From education to employment

£40 Million Government Investment to Transform Skills Base

The Government announced this week a new investment drive that will see four sectors of the UK economy benefit from getting National Skills Academies (NSAs), to be opened by September 2006.

The Minister of State for Education and Skills Ruth Kelly MP and Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson announced that manufacturing, construction, food and drink, and financial services are all in line to benefit from this investment, thought to amount to up to £40 million, going into the NSAs from a combination of Government and industry.

The concept of involving employers in developing National Skills Academies was first made public by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in their Skills White Paper in March. Employer engagement was one of the primary reasons for the success of the four bids from industry, in line with the Government’s desire to engage employers more completely in skills training and development. Following the publication of the prospectus 23 applications of interest were received from various Sector Skills Councils (SSCs).

The Skills Academies

The academies have the potential to revolutionise the skills and learning environment, potentially training tens of thousands of young people and adults each year and will play a key part in creating jobs, tackling skills shortages and driving up productivity across the sector. And the NSAs will hope to tackle specific issues within the various industries.

In the manufacturing sector, for instance, figures aggregated from the National Employer Skills Survey (NESS) in 2003 suggest this sector currently has around 48,000 vacancies, with 13,000 skill shortage vacancies. Therefore, there is a need for many more people trained in engineering and manufacturing skills, not to mention leadership and management. A key role of the manufacturing academy led by the SSC for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance (SEMTA) would be to meet this demand for skills enhancement and career progression.

The construction industry also has shortages, needing 88,000 new entrants per year in craft, technical, professional and management roles. Current vacancy figures taken from NESS 2004 suggest there are 32,000 vacancies, 13,700 of which are skills shortage vacancies. There are estimates that some 250,000 people, skilled to National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 2 (equivalent to five good GCSEs), will be needed by 2010. An NSA will seek to meet this, training 20,000 workers a year in 2006 growing to 70,000 a year at level 2 and above for 2010. As skills will be vital for the 2012 Olympics, this will hopefully meet any shortages in skilled workers.

Both the Food and Drink manufacturing sector, with vacancies are around 8,600 of which 1,900 are skills shortage vacancies, and the Financial Services sector, suffering from 25,000 vacancies of which 4,100 are skills shortage vacancies, will seek to benefit from these NSAs. In Food and Drink, some 150,000 new recruits will be needed with some degree of technical proficiency. The Financial Services industry suffers from a dearth of recruited young people and adults with suitable skills from entry level to professional.

Ruth Kelly on the Importance of Skilled Workers

Speaking of the new investment, Education and Skills Secretary Ruth Kelly said: “There is nothing more important than having the skills that employers value if you want to get on at work and make the most of your working life. People denied the opportunity to develop those skills will not have the same chances in life and will struggle to better themselves and fulfil their potential.

“In the past, Government has let down employers when it has tried to second guess what different sectors need,” she continued. “But equally, employers have been guilty of watching Government initiatives from the sidelines and expressing disappointment when they inevitably land wide of the mark. National Skills Academies are an opportunity for Government and employers to achieve common goals, to pursue a mutually beneficial endeavour and build a Britain of enterprise and opportunity.”

Jethro Marsh

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