Chancellor lays out high skills agenda at TUC

Britain can lead the world’s economy if it competes on a high-skills rather than a low-wage basis, chancellor Gordon Brown told the TUC conference today.


With China and India turning out four million graduates a year, Brown told unionists the UK could not afford “to waste the talent of any child, write off the potential of any young person, or discard the abilities of any adult”.


“It is because increasingly it is the skills of working people that gives companies value and gives nations comparative advantage, that new principles must guide education and training in ensuring good well paying jobs for the future, “ Brown said.


“Education should no longer be from five to sixteen but on offer from three to eighteen, every teenager should have the right to further education, and every adult the guarantee of training in basic skills.”


The business community has slammed the education system for failing to deliver basic skills, let alone highly skilled workers. It is letting down too many school-leavers by failing to teach them the rudimentary arithmetic, reading and writing skills they need to succeed at work, according to the CBI.


Research by the employers’ body shows that almost half of employers (42%) say they are unhappy with the basic skill levels of school-leavers and 50% believe teenagers do not have sufficient communication, team-working and problem-solving abilities.


At the TUC conference in Brighton, Brown announced that the new union training academy, which will train union learning reps as well as equipping members to better negotiate with business, will receive £4.5m in funding in the next two years.


The Chancellor also committed the government to promises it made in the Warwick agreement in the run up to the general election.


These included:

  • extending the scope of collective bargaining;

  • increasing statutory redundancy pay

  • creating a new employment rights ‘agency’ similar to the Health & Safety Executive

  • a law on corporate manslaughter

  • rises in the national minimum wage in 2006 and 2007

  • bank holidays will not be included in the minimum 4 weeks paid holiday a year

  • increased investment in manufacturing and the regions.





Michael Millar

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