Sector skills plan unveiled

and Skills Secretary Estelle Morris has announced the creation of a new
employer-led network to boost sector skills and tackle the productivity

72 existing NTOs will cease to be recognised in March 2002. They will be replaced
by a smaller number of Sector Skills Councils, which will form a
better-resourced, strategic network with employers at its heart.

the Employer Skills Summit in London last month, organised by the NTO National
Council, Morris said, "We want employers to be centre-stage in decisions
about skills, business development and productivity performance. Sector Skills
Councils will be the main way employers can influence the skills agenda."

Government has not prescribed a fixed number of sector bodies, saying that
fitness for purpose will be the key criterion, yet there is speculation that
SSCs will number between 25 and 30.

will operate UK-wide with the backing of Westminster and the devolved
administrations. Their main tasks will be to:

Reduce skills gaps and shortages and anticipate future needs

Improve productivity and business performance

 Increase sector workforce development

Improve learning supply including training frameworks and standards

will be awarded five-year licences, subject to annual performance evaluation,
with core strategic funding committed through three-year contracts. Up to £1m
per year of DfES strategic funding is pledged for each SSC.

and underpinning the SSC network will be a new Sector Skills Development
Agency. A private company limited by guarantee with an employer-led board, the
SSDA will award licences to SSCs and carry out annual performance reviews. It
will also deliver essential functions for sectors not covered by an SSC and
have responsibility for cross-sectoral skills, including work previously done
by all-sector NTOs.

SSDA is expected to begin work in January or February 2002 and be fully
operational by April 2002.

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