A Taste for Learning: Drive for Training Steps Up; SKILLS COUNCILS OPEN: By 2010 Our Young People and Adults Will Have Skills to Match the Best in the World

Article excerpt

TONY Blair's promise of a world-class education service today moves a step closer to being realised.

The Government is unveiling plans for a massive shake-up of education and training for over-16s.

As from April 1, 47 Learning and Skills Councils will be set up across the country to mastermind the provision of top-class courses for adults. Their work will be overseen by a national council.

The councils will be responsible for everything from A-level courses for 16 to 18-year-olds to adequate training for the millions of adults who need new skills to meet the demands of the 21st Century.

Experts in business will mix with local union reps and education chiefs to draw up plans to give each area the education and training provision it needs.

One of the main aims of the council is to raise the number of youngsters aged 16 to 18 in full-time training and education.

A spokesperson for the national council says: "Our vision is that by 2010 young people and adults in England will have knowledge and productive skills matching the best in the world.

"As a nation we are going through a period of enormous change in our patterns of daily life.

"Work patterns are complex and temporary, and jobs for life have become rare.

"New communications bring benefits but also pressures - we work longer hours and our work and leisure time tends to overlap more."

But figures show that one in five adults in the UK cannot read, write or add up properly.

Council chiefs say they are now far more likely to be left on the margins of society.

"Millions of unskilled jobs have disappeared while new jobs created in a dynamic economy require competences of a much higher order," says the council.

"The case for a radical improvement in skills, which the Learning and Skills Council has been set up to deliver, is that, without it, large numbers of unskilled people will not find or retain satisfying work and the nation will lose competitiveness."

The new council will take charge of all learning, short of university courses, for those aged 16 and over.

Ministers believe it has an urgent task to address as participation rates among that age group in the UK lag behind competitor countries like the US, Germany and Japan. …