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Ads put gremlins in the shade

A pound;20 million advertising campaign seeks to get people into training by sparking a national debate

THE GOVERNMENT has launched its biggest-ever campaign to encourage people to improve their skills at college or in work-based training.

A pound;20 million, three-year campaign began on Monday with a slot in Coronation Street's commercial break, as well as billboards, print and radio advert.

With pound;8m to spend in the first year, it is set to dwarf the pound;4.5m spent in one year on the "gremlins" adult basic skills campaign, which is regarded as a success by the Government after attracting 350,000 helpline calls.

The new advertisements, paid for out of existing marketing budgets, use the tagline "Our Future. It's In Our Hands", and feature models' hands painted and posed to look like anything from flowers to mountains to the human brain.

It was devised by Leo Burnett, an advertising agency responsible for the McDonald's "I'm lovin' it" campaign.

Viewers are invited to call a helpline number or to visit the Learning and Skills Council website to find out how they can further their careers or start a new one.

Colleges will also be able to adopt the branding for their own marketing in an effort to present further education to the public as a coherent, easily understood system. The campaign has the support of the Association of Colleges.

At the launch, Shaun Anderson, a finalist of this year's apprentice-ship awards, told how he had left school in Hull at 15 with no qualifications and taken a string of low-skilled labouring jobs for six years.

After beginning his electro-technical apprenticeship, he was sentenced to six months in prison for affray. But he persisted and, after completing the course, said: "I can pick and choose. Everyone wants me to work for them."

John Denham, the new Secretary of State for innovation, universities and skills, said the publicity blitz was intended to bring about a culture change in the attitude to training.

The Government says people must develop their skills or the UK will lose its place on the world stage to fast-developing economies such as India and China.

Mr Denham said: "I hope we can bring to millions of people what we heard from Shaun: the ability to feel in control of your life and feel confident about the future, whether that comes from a new job, a promotion or just feeling a satisfaction in your work that rubs off on children and breaks the cycle of low skills.

"Peer group pressure is an enormous help. It's not just about getting someone to watch an advert, it's getting a debate going in the home, the workplace. What friends and neighbours say to each other will help to overcome the problem of people being scared to go back to college. The most persuasive person is someone who's been there."

The first advertisements do not feature any images of students, although the LSC, which is funding the campaign, says later broadcasts and radio versions of the advertisements will feature success stories.

A poll sponsored by the LSC found that people are more likely to envy the skills of others than their wealth, beauty or their "gorgeous partner". Academic qualifications were rarely envied, however.

Chris Banks, chairman of the LSC, said: "We want it to be easy for people to understand what help is available to get the skills needed to get on in life and business."

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