The government has secured a Pounds 160 million boost from the European Social Fund to support the University for Industry and other lifelong learning proposals.
David Blunkett, secretary of state for education and employment, forged an agreement on the ESF package with Padraig Flynn, the European commissioner for employment and social affairs, at the first joint meeting of the Social Affairs and Education Councils last week. It is the first time the United Kingdom has obtained money from Objective 4 of the ESF, which aims to support improvements in training systems.
A DFEE spokesman said most of the Pounds 160 million will go into the UfI, which has just Pounds 5 million in start-up funding from the government. The rest will go to other proposals in the lifelong learning green paper, such as individual learning accounts, national skills agenda, Investors in People and employee development schemes.
Mr Blunkett said the government will argue in coming months that the UfI, the Learning Grid and interactive communication technology for learning are the first steps towards the development of a "European Skills Gateway".
He said: "I particularly welcome the opportunity to link the first UK comprehensive strategy for lifelong learning with the European Union's agenda for employment. This is a tangible demonstration of the way in which the UK government is working with the European Commission to bring the benefits of the EU to our citizens."