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Brown unveils plans for legal rights for training time & apprenticeships


Gordon Brown has revealed plans for employees to be given a legal right for time for training, and for those suitably qualified to have the legal right to an Apprenticeship.

The radical move is designed to increase the number of people who can gain new skills, in a bid to fill the widening skills gap. Mr Brown unveiled the proposals in the draft Queen's speech before Parliament yesterday.

For the first time, employees will be given the legal right to request time to train from their employers, and apprenticeships will receive a boost under new legislation designed to 'unlock the potential of individuals'.

The government intends to consult on how workers can be legally empowered to request time to undertake training that will benefit them and their employer. The practical arrangements which employers would follow would be modelled on the existing right to request flexible working.

By introducing a new right to ask for time for training, employees will be able to talk to employers about their training needs. Employers will be legally obliged to seriously consider requests for training they receive but could refuse a request where there was a good business reason to do so. Requests do not have to be for accredited training. Employers will not be obliged to meet training costs, although in reality the government expects most to do so.

The plans – which will be set out in an Education and Skills Bill - will apply to 22 million employees in England.

In 2004, 3.2 million unqualified adults were in work but current trends suggest that this will fall to 600,000 by 2020. Nearly three quarters of the 2020 workforce has already completed compulsory education.

Gordon Brown, outlining the plans to Parliament, said: "Every adult should have the right to a second chance in education - to have the chance to make the most of their potential. It is not only a threat to prosperity but unfair also that adults - in work or looking for work - are denied the opportunity to get the training they need to advance their careers, or even the time needed to do a course."
Every adult will be offered a personal skills account so that they can access the training they need, he said.
The new Education and Skills Bill will also set out measures to strengthen the Apprenticeships programme as a means of improving the national skills base, with a new National Apprenticeship Service leading the drive for more high quality apprenticeships.

The Bill will build on the draft Apprenticeships Bill (to be published this summer) and is designed to strengthen and expand apprenticeships by establishing a statutory basis for the programme, clarifying the legal status of apprentices and ensuring agreements are in place between employers and learners.

The government wants there to be "a statutory entitlement to an apprenticeships place for all suitably qualified young people who want one".

"It is unfair, and a threat to our country's future prosperity, that many qualified young people are still denied access to an apprenticeship," said Mr Brown. "By deciding to legislate for the first time for the statutory right of every suitably qualified young person to obtain an apprenticeship, we expect the numbers of people starting an apprenticeship - just 65,000 a year ten years ago - to rise by 2011 to 210,000: three times as many."

Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham commented: "If the job prospects of our workforce are to improve and the country is to succeed internationally, we have to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to rise as far as their abilities can take them.

"Learning starts before school and it should not stop when you leave. While it is right that we consult on this proposal, I believe that skills development has to become an integral part of working life for everyone. A right to request training will help ensure this becomes a reality.

The right will be backed by ongoing government investment in skills and training which will rise to £5.3 billion per year by 2010-11. In particular, employers will be encouraged to take advantage of the Train to Gain service, which helps businesses identify and address skills needs, further supported by government funding rising to over £1 billion a year by 2010/11.

To see more details of the Education and Skills Bill - which you can comment on - go to:


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