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Denham says act now to plug skills gap


Skills secretary John Denham has urged employers to act to prevent skills shortages as he announced the fourth competitive bidding round for National Skills Academies.

Mr Denham warned of the dangers of missed opportunities for thousands of workers in key sectors of the economy where the country is facing looming skills shortages and urged employers to think strategically about how these needs can be met.

Providing skilled workers for tomorrow’s industries gives people the opportunity to maximise their earnings and improve their prosperity and that of the country as a whole, he said.

The government is hoping the National Skills Academies will form a vital building block for a new strategic approach to skills.

Managed by employers, National Skills Academies deliver learning through networks of selected colleges and training providers. They give employers a unique opportunity to lead the development and delivery of bespoke training in their sector, ensuring not just current skills needs are met, but helping to ensure the workforce has the right skills in place for the jobs of the future.

The fourth round aims to build on the existing nine academies which will see over half a million learners benefit from specialised vocational training over the next five years.

John Denham commented: "National Skills Academies give employers the chance to shape the future skills system. Led by employers with government support, these centres of excellence help us identify and tackle those skills shortages in sectors vital for the competitiveness of tomorrow's economy.

"Despite the considerable progress we have made, we need to move beyond skills training for the medium term. We know there are major skills shortages in finance, construction, science, engineering, and IT. We anticipate a huge demand for skilled workers to build and deliver nuclear power stations, green power generators, Crossrail an the 2012 Olympics.

“We know there are better jobs to come, new skills are the key to getting them, and National Skills Academies are a key part of our plans for securing them."

Launched in 2006, the network includes nine skills academies operating today for sectors such as construction, manufacturing and the nuclear industries. Each skills academy has developed a different model to meet industry needs. Training can be delivered on site, online, at dedicated skills academy sites and through existing training providers. There are no barriers to age or education to enrol on courses, which are designed to help people build valuable skills that will be recognised by employers throughout their careers.

A collaboration between government, employers and training providers, the government hopes that the Academies will transform skills training in England - putting employers in the driving seat to develop and deliver relevant training for their sector.

The government hopes that by having a stake in their National Skills Academy, employers help set the strategic direction, set quality standards for training and skills, get involved in the management and ensure the training reflects the changing needs of their sector.

Skills minister David Lammy said: "We have set high standards but the prize is great and this flagship programme will play a key part in supporting progression, creating jobs, tackling strategic skills shortages and driving up productivity. The commitment of so many top employers to date has been impressive; this is because the National Skills Academies provide a golden opportunity for employers and government to work together and build a Britain of innovation, enterprise and opportunity.”

The government has £180m in capital set out for National Skills Academies and specialist networks and aims to have 12 National Skills Academies up and running by the end of 2008. So far, the LSC has approved National Skills Academies for the construction, financial services, manufacturing, food and drink manufacturing, process industries, nuclear, hospitality, creative and cultural and sport and leisure industries with a further three in the business planning phase.


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