Government lays foundations for better skills

The
Government has created an extra 10,000 places on foundation degree courses for
2004.

The
move will allow more people a to study for a vocationally-focused higher
education qualification.

The
new degrees aim to increase the number of people qualified at higher technician
and associate professional level – equivalent to legal executives, engineering
technicians, personnel officers, laboratory technicians and teaching
assistants.

Announced
today, the move should mean at least 70,000 full- and part-time students are
studying for the degrees in two years time, up from the 12,400 that were on
courses last year.

Education
minister Alan Johnson said the degrees have been built with employers to help
meet the needs of the workforce.

"We
have made it very clear that higher education expansion does not mean more of
the same. We need expansion to reflect the needs of the economy and the economy
is telling us it needs more graduates with specific skills at a particular
level," he said.

"We
expect three-quarters of a million new jobs over the next decade to be at the
associate professional level – from medical technicians to aircraft engineers
and teaching assistants."

Johnson
also said the expansion does not represent a threat to the availability of
honours degree places.

By Quentin Reade

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