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The training and skills sector's starter's pistol has been heard, writes Jethro Marsh for FE News, and the crack lingers in the air whilst the wisps of smoke drift away on the pre "“ thunder storm breeze.

As the gun is safely holstered before it scares pigeons for second time, the task of meeting the skills requirements for hosting the 2012 Olympic Games in London gets underway. Just over a year into the preparation period, the London region Learning and Skills Council (LSC) have announced the results of a project designed to target the skills gaps in the economy.

Get Set"¦

The programme that was conducted by the LSC with its partners was the "On Your Marks - London ESF Skills for the 2012 Games Programme". This is not a stand "“ alone programme; rather it marks a phase of a broader skills agenda. It forms a significant part of the wider "On Your Marks" Greater South Eastern European Social Fund (ESF) tri-regional programme. This is conducted in partnership with the LSC and the London Development Agency (LDA) in London, and intends to address skills shortages and gaps in the economy.

The LSC has played an important role in the programme, offering funding for seven projects (subject to contract) for a total of approx. £2.2 million, aimed at assisting Londoners in preparing for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. These projects will be centred on the concept of improving inclusion and tearing down barriers to employment. Those who it is hoped will benefit from the programmes will include including Black Minority Ethnic (BME) groups and women.

The programme in its broader sense was developed by a partnership of Government Offices, LSCs and Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) from the East of England, London and the South East. The funding through the ESF programme is part of the ongoing commitment to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU, with the current funding programme to amount to £4.5 billion in Great Britain (£3.5 billion in England, from 2000 until 2006).

"¦Go!

Speaking of the initiative, the LSC's representative was pleased with the coming together of agencies to meet the challenges ahead. Robbie Jefferis, the LSC Pan London 2 Manager, said: "The LSC is delighted to be involved in this dynamic new initiative which adds further proof that the ESF can and does react fast to meet the emerging needs of Londoners now and in the future."

The programme is being managed by ECOTEC, an international company providing services in research, consultancy and programme management. Andy Hepburn, the Team Manager at ECOTEC, said: "The initiative will help to ensure that the capital has the needed skills to host a world-class event. ECOTEC is delighted to be involved in the Programme and will now move towards contract negotiations with selected providers so that projects can start delivery in late summer."

Jethro Marsh

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