Taxi drivers are to be offered free training to improve their image and banish the stereotype of the cabbie ranting at their unfortunate passengers in the back of his vehicle.
Industry leaders have successfully campaigned for cab drivers to be the first self-employed people to take advantage of the free training offered under the Government's Train to Gain scheme, which aims to reach businesses where staff traditionally receive no training.
GoSkills, the passenger transport sector skills council, said it was part of a move to professionalise the taxi and private hire industry.
Around half of the UK's 309,000 cabbies are believed to be self-employed, meaning that until now they could not benefit from a share of the pound;1 billion available for Train to Gain training over the next three years.
GoSkills said that just 5 per cent of drivers who are sole traders have the level two qualification that the Government deems essential for work in the future, and 57 per cent of taxi companies said their staff have no qualifications.
Ray Butterworth, secretary of the Association of Nottinghamshire Private Hire Operators, which promoted training for cab drivers even before the Train to Gain deal was announced, said it was important to set basic standards for the industry.
"The private hire business does have an image problem. We're not looking to put people out of business, but the days of having bad reputations, rude drivers, those who say `no comprende' or whatever, are over."
Peter Huntingdon, chief executive of GoSkills, said that with such a low skills base the taxi industry is a good target for Train to Gain.