Ministers propose skills initiatives

December 15, 2000

Ministers this week proposed new learning and skills initiatives but have offered no extra funding to support them.

Baroness Blackstone, further and higher education minister, announced a system of "technical certificates" designed to tackle confusion among young people and employers over the "vast unregulated choice" between vocational qualifications.

And she unveiled the government's priorities for research in the learning and skills sector.

But there will be no new money for national training organisations (NTOs), which will work with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to design the technical certificates, or for the Learning and Skills Council or other agencies involved in developing the research.

Speaking at the Learning and Skills Development Agency's research conference, Lady Blackstone said that work-based learning and the conditions for excellence in vocational education were among her priorities for research in the new sector, along with how to stimulate demand for learning, raising skill levels and promoting equal opportunities.

But there is no funding earmarked to back these initiatives. The LSC will not have a research budget, and LSC funding for the Learning and Skills Development Agency, which is poised to conduct much of the research, is undecided.

Lady Blackstone made no mention of the agency's plans for a new post-16 research centre.

John Field, professor of lifelong learning at Warwick University, said that the lack of extra money for NTOs was a disappointment, since they were "already stretched to meet their existing obligations".

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