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Skills Strategy

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the role of the National Employment Panel in implementing the skills strategy. [126794]

21st Century Skills: Realising Our Potential sets out the National Employment Panel's role in implementing the Skills Strategy. The Panel will work with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education and Skills to consider how best to strengthen the links between placing people in jobs and supporting claimants in gaining skills for sustainable employment. The Panel will also review how best to help those on inactive benefits (some of whom have been out of the labour market for a long time) to develop their job-related skills and qualifications where this provides a route out of benefit dependency. The Panel will make recommendations by the end of 2003.The National Employment Panel will also continue to give advice to Ministers for Education and Skills and for Work and Pensions on issues concerning the interface between skills and employment policy. Where relevant, this advice will be considered by the Skills Alliance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if he will make a statement on the role of the National Skills Strategy in implementing the European Employment Strategy; [126795](2) if he will indicate how the proposals in the Skills Strategy (Cm 5810) take forward the European economic reform agenda agreed at Lisbon in 2000 in

(a) domestic and (b) international context. [126800]

In elaborating the Lisbon agenda, the European Council has set targets to raise the overall level of skills across the European Union. Member states contribute to the achievement of these targets through their own national strategies and policies. The Skills Strategy will contribute particularly by raising the skill levels and employability of adults in this country through the new entitlement to free tuition for adults seeking their first level 2 qualification, increased support for higher level skills in areas of sectoral or regional priority and by helping adults gain ICT skills as a third basic skill alongside literacy and numeracy.Within the overall Lisbon agenda, the European Employment Strategy (EES) provides a framework for reaching key Lisbon employment rate targets. Under the EES, member states develop their national employment strategies and policies in the light of the shared priorities agreed at EU level. For the UK these include providing appropriate guidance in the context of initial training and lifelong learning, modernising the apprenticeship system, tackling poor basic skills and promoting better access to learning for adults, including through the promotion of e-learning. These are all being addressed in the Skills Strategy, which will therefore contribute to the EES by equipping workers in this country with the skills they need for lifetime employability and providing other member states with a model for how to develop the skills base demanded by the modern labour market.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when he will establish a strategic communications group to develop a plan for skills. [126796]

My Department will establish the Strategic Communications Group in the near future so that a communication and marketing plan for skills can be agreed by the end of this year, as set out in the Skills White Paper.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how he defines (a) low skills equilibrium and (b) high skills equilibrium as referred to in the Skills White Paper. [126797]

The low skills equilibrium theory is where, due to adaptation over a number of years to the poor availability of skills in the work force, UK companies often engage in producing more basic, less customised and less skill intensive products than their competitors overseas. This reduces the incentives for individuals and employers to acquire skills, thus becomes self-reinforcing. As we set out in the Underlying Evidence paper for the Skills Strategy that we published in March, it is a vicious circle of low skills, low wages and consumer demand for cheap products and services. The Skills Strategy White Paper makes no reference to a high skills equilibrium.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills when he expects to publish an Employer Guide to Good Training. [126798]

We expect the Employer Guide to Good Training will be available in most local Learning and Skills Council areas by September 2004 and in all areas by December 2004.