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Vocational Training

Volume 477: debated on Thursday 12 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps the Government have taken to prevent future skills shortages. (210393)

The Government have taken a wide range of action to support employers in securing the skills their businesses need to thrive both now and in the future. Our White Paper ‘World Class Skills’ was published last summer. It set out how we will shape the skills system around the needs of customers—employers and learners—to meet the challenge of competing in the global economy. Since then we have pressed ahead with making the skills system more demand led. This includes improving and expanding Train to Gain to help employers identify and address their skills needs. Since national roll-out began from April 2006, Train to Gain has engaged nearly 90,000 employers, enabled over 450,000 employees to begin learning programmes, and over 210,000 to gain new qualifications. We are working with Sector Skills Councils to develop sector compacts, earmarking Train to Gain funds specifically to support the skills those sectors need. Funding for the Apprenticeship programme is being increased, and the programme reformed, so that more employers and employees benefit from high-quality work-based training. National Skills Academies have now been approved in nine sectors.

On higher skills, our recent consultation paper ‘Higher Education at Work’ has launched a national debate on what more needs to be done to meet the need for more—and more employable—graduates, and raise the skills of those already in the work force.

A key aim in taking all these actions is that employers and the skills system get better at responding to future strategic challenges and opportunities—such as a low carbon economy, renewable energy, and the Olympics—focussing on the medium and long term as well as on immediate skills needs.

Over the next three years we will be investing £2.3 billion on the modernisation and renewal of the Further Education estate, supporting investment in specialist new facilities in colleges and training providers, to build the capacity needed to meet our skills priorities.

We are also taking action to make sure the employment and skills system is much better joined up. In April the new UK Commission for Employment and Skills started work. We are publishing today new proposals for more integrated employment and skills services that are more responsive to the needs of individuals and employers, with plans to ensure that delivery systems work more closely together, driven by those who know best how to shape services to meet local needs.