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What’s in the Budget 2003 for training?


Gordon Brown again restated the government's commitment to improving skills, but there are no major surprises for the sector. There was a reminder that in June a National Skills Strategy will be announced, so presumably any significant policy changes will be set out in that.

The strategy will aim to put forward a framework for action by government, individuals and employers to tackle deficiencies in the skills base, including measures to: support employers facing barriers in raising skills levels; improve vocational opportunities for young people, engage more low-skilled adults in training, and make further education funding and qualification structures more responsive to the needs of the economy.

Today's Budget does continue the government's policy of engaging more with the needs and expectations of employers with regard to training. It announces extensions of some initiatives and the launch of others:

- broadening the existing scheme, of six new Employer Training Pilots have been announced, in Berkshire, East London, Kent, Leicester, Shropshire and South Yorkshire. Like their predecessors they will test new approaches to improving access to training for those in the workforce. The new pilots will be backed by £130 million of funding and will now run in around one quarter of local Learning and Skills Council areas. The extension of Employer Training Pilots aims to strengthen evaluation of the scheme and provide important evidence to inform the development of national policy, complementing work in other areas

- changes to the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme, which adapts immigration controls in the case of skilled workers. There will be a new threshold for eligibility to encompass a wider range of highly skilled applicants, a new category for younger applicants, and the capacity to take partners’ achievements into account in assessing individual applications. The changes will take effect from August 2003

- further steps to facilitate migration as a source of skills in the UK, including a new entitlement for foreign students of science, technology, engineering and maths to work in the UK for 12 months after graduation from a UK institution, reform of the Working Holidaymakers scheme, and action to improve potential migrants and employers’ access to information on migration routes

- £16 million over two years to fund Enterprise Advisers to work alongside headteachers in around 1,000 secondary schools in deprived areas to ensure that pupils gain better knowledge of business and enterprise

- an increase from £11 million to £14 million a year to boost the skills of those in work through the Union Learning Fund. The Fund helps trade unions provide more workplace training for members. - a new £1 million Enterprise Promotion Fund, to support private and voluntary sector creativity in promoting enterprise

- a new package of training support for SMEs delivered in partnership with high street banks. The package will use the banks’ existing communication networks to stimulate demand for advice and training. It will be managed by a steering group chaired by Sue Brownson, chief executive of Blue Bell BMW

- a one-stop web-based training directory to raise awareness of public and private sector training

- encouragement for employers, particularly small businesses, to offer Modern Apprenticeships to employees. The Government is committed to ensuring that 28 per cent of 22 year olds will have entered apprenticeship by 2004, with plans that about 320,000 young people will be studying an MA by 2006

- plans to engage career advisers, academics, institutions and organisations to promote self-employment as a career option for graduates.

Find out more about the 2003 Budget.

Learning and Skills Council Chairman of the Bryan Sanderson welcomed the extension of the pilots: "The Chancellor’s confirmation today of £130 million of funding for six new Employer Training Pilots is great news for business, as it will allow the roll-out of pilots to many more companies around the country.

"Employer Training Pilots are truly innovative. They reach companies that have never previously engaged in workforce training, and employers decide which type of vocational or basic skills training they require to improve business performance. This is precisely why the first pilot phase has been so successful – training delivered in the work-place tailored to the needs of business."

Amicus, Labour’s biggest trade union affiliate, will be less impressed. Before the Budget the union demanded legislation to make employers provide workplace training and strengthen employment rights.

Derek Simpson, Joint General Secretary of Amicus, said:
"All the evidence shows that an underdeveloped workforce produces less, works harder and longer for the same pay and attracts less investment. It’s no coincidence that productivity levels are much higher in countries like France and Germany who have much greater investment in skills and training. Without a similar commitment from employers in the UK our manufacturing industry will fall even further behind.

"It’s clear that the government’s ‘carrot approach’ hasn’t worked and now is the time to use compulsion. I am urging the government to introduce a training levy so those short sighted employers who don’t invest in training their workforce will be penalised."


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