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A round-up of training news


Budget 2008: Extra £60m for UK skills

Alistair Darling has announced that an extra £60m will be spent on improving skills levels of the country's workforce. In a speech that was scant on detail as to how this would be spent in practice, he said the government wanted to ensure that every UK adult had the opportunity to access investment in their skills.

The chancellor pledged £60m over the next three years to enable 'leading employers' to take on new apprentices.

In a development of the government's Train to Gain initiative, the investment will provide new opportunities for people to realise their talents, offer adults a second chance to retrain and will be used to test new ways of delivering training.

The Confederation of British Industry said that the move would ensure public funding follows the needs of employers and employees more closely. "The focus must be on developing the economically valuable skills the UK needs to compete," said Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI.

"Today's announcement of additional funding for intermediate skills and adult apprenticeships is welcome, as employers' skills needs are often at these higher levels."

The announcement was met with cautious welcome by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development: "CIPD has called for further support for employers taking on apprentices," said Gerwyn Davies, CIPD public policy adviser. "We are keen to see the detail of the government's proposals trailed in today's budget."

The government has also produced a 10-year strategy aiming to make the UK the best place to start and grow new business, nurturing the most "enterprising" economy in the world.

Skills development and training will be offered to 16 to 19 year olds through a new National Enterprise Academy, partly funded by UK entrepreneur Peter Jones.

Other measures include additional support for young entrepreneurs, women and people over 50, and a raft of actions including business mentoring, work placements, skills training and access to business support.

New Enterprise Academy launched with Dragon Peter Jones

A new National Enterprise Academy will open its doors early next year to unlock the entrepreneurial talents of Britain's teenagers - part of a joint initiative announced by the government and entrepreneur Peter Jones.

A National Enterprise Academy is a long held dream of Peter Jones who has been developing the concept for over a year and will become part of the highly successful National Skills Academies programme.

The academy will offer a new qualification in enterprise to students over the age of 16 - giving them the right skills both for the workplace or to start their own businesses. It will also have a broader remit of raising enterprise awareness across the entire population and age range, including encouraging more women entrepreneurs. The first Academy will open in the South East of England, followed by another centre in the North West. A national roll out of satellite academies will then follow.

Peter Jones commented: "There is a stark difference in the entrepreneurial mindset between the UK and the US. Here, there tends to be a 'can I?' approach, whereas in the US the 'I can' belief is instilled from an early age. If the UK economy is to continue to grow, we need to create the right learning environment for all our children, where their talents can be developed so they can go out into the workplace or business and prosper.

The party is over for bosses who fail to meet recession challenge

Over 70% of senior management admit UK bosses have little or no experience of how to deal with a downturn.

This is according to a new survey by Pentacle, the virtual business school, which finds that over two-thirds of executives believe the UK is now heading into a recession or serious downturn.

Worryingly, the research suggests that those at the top have little experience of dealing with a recession.

Professor Eddie Obeng, director of Pentacle, said: "For the Googles of this world, the closest they have been to a recession is post 9/11 – a much more contained economic crisis than the global tightening we are now witnessing. The question is whether these same bold leaders have the expertise to adapt to much more challenging conditions."

In further bad news, 71% admit that as soon as the downturn hits the bottom line there will be a knee jerk reaction of 'panic firing' from the top, and with 95% saying that reviewing headcount will be a prime focus, this looks likely.

A further 83% of executives argue that senior management should invest in strong internal communications in a downturn, yet only one in five believe that they will actually do so. Similarly 56% believe that businesses should actively remunerate key staff, but only 26% think this will happen.

Over 200 business people were quizzed as part of the survey.

Silver surfers smash stereotype

Older workers are being praised for embracing modern workplace methods and becoming competent with new technology. Findings from the poll by Lifelong Learning UK show that more than half of older employees love new technology and are confident about their level of skills.

Chris Ball, chief executive of The Age and Employment Network, said: "It is good to see any evidence of misconceived stereotypes about older people being aired. More than 50% of people over the age of 50 surf the net and some three million have access to computers.

"Older people have years of knowledge and skills behind them and potentially valuable service to offer, but all too often they are cast aside as a neglected resource through wrong-headed attitudes. Stereotypes like 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks,' were never appropriate but today, when older workers turn their hands to all manner of challenges, they seem ludicrously outmoded."

Latest statistics show that 2.4m additional people aged 50 plus would like to go on working and if one million would-be workers returned to the job market, they would contribute more than £30 billion to our economy.

Investing in tomorrow's leaders today

A unique opportunity for young people, either in their first jobs or still in full time education, to participate in a free leadership development programme is up for grabs.

Run by leadership development organisation Common Purpose, the Frontrunner programme uses real life situations as its classroom. Participants will be taken to a diverse range of organisations where they will explore the problems being faced, alongside the people who are tackling them. This will be a rare chance to explore what is required to lead effectively with people already leading change in society. Participants will also build a stimulating new peer network
of other leaders across the UK.

Frontrunner is open to people over the age of 18, who are either still in full-time education or in the very early stages of their career, and who have already shown evidence of leadership.

Frontrunner is free of charge, and will be held twice in 2008, from 7-10 July at University College London and 1-4 September at the University of Leeds where the participants will stay during the course of the programme. There are 30 places on each programme and a short application process can be found online: at or telephone 020 7608 8148 for further details. The closing date for applications is 30 May 2008.

Learning centre to go high tech with virtual reality suite

A world-class manufacturing learning centre in Peterborough has received a massive funding boost to help enable it to expand its facilities.

The Perkins Learning Centre has secured a £35m investment from its parent company, Caterpillar, to improve production facilities at Peterborough. The investment in new equipment makes it imperative that Perkins up-skills its workforce to make best use of the equipment.

A £750,000 grant from the East of England Development Agency will help it do just that, by enabling the centre to create an expanded high-tech, world-class in-industry training facility in R&D, design and production available to local people, businesses, educational establishments and other organisations in one of the region's underperforming areas. It will include a virtual reality modelling suite to simulate shop floor conditions.

Within the expanded learning centre there will be:

  • A simulated work environment - a mini automated production line

  • A CNC/robotics suite for training on programming, operating and maintaining production equipment

  • And a virtual reality modelling suite for training off the shop floor using virtual reality to simulate shop floor conditions.

The centre aims to train 6,500 people from Peterborough and the East of England over the next three years. Working with local colleges the centre will develop the range of courses designed to improve the literacy, maths and IT skills of Perkins employees and the wider community.

New workplace scheme aims to boost 'hit and miss' training

A new scheme designed to raise the status of employer based training has officially been launched. Employer Based Training Accreditation (EBTA) is a new initiative that aims to provide organisations with the support and advice needed to raise the status of training. Academic experts in relevant fields will advise employers on workplace learning, and the awarding of ‘credits’ that can contribute to a university award and also lead to the development of a foundation degree, or other qualifications.

EBTA’s brief is to support and improve the status of training to help organisations become more competitive, productive and profitable, while giving their employees renewed motivation and increased commitment.

Government figures show that huge cash sums are spent by employers on training that can be ‘hit-and-miss’ because there is no official recognition of the training, or any guarantee that it will be put into practice in the workplace, claims Foundation Degree Forward (fdf), which is co-odinating the pilot project. fdf is supporting this project through a national advisory group chaired by Dr John Mumford OBE, former vice president for BP in the UK.

EBTA aims to operate by aligning employer training with university standards and brokering recognition between employers and universities. The programme is designed to be easily accessible and user-friendly, with a professional EBTA facilitator looking at employers’ current training activities to assess the content and level of learning. The facilitator will then discuss a university-linked system that involves awarding ‘credits’ in relation to this learning.

The scheme’s first pilots are already being developed, including accreditation of a new training scheme for legal cashiers that addresses a gap in existing accredited qualifications. The course was developed by Quill Pinpoint Accounting and accredited by the University of Chester. In the Northwest, a training course for those looking to work in digital media is undergoing accreditation by the University of Bolton.

Learning competition is thinking big

The Campaign for Learning has teamed up with Reed Learning to launch the Big Learn 2008 competition to kick start the nation into thinking about their skills and improving them for the future.

The Big Learn runs until 30 April, and offers the chance to win the ultimate prize for work and life enhancement – the prize of new skills! Entrants will be asked to look forward to the year 2020 – when the government wants all employees skilled enough to ensure global competitiveness for the UK – and say what one skill they think will be the most important and why.

Three lucky entrants of the online competition, at, will be drawn at random on National Learning at Work Day to win one of three life changing learning experiences from Reed Learning, worth a total of £6,000.

National Learning at Work Day is an annual awareness campaign co-ordinated by the Campaign for Learning to highlight the importance of workplace learning for individuals and organisations. It takes place this year on Thursday 22 May.

While the day itself attracts senior managers and training professionals keen to improve the skills of their staff, the charity also wants to reach right out to individuals. The idea behind the competition is to encourage the UK public to think seriously about their skills levels.

PM asks successful women to mentor teenagers to break glass ceiling

Prime minister Gordon Brown marked International Women's Day 2008 by asking women's business leaders for advice on how to support the next generation of successful women. The PM and his wife were joined for a lunch reception at Number 10 by a range of guests including Oxfam CEO Barbara Stocking, Sun editor Rebekah Wade and women's minister Harriet Harman.

Speaking at the event the PM said: "I do think it is remarkable to think that 100 years ago, almost exactly to the month, women were having to chain themselves outside the Houses of Commons and Downing Street to put the case for women's representation. It is 80 years since women had the vote on equal terms in Britain, but now I think the issue is how far more we can ensure that women have opportunity in all areas of life."

Mr Brown added that women at the event were being asked to "adopt and mentor" British teenagers and young girls to help them aspire to the kinds of success enjoyed by other women "determined to break through what is sometimes called the glass ceiling".

College links with businesses make the grade

Strong links with employers and businesses enhance students' learning, and enable them to gain wider skills welcomed by employers.

That’s the findings of Ofsted, which has recently published five reports which look at good practice in college provision in several keys subjects, namely: agriculture, horticulture and animal care; business, administration and law; construction, planning and built environment; engineering and manufacturing technologies; and post-16 science.

Based on 100 visits to colleges, the reports conclude that where good practice is evident, teachers are subject specialists, with considerable industrial, technical and vocational experience. Good leadership and management of the curriculum are evident in the best provision but information technology is not used sufficiently to enhance learning, it says.

Christine Gilbert, her majesty's chief inspector for education, children's services and skills, said: "Ofsted's surveys of good practice in post-16 education and training highlight and share the very best in a vocational area. These reports provide examples of varied and effective ways of focusing on raising standards in education and training, and enabling progression into employment.

For the full report click here

Learning does make you more employable, survey concludes

The Learning and Skills Council has published findings from a large scale survey of learners which examined the impact of learning on employability. 10,000 learners aged 20-55 who had undertaken a range of learning programmes in Further Education took part in the survey, the findings of which are grouped into a number of different sections including:

  • The impact of learning on employment and benefit outcomes

  • Employability, skills, social and personal outcomes

  • Further learning outcomes

  • Entering learning

  • Learners' situation before the course

Overall, the survey found that, whilst only 10%of all learners in the survey had been in work prior to the start of their course, 38% had gone on to work at some point after finishing their course.

Of the respondents that had had a paid job after completing the course (3,910 learners), 44% felt that their job outcome was the result of having undertaken the course. Other sources of support in helping learners into work included friends and family, Jobcentre Plus and community and voluntary organisations.

Learning was found to have had a positive impact on respondents' perceptions of their employability. More than half of those surveyed indicated that their communication skills (66%), job-related skills (64%), team-working skills (60%) and problem solving skills (57%) had improved as a direct result of the course; and 56 per cent of respondents felt nearer to getting a job as a result of the course. On a personal level, 86% of respondents claimed that they felt better about themselves because of the course, with 84% agreeing that the course had given them a sense of greater opportunities.

The report concludes that "the findings show statistically significant positive effects from learning for welfare benefit recipients, in terms of both moving into work and of improving employability".

Key findings are available here

Gender pay gap hits women in thirties

As well as doing the most unpaid overtime, women in their 30s are also bearing the brunt of the gender pay gap, according to new TUC research.

Published on the eve of the 2008 TUC Women's Conference, the study shows that the sharpest increase in the gender pay gap occurs when women reach the age of 30, in part of result of the 'motherhood penalty'.

Meanwhile, a separate study from the International Trade Union Confederation has shown that, on average, women around the world are paid 16% less than their male work colleagues

The Global Gender Pay Gap report includes detailed analysis of statistics from official sources in 63 countries around the world. Data from an online salary survey covering more than 400,000 workers in 12 countries is also included in the new study.

To see The Global Gender Pay Gap go to:


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