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Clarke hails new financial skills body

The launch of a skills council dedicated to the financial services industry will encourage more adults to learn in colleges, Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, has said.

Speaking to FE Focus at the launch, Mr Clarke said the involvement of so many companies in the new Financial Service Skills Council would not just benefit 14 to 19-year-olds but encourage adult learners to take FE courses, "accelerating the process in a very effective way".

Launched by David Prosser, chief executive of insurance and financial services giant Legal and General, the council takes over responsibility for setting standards for training and overseeing qualifications from the Financial Services Authority.

Independent of the Government, the council will be funded by the Department for Education and Skills and private subscriptions from businesses.

The financial skills sector employs 1.1 million people working in 35,000 organisations, generating 5.1 per cent of the UK's GDP.

Mr Clarke said that the council had been formed in order to create a "vital and positive force" that would develop the skills of people in the industry and of new recruits.

Jonathan Dalton, an LSC representative, said: "The FSSC is a way of responding to the needs of the sector and engaging employers to contribute to the content and delivery of courses.

"It will make college programmes for the financial sector more relevant and will demonstrably add to their value."

FSSC policy and network development executive, Tom Caple, said that he would be looking to create forums for employers and colleges to "bring the two together to better interact, plan and help one another meet skills needs".

Mr Caple said that the council aimed "to go back to basics", setting performance and examination standards with a view to creating a curriculum driven by employment needs.

Anthony Lapsley, a spokesperson for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said that it was too early to comment on the effect that the skills council would have on the curriculum but that its creation would not necessarily lead to new qualifications.

"We cannot say what is the best way of learning because this must be driven by learners, providers and employers. There are a lot of things in the mix that we must then pull out."

However, Mr Lapsley said the launch was an example of "joined-up thinking".

"The council will go some way to counter-act the marginalisation of vocational learning," he said.

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