Letters of the week
• One of the most startling pieces of research to be generated from the extensive work of the Skills Task Force is the prediction that 80 per cent of all future jobs in the economy will require a Level 3 qualification.
This presents two clear challenges to government and all those with an interest in improving the skills base of the country. The first is to equip individuals with the essential employability skills. The second is to foster a culture of lifelong learning so that individuals and employers are continually acquiring the skills that will match up to the challenge of remaining competitive and at the cutting edge of new technology.
While some industries will respond to change, a far greater focus in terms of both government's contribution and that of employers will need to be placed on workforce development strategies across all sectors. As we move toward the establishment of the new councils in England and Wales, and separate arrangements in Scotland, it is important that NTOs - as UK-wide organisations - are able to fully realise the vision of a "pivotal" role that has been assigned to them.
This is where we believe government should be doing more. Simply talking up the role of NTOs will not deliver the marked increase in skills performance needed unless NTOs are enabled to equip themselves and their sectors with the tools to succeed.
We have seen from the experience of the gas industry that real skills gaps and shortages can only be successfully tackled by an active partnership between employers, unions, individuals and government working to an agreed and shared agenda. The DfEE and the Gas Industry NTO have been proactive in this area, devising an innovative transferable training loans proposal that has every chance of addressing some of the age-old problems associated with the lack of training, including cash flow and poaching. In April, the NTO National Council will be convening a special event to look at the broader application of the scheme.
Our argument with government over the coming months will be to secure vital public and private investment in the NTO infrastructure. This is not because we are keen to divert public money into needless bureaucracy. On the contrary, we want to ensure that employers really are engaged in the new system, which will in turn help ensure that the articulation of skills needs are dealt with long bef