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New e-mail forum to boost business skills


From a DfEE press release, 13 October:

Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett today set out how information and communication technology will be used to open up business opportunities with the announcement of an e-mail forum on the internet for small businesses.

Addressing the London Enterprise and Training Agency, he said: "There are a thousand different ways in which businesses can use information technology profitably. Thousands of different small businesses, trading in disparate areas, will nevertheless face common challenges, and have common solutions. Take skills investment, for example.

"The people who work in small firms are vital to our national prosperity. Developing skills for tomorrow’s society is as important to them as it is to larger companies. But they don’t often have the luxury of a Human Resources Department to advise and promote benefits to the bottom line of investing effectively in their people.

"I want to improve and increase dialogue between my department, small businesses and, importantly, between firms themselves. I am convinced we have information about the development and transfer of learning and skills that could transform their business. I am equally convinced that they have insights which could help improve our policies. ICT offers us the chance to get that dialogue going in a way that is useful to both sides.

"I want to give them an opportunity to share knowledge and experience via an electronic forum, a marketplace of ideas on the net.

"I aim in the first instance to set up an e-mail forum for 1,000 small to medium sized firms as part of our drive to improve our contacts with employers, to give them a new channel of communication - on skills, workforce development and key employment issues.

"I have asked Michael Wills, newly appointed minister for ICT, to take responsibility for this task and to link new measures with the forthcoming launch of the University for Industry. He will be seeking views from the business community on how this might work.

"The challenge to everyone today is to shape the sort of information society we want. We need information and communication technology to work for everyone, so we are introducing learning opportunities around the country.

"Seven hundred IT learning centres for adults and small businesses will be set up in disadvantaged communities. Some 120 centres of excellence in IT and skills challenge projects are operational to help address skills shortages, helping individuals and small firms to train when it suits them.

"We are almost the only country in the world to have ICT in the curriculum for all pupils from age 5 to 16 and the UK leads almost all the G7 countries in levels of equipment and connectivity in schools. ICT can be a pathway to learning, a valuable tool for shared experience and knowledge. Businesses must harness it, not have it imposed upon them."

Mr Blunkett was speaking at a London Enterprise and Training Agency business seminar at BT Head Office, London.


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