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Technology: Training

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 15 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what recent progress has been made in developing vocational training in the fields of emerging technologies. (205325)

The FE reform programme which we have implemented since the FE White Paper ‘Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances published in March 2006’ is transforming the Post 16 vocational system to one which is demand led. This will enable new and emerging industries to develop the skilled workforce they will need. We have instituted a process of vocational reform inviting sector skills councils, on behalf of employers, to undertake sector skills reviews to identify key vocational qualifications for the future of their sectors. World-class apprenticeships commit us to boost the range of apprenticeships and we would expect the new National Apprenticeship Service to identify the skills needs of business involved with emerging technologies and to work with sector skills bodies to develop appropriate frameworks. Train to Gain enables employers to support the development of the workforce. Foundation Degrees Forward, an independent body funded by HEFCE, supports the development and validation of high quality Foundation Degrees. They support employer engagement across higher education programmes generally and in relation to Foundation degrees specifically. To support FE reforms the Quality Improvement Agency have recently refocused the National Teaching and Learning Change Programme enabling it to respond to local and regional needs more flexibly. This will enable teachers and lecturers to identify new teaching subjects and develop the skills learners' needs.

In addition the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Technology Strategy Board has issued a call to fund up to two new Innovation and Knowledge Centres (IKCs), each of up to £9.45 million support over five years. IKCs will promote the early commercialisation of world class research, by combining within a single integrated centre the best research with the best business development, market analysis and commercialisation skills and partnerships to accelerate its exploitation. For each centre provision has been made to support postgraduate training.