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New “centres for excellence” expected to open for 2008

The Learning and Skills Council has this week announced the new prospectus for the third round of National Skills Academies.

Launched in October 2006, the Skills Academies are expected to be “world-class centres of excellence” which purport to “drive up skills levels and productivity”¦by delivering the skills required”.

Academies have already been approved in the Construction, Financial Services and Manufacturing industries, while Food and Drink is at an “advanced stage” of development. The second round saw Nuclear, Process Industries, Creative and Cultural and Hospitality being announced as the next set of sectors to benefit from the new centres.

The new prospectus is for the third round of academies, expected to open in 2008.

Minister for Skills, Phil Hope MP, said: “This prospectus sets out challenging criteria for National Skills Academies” proposals to meet. We have set high standards but the prize is great and this flagship programme will play a key part in creating jobs, tackling skills shortages and driving up productivity”.

“The Leitch Review of Skills recognises the role that the National Skills Academies will play raising demand for skills from employers and learners. Employers have the critical role to play as sponsors, providing a clear vision, strong strategic leadership and funds for sustainable development”, he added.

Chris Banks, Chairman of the LSC said: “It is a fact that having a motivated and skilled workforce improves the productivity of individuals and the performance of business overall. National Skills Academies put employers right at the heart of developing high-quality and relevant training programmes to improve the skills of the workforce for their own sector”.

“The commitment of so many top employers to date has been impressive; this is because the National Skills Academies provide a golden opportunity for employers and Government to work together and build a Britain of enterprise and opportunity”.

The announcement was welcomed by SkillsActive, who “narrowly missed out” on the second round of submissions last October.

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SkillsActive Chief Executive Stephen Studd said: “Following the disappointment of last October, we are determined to work in partnership with sector employers to revise our proposal submission. Over the last couple of months, the enthusiasm and engagement from employers has not been lost and we have been working to ensure sector employers continue to be engaged with, and lead the process”.

“We all know that our sector is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding places to work. We know that it contributes to the social agenda on many levels ““ the health of the nation, social inclusion and community development to name a few. We know that the sector must offer a world class service, and for that to happen, we know sector employees must be fully trained with first class skills to rise to this challenge”.

Mr Studd added: “These are just some of the reasons why we are confident that by developing a National Skills Academy we are taking a step in the right direction for the sector, and with employers leading the way; together we will succeed in making it happen”.

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And in related news, the LSC yesterday announced the appointment of 24 year-old Lee Probert as their new Director of Equality and Diversity.

He now becomes the youngest Director and is tasked with planning the LSC’s diversity strategy.

Following his appointment, Mr Probert said: “One of the first challenges I plan to undertake is to ensure that through our Equality and Diversity strategies everybody is included and that we continue to engage with hard-to-reach people. Context is important in treating all groups equally. We should not just support those groups which have the loudest voice; the opportunities must be available for everybody”.

“We need to think more creatively about how we manage funding so that we provide a holistic range of learning opportunities. It’s about offering high quality learning for everybody, all of the time”.

Vijay Pattni.

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