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New technology institutes aim to close skills gaps in SMEs


Exciting new measures aimed at tackling skills shortages in information technology experienced by small businesses have been announced by Margaret Hodge the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education. Eighteen regional groups of higher education institutions, further education colleges, and private sector partners, have been given the go-ahead to become New Technology Institutes (NTIs) with the brief to offer high quality training in advanced technology skills both to businesses and students.

Announcing the locations of the NTIs, which are being funded by £25m announced last year, Margaret Hodge said: "NTIs offer a new and exciting opportunity for further and higher education and industry to work together to deliver the latest information technology training in an accessible and responsive way for up to 10,000 people by 2005. NTIs will work with all the key regional agencies and networks to achieve their aim of helping to close the information technology skills gap.”

The NTIs include:
- West Yorkshire NTI which will provide computing skills - networking, telecommunications, hardware repair and maintenance across West Yorkshire;
- Lancashire and Cumbria NTI which will focus on the increasing need for information technology in local engineering, aerospace and automotive industries;
- Ipswich NTI which will provide training in multi-media, digital arts and accountancy in Suffolk.

John Harwood, Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Council, said: "We very much welcome the creation of these new Institutes. They will receive significant improvements in local and regional ICT abilities. Learners will have access to top class provision and SMEs will be able to gain the technical skills to compete on national and international stages."

The New Technology Institutes (NTIs) were announced in the DfEE/DTI White Paper on enterprise, skills and innovation, ’Opportunity for all in a world of change’, in February 2001. The Government is making available £25 million from the Capital Modernisation Fund towards establishing two NTIs per region. Consortia bidding to establish NTIs were required to demonstrate substantial contributions from other funding sources.

NTIs will offer: high quality facilities for teaching ICT and advanced technology skills from NVQ level 3 to Foundation Degree, for both full-time students and those in employment, and to create pathways to honours degrees; and advice and support to SMEs on the effective adoption of new technology and innovative business practices. Each NTI will be expected to train 250 to 500 students per year, and to provide services to 50 SMEs each year.

The first NTIs are expected to start operating from this autumn, and all NTIs should be fully operational by 2004/05.


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