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A week in training: Skills in the downturn


Some rare chinks of light amidst the doom and gloom of the economic downturn this week. The government is investing hard in apprenticeships, the NHS sees a surge of applicants for it graduate training programme and an association for freelance trainers predicts that times may not be as tough as expected for its members. Plus we've details on the Learning Technologies event, due to take place at the end of this month, and an Oxford scholarship scheme for retail managers.

Government reveals plans for training grants for unemployed
Employers could get up to £2,500 for every long-term unemployed person they train, the government revealed today (12 January). The move was unveiled as Prime Minister Gordon Brown hosted talks with business and union leaders about measures aimed at safeguarding jobs during the downturn. At the 'Jobs Summit', Brown said spending £500m would help 500,000 people into work or work-focused training. Meanwhile, parents and carers who have taken more than five years off work will be offered £500 training grants, to make them more employable, the Guardian reports. The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is planning to pilot the scheme, more details of which will are expected to be revealed this week.

£140m apprenticeships boost
The government plans to fund a further 35,000 apprentices next year as part of its efforts to tackle the economic downturn. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he wants one in five young people to be on apprenticeships within 10 years. year. John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director-General, gave the £140m investment a cautious welcome. He said: "This is a useful initiative designed to help those people who are particularly vulnerable to unemployment develop their skills. However, the only way to protect real jobs is to get the credit markets working again." The government is already committed to increasing spending on apprentices in the next year to just under £1billion and the £140m is in addition to that. Over a quarter of a million apprentices are expected to begin their training in the next financial

Surge in applicants for NHS graduate scheme
Meanwhile, in these uncertain times, those who opted for the university route are now running towards the comparatively safe arms of the public sector. Over 12,000 graduates have applied for one of the 220 places on this year's NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme - an 83% rise on last year’s applications. The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, which leads the scheme believes the high number of applications may be, in part, a sign of the Credit Crunch. It also believes graduates are increasingly looking for job satisfaction and a way to give back to society with their careers. Over a thousand applicants, chosen as a result of testing, will now proceed to interviews for selection to attend the final 24-hour Leadership Challenge, out of which around 220 applicants will be offered a place on the scheme in one of four specialisms: finance management; general management; HR management; informatics management.

Free seminar guide
Learning Technologies has unveiled its free exhibition seminar programme. The 56 seminar programme covers topics such as: latest advances in learning technologies, learning design, talent and project management, e-assessment, and surviving the economic downturn. The seminars are free to attend, and while advance booking isn't required, with 3,000 L&D professionals expected at the event, visitors are recommended to arrive early to be sure of a seat. A complete schedule of the exhibition seminars can be found at The Learning Technologies Exhibition and Conference, takes place at Olympia 2 in London on 28 and 29 January. Registration for both the exhibition and conference is available at Details of the conference sessions are available

High hopes for freelance trainers
TrainerBase, the association for freelance trainers, is bucking the downturn gloom and predicting a positive time for independent practitioners within the learning and development sector. It says that less than a week into the New Year it has had enquiries to source over 30 freelance trainers. Editor of the site, Peter Mayes said: "Preliminary reporting on our activities for last year indicates an increase in members of 20% and revenues of 40%."

Oxford scholarships for retail managers
Skillsmart Retail, the sector skills council for retail, and Retail Trust are making a final call for talented retail managers to apply for scholarships to a prestigious residential training event. Applicants now have until 14 January to secure one of six free places - each worth more than £2,000 - to the Oxford Retail Masters Forum. Managers at both large multiple and small independent retailers are welcome to apply for the course which takes place from 16 - 19 March at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. For more information about the scholarships call Skillsmart Retail on 0207 462 5060 or download the application form from

HMRC warns of danger from scam emails
Fraudsters are targeting taxpayers with thousands of scam emails in the run up to the 31 January Self Assessment tax deadline HM Revenue & Customs has warned. The scams tell the recipient they are due a tax refund and ask for bank or credit card details so that the fictitious tax refund can be paid out. HMRC advises:
* That any email appearing to originate from HMRC and which offers a tax refund should be forwarded unopened to [email protected]
* Do not click on websites links contained in suspicious emails or open attachments.
If in doubt check it out with HMRC at


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