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Operation of vocational centres opened up to training providers


New money to fund an extra 100 Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) was announced today by Minister for Adult Skills, John Healey. The centers will provide specialist teaching designed to meet employers’ skills needs in occupations from catering to computing to construction.

£57 million will be ploughed into extending the CoVEs programme beyond the Government's existing commitment to create CoVEs in half of all general Further Education colleges by 2004. The money, £40 million of which is new resource from the Capital Modernisation Fund announced in the Budget, will fund an extra 50 Centres in colleges and will for the first time allow an additional 50 CoVEs to be based in organisations beyond the FE college sector, such as private or voluntary training providers.

Speaking at the Association of Colleges’ Business Partnership Conference in London today, John Healey said, "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 success of CoVEs depends on their ability to work to work closely with employers and other agencies such as the regional development agencies and the new Sector Skills Councils. Employers are best-placed to articulate the demands of their industry and ensure the learning provision in these Centres meets this. There has to be dialogue between the supply and demand sides if we are to match employer need with education and training supply. For the first time, we are inviting training providers outside the FE sector to become involved in the scheme. These new Centres will help us harness the valuable experience that many in the private and voluntary training sectors possess and is a direct response to the positive feedback we received for this proposal in our consultation."

In total, some £57.5 million over two years will be made available to support this announcement. This is made up of £40 million of new money announced in the Budget for Capital Modernisation Fund projects. It is underpinned by some £17.75m recurrent funding from the Learning and Skills Council.

In Spring 2001, the Department for Education and Skills and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) ran a joint consultation exercise on the overall policy framework and operational details for the Centre of Vocational Excellence programme. This produced an overwhelmingly positive response. It suggested that the programme be opened up to providers from beyond the FE sector, provided that they undergo the same selection process and meet the same criteria as colleges. The Government has acted on these views. This announcement opens up the programme to providers from beyond the Further Education sector. These providers include: private training firms; voluntary organisations; the group training arrangements of a cluster of companies or a particular sector; the training arms of large companies. To become Centres of Vocational Excellence, these organisations will need to make their facilities and expertise available to a wide range of employers and learners.

The Learning And Skills Council will implement the extension and expansion of Centres of Vocational Excellence. It will be issuing guidance shortly on the detailed arrangements for doing this.


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