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New centres of vocational excellence announced in FE

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The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has announced that 69 further education colleges have progressed to the next stage of the Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) programme. Less than nine months after introducing the CoVE initiative with the selection of 16 ‘Pathfinder’ colleges to set the standard, the LSC is now almost half way towards meeting its target that 50% of all general FE colleges in England will have at least one CoVE by 2004.

The £100 million three year initiative is aimed at improving vocational skills by developing a nationally co-ordinated network. This comprises a strategic mix of high quality local, regional, sectoral and national specialisms to meet skills needs. John Harwood, Chief Executive of the LSC said, "We considered no fewer than 370 proposals at this stage of the COVEs programme and the 69 successful colleges were selected as matching the priority skills needs required in local areas, their regions and in the country as a whole. The CoVE programme is a cornerstone of the Government’s policy to reinvigorate technical and vocational specialisation within the further education sector. There are now over 80 colleges which have joined the CoVE programme – putting us well on course to meet our initial target of 175 by 2004."

Minister for Adult Skills John Healey added, "Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) have an important role to play in our drive to create a workforce that matches the best in the world by 2010. To do this we have to make sure that training provision in this country meets the skills needs of industry. CoVEs will focus on meeting the employer-demand for level 3 skills which are roughly equivalent to A-levels. Only half of our 19-28 year olds hold such qualifications yet the latest report of the Skills Task Force suggests that 7 out of 10 jobs will require level 3 qualifications - many in craft and technical subjects - by 2010."

The successful colleges have all produced a 12 month audit and development plan and are able to use the CoVE badge as a symbol of joining the programme. Local Learning and Skills Councils will work closely with the colleges to monitor the progress over the next twelve months. Once they have successfully completed this process, they will obtain the prestigious formal CoVE status.

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