Links with schools are key to filling skills gap

The Government has unveiled its strategy to improve links between education
and business to reduce skills shortages and improve productivity.

Skills minister Charles Clark said the first two Sector Skills Councils
(SSCs) he launched last week would play a key role in making education more
relevant to employers’ needs.

Chancellor Gordon Brown also announced a number of initiatives designed to
ensure schools are linked to business, including the introduction of enterprise

Both moves are part of the Government’s developing skills strategy to be
published in a White Paper in the summer.

Clark said the first two SSCs, E-Skills UK (technology sector) and SEMTA
(manufacturing, science and engineering), were awarded their contracts because
of their commitment to working with the education system.

The SSCs are the employer-led bodies that replaced the National Training
Organisations (NTOs) last year and are a vital plank in the Government’s drive
to develop skills across all sectors.

"The educational system must understand what employers are looking for,
and employers must be ready to work with education much more," said Clark.

SEMTA aims to double the 3,000 people studying for a GCSE in engineering
each year until 2006 and increase the number of modern apprenticeships by a
third – from 28,000 to more than 40,000 – in three years.

Andrew Moss, head of employment and development at automotive and aerospace
company GKN, said SEMTA could help improve the image of the sector among

E-skills UK is developing an IT curriculum for undergraduates and wants
computer skills to be a core element of all degree courses. It is also set to
introduce a vocational qualification in call centre management and is to run
Computer Clubs for Girls schemes in all schools.

Key points

– Sector Skills Councils (SSCs)
replaced the National Training Organisations (NTOs) in March 2002

– SEMTA and E-skills are the first of up to 30 SSCs

– Other SSCs in the pipeline include health, retail, automotive
and police

– The SSCs will share an annual budget of £42m a year

– Each body is guaranteed £1m funding a year with extra money
available for special projects.

– Employers must at least match the Government’s funding

By Paul Nelson

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