FE chiefs warn of red tape

Labour's plans for investment in training could become as bureaucratic and unwieldy as the Government's nursery vouchers scheme, leading figures in further education and training have warned.

The centrepiece of Labour's programme of lifelong learning is the learn-as-you-earn account, a savings scheme which will attract start-up cash from the Government and allow employees to invest their pay in education and retraining.

Labour has reaffirmed its commitment to the scheme, but fails to spell out precisely how it will be funded. All it stresses is that levies are "not appropriate".

College heads were sceptical. "Learning accounts are likely to be as bureaucratic and costly as any other voucher or loan scheme," says Adrian Perry, principal of Lambeth College, who believes Labour should subsidise fees for training.

Plans to ensure that all young people over 16 should continue in part-time or full-time education and a pledge to broaden A-levels and improve vocational qualifications were endorsed by further education principals.

Labour also stresses its aim that all young people should be on the road to a qualification by the year 2000, compared to a current figure of just 64 per cent of 19-year-olds.

The party will focus on young people who have been unemployed for more than six months and ensure that they are offered a job or training under its Target 2000 programme. This scheme will be financed by a windfall tax on the privatised utilities.

Labour's commitment to adult learning includes the University for Industry project, and a bid by colleges and universities to provide material for adults to use in long-distance education programmes.

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