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Call for focus on skills for work

SKILLS that are useful in the workplace need to be given more curriculum time and higher status for university entrance, a new report argues.

The report, for the exam board Edexcel says there needs to be a shift in emphasis from "specific knowledge" to transferable skills.

Edexcel commissioned the Employment Policy Institute to assess how well exams were preparing students for the workplace. Researchers looked at the content of GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications.

Their report - Education at Work - says: "Edexcel should not be concerned about losing some job-specific or academic-specific content. Employers state clearly that (for specific knowledge) they are prepared ... to train and to pay."

The authors say key skills qualifications should get a higher point score from the University Colleges Admissions System.

They add: "Edexcel should work on public opinion in order to bring the wider population into line with the clear agreement over skills that exists in education and business."

The report notes that the Confederation of British Industry sees developin transferable skills as an issue for full-time education. Only technical and practical skills should be provided by employers, the confederation says, a view shared by the Institute of Directors.

Many companies also echo this opinion, stressing that they are looking for "employability", which includes a willingness to learn and work in a team, and sufficient basic skills to provide the basis for further training on the job.

The institute welcomes the increasing accord which its research confirms exists between employers and educationists over the sort of skills needed in the UK's changing labour market.

The consensus is reflected in evidence given to researchers by employers, academics and other commentators who were interviewed.

The report stresses that the concern over lack of training for the workplace is at least 500 years old.

The earliest known example of legislation to tackle the "skills gap" was the Statute of Artificers of 1563, which forced all craftsmen to complete a seven-year apprenticeship.

This was not repealed until the early 19th century.

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