the Skills Strategy has been critical and I welcome their and other partners' continued work in making this shared ambition a reality."

One initiative supported by both employer and employee bodies has been the Employer Training Pilot scheme (ETP) that has been expanded by the Chancellor in successive budgets. The Learning and Skills Council manages the pilot, which has so far benefited over 60,000 employees through training provided by more than 10,000 employers.

Charles Clarke added: "Businesses involved in ETPs have said it gives them access to the right training when, where and how they need it. We will draw on the principles of these pilots and their evaluation as we decide the form of any national programme to support employer training and as from 2006/07 mainstream funds for adult training increasingly reflect this way of working."

Charles Clarke also highlighted significant early success in a number of areas showing that the momentum for change has already begun. Since the Skills White Paper there are 260,000 more adults in the workforce who are qualified to at least NVQ level 2, bringing the percentage of adults with at least a full level 2 qualification up to 71%; 24,500 students are currently enrolled in the new Foundation Degree courses; College success rates are up from 59% in 2000/01 to 67%; 200,000 learners have achieved at least one Skills for Life Qualification in basic literacy and numeracy and since the Skills for Life programme began, 2.3 million learners have taken up 4.6 million Skills for Life learning opportunities.

At the conference Charles Clarke also announced:

  • The launch of two more Sector Skills Councils - for the Justice and Food and Drink sectors - bringing the total number of Councils to 18, covering 85% of the nation's workforce
  • The first 16 employers to have been awarded the new Champion Status under the Investors in People Standard
  • The launch of new occupational standards for leadership and management - a critical skills area where the UK lags seriously behind its competitors
  • A major new agreement between higher education and the Sector Skills Development Agency to ensure that higher education and business work better together to develop appropriate high level skills and make best commercial use of research and development undertaken in universities and colleges
  • The annual review of the Skills for Life programme that shows the Government well on target to meet its commitments on raising literacy and numeracy skills levels among adults
  • A progress report on Government Meeting its Responsibilities - developing skills levels across Whitehall
  • The publication of a report by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority setting out its thinking on producing a radical new, flexible and coherent framework for recognising qualifications and achievements for adults

The new Occupational Standards for Leadership and Management are designed to have a key role in helping employers address the poor performance of many managers (one in three employers report a skills deficiency amongst their managers) and in recruiting and developing the 2 million new managers needed by 2012. The standards were developed by the Management Standards Centre (MSC) which is an independent unit within the Chartered Management Institute.

The Joint statement issued by CBI, TUC and SBC said: "The Social and Economic Partners and Government are committed to raising skills at all levels to support the delivery of sustained economic growth. Our work will contribute directly to prosperity for all, employment for individuals, improved performance for employers and sustained social and economic development.

This statement identifies our priorities for all partners - to focus our activity and stimulate action by those groups that look to us for leadership in order to raise performance in the priority areas.

We are looking for nothing less than employers, unions, employees and education and training providers to rise to the challenge of raising the skills levels of everyone to enable businesses to succeed and people to develop. We will work together to raise significantly the awareness of the value of skills development amongst employers and employees, backed by education and training providers offering a more responsive, proactive and flexible capability.

The key challenges for employers, unions, employees, Government and providers are to:

  • improve employability - people in or joining the workforce to possess the skills - basic and Level 2 skills as appropriate - that provide the foundation for their employability and development to work
  • improve workforce skills and their use - employers, unions and employees to work together to build innovative and high performance workplaces in order to improve business competitiveness and the employability and personal development of individuals
  • respond to customer needs - education and training providers to put the skills needs of employers, employees and people joining the workforce centre stage, removing barriers to skill development through providing greater choice and control over content and delivery

External links

Management Standards Centre

Skills Strategy Website

'International research: International Comparisons of Qualifications: Skills Audit Update, the Centre for Economic Performance" published by the DfES

Please note: Training Reference is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

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