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Sector skills councils to get more funding and clout with government

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The new Sector Skills Council network will receive nearly £30 million in the next financial year (2003-04) – three times the amount invested in the National Training Organisations in their final year. Announcing the funding arrangements for the new Sector Skills Councils Adult Skills Minister John Healey added that £23.5 million is available to the network this financial year (2002-03). £5 million of this is ringfenced for the five trailblazer councils to boost skills levels in their sectors. They will receive an additional £5 million next year. At the same time, the government is appealing for more involvement form employers.

This public investment will be made available through the Sector Skills Development Agency which will develop, fund and champion the new UK-wide network of Councils. Up to £1 million ‘core funding’ will be made available to each council to boost business efficiency through the development of skills and training in their sectors, but employers will be expected to lever in additional funding.

Speaking at the ‘Countdown to Sector Skills’ conference in London today, John Healey said: "This funding signals the clear priority we are giving to the Sector Skills Councils and the important role we expect them to play in closing the skill and productivity gaps with our competitors. Sector Skills Councils represent a radical departure from what has gone before. We are inviting – not imposing – employers to form councils which will receive more investment from and will have more influence with Government than ever before. These employer-led councils will have backing across Government for their work. Their remit will extend far beyond education and training issues and encompass all aspects of the skills agenda. As a sign of my Department’s commitment, I am pleased to announce today that David Normington, the Permanent Secretary, will serve on the SSDA’s employer-led board along with a major line up of the UK’s leading business figures."

"But we want to see something for something in return for increased investment and influence. We expect employers to contribute additional private investment to drive forward their important work in articulating their sector’s skills needs and ensuring that current and future education and training provision meets them. The councils will be run by employers for employers and it is important that their contribution reflects their ownership. The key to a council’s success is the depth and breath of its employer links. I urge all employers – large and small – to become involved in discussions in their sectors about applying for SSC status. The rewards will benefit individuals, sectors and the economy as a whole."

Mr Healey also announced that the new location for the Sector Skills Development Agency would be in the Dearne Valley, South Yorkshire. The Callflex Business Park site was chosen by Estelle Morris, Secretary of State for Education and Skills. It is a new office development in the Dearne Valley Enterprise Zone – which was developed as part of the Dearne Valley regeneration strategy in the wake of coal mine closures in the 1980s. The Agency is expected to employ 50 people initially.

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