The Employment Department has launched pilot projects in ten regions to bring employers and further education colleges closer and promote so-called "vocational A levels".
James Paice, minister for training at the Employment Department, said that training was not valued "half as highly as it deserves". Forty per cent of employers did not use the FE sector for training their workforce. The Government is supporting the pilot schemes across England which will be designed "to capture and influence that large group of non-users".
The schemes will involve college and company staff working on a practical project that will be useful for the company and an advertisement for the FE college.
The financial details, which have yet to be finalised, are expected with the publication of the second Competitiveness White Paper next week. Colleges, as well as Training and Enterprise Councils and possibly voluntary organisations, will bid for the available funds. There will be one pilot scheme for each of the ten government regional offices.
The Government is also going to provide funds for testing the best ways to market and support work experience placements to enhance the vocational element of General National Vocational Qualifications, including the higher Level 3, which is equivalent to two A levels. Mr Paice said that Employment Department consultations with the FE sector had revealed that "we need to sharpen the relevance of GNVQs to labour market needs".
Ngaio Crequer, spokesperson for the Association for Colleges, said the initiatives are "a step in the right direction". The placements initiative is especially welcome as "these have become increasingly difficult to establish because employers don't regard them as one of their priorities".