Purnell pleads with employers to stand by back-to-work schemes despite Learning and Skills Council turmoil

Work and pensions secretary James Purnell has insisted that employers should keep faith with the government’s employment ambitions despite the closure of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

He called on more firms to sign the Local Employment Partnership pledge to offer job opportunities to the long-term unemployed, and said they would find the new skills system better in the future.

The government announced earlier this month that the LSC, which has an annual budget of more than £11bn to improve UK skills, is to be closed down by 2010. A new Skills Funding Agency will oversee the distribution of funds to employee training schemes, as well as managing the performance of further education colleges and house the new National Apprenticeship Service.

Purnell dismissed claims that employers were tired of new government skills initiatives, telling Personnel Today: “This has come out of talking to employers, who wanted a simpler system. It is a much simpler way of working than before. With any change process, there is a period when people adapt, but it will be a much more streamlined system.”

BT recently became the latest company to pledge to give job interviews and work placements to unemployed people specially trained by Jobcentre Plus.

Purnell said: “BT is a big company, and has an innovative approach to finding people who would otherwise not be getting jobs.”

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