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Drinks chief to head skills council

A soft drinks and crisps manufacturer has been appointed to put the fizz and snap into the government body that hands out cash to further education colleges.

Chris Banks, a former chief executive of Coca-Cola UK who now runs his own drinks and snacks company, was this week named as the new chair of the Learning and Skills Council.

Within hours of his appointment on Tuesday, he pledged to focus on the needs of employers in his new role. He told FE Focus: "We do need to ensure that employers get the best deal from the education and training system. It is not about giving them more money. It is about making sure there is really good quality provision so they can continue to invest in their people."

Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, who announced his appointment, made clear he expects the new funding supremo to have a key role in reforming the learning and skills sector.

Mr Clarke said: "Chris is a leading business figure and champion of learning who has already worked closely with the Department for Education and Skills, Department for Trade and Industry and Jobcentre plus.

"His appointment comes at a critical time for the learning and skills sector as the LSC will be pivotal in implementing the reforms announced today."

One of those reforms is to look at how employers and learners can make a greater contribution towards the cost of training in the LSC-funded sector, which Mr Clarke said "is not as high as might be reasonably expected when we look at other countries".

Mr Banks, 44, takes over from Bryan Sanderson, chairman of Bupa, the private healthcare provider. He is on a salary of pound;50,000 a year for the two-day-a-week post. He was tipped by Ferret for the job in January.

A father of three, he is a founder member of the LSC's national council. He was made a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours last year for services to young people and the unemployed.

He added: "We will make sure that young people and adults have the knowledge and skills to match the best in the world and we will help employers to get the training and skills they need for their businesses."

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