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Forum urged to stem duplication

A call for a new national employers' forum to prevent "incoherence and duplication" among education and training programmes for work was made this week.

It would draw together all business-owned and employer-led bodies, and should be recognised by Government when shaping policies to ensure economic development. It would also have a major say over what is taught about the world of work in schools and colleges Far-reaching proposals are spelled out in the latest Training and Enterprise Councils' National Council policy paper, aimed at stimulating debate in the run-up to the General Election and beyond.

They would bring together the TECs, the Confederation of British Industry, chambers of commerce, the new Government-backed Business Link network and others within a single framework.

The business community has a key role to play in providing strategies to help develop the skills of all those aspiring to jobs or hoping to keep them, say the TECs, as well as promoting enterprise and sustaining economic growth.

The range of employer interest groups brought "the richness of diversity but also risks incoherence and duplication," the national council says. In the longer term "it may well be that what is needed is the evolutionary development of a completely new national framework I to provide this employer contribution with sustainable funding that assures ongoing capability and effectiveness".

The policy paper says the business community must play a key strategic role in developing the UK skills base by influencing the provision of education and training in their communities. The CBI estimates that industry spends approximately Pounds 28 billion each year on training for their employees.

It was essential, the TEC national council said, that teachers and learners in schools, colleges and universities understood how business and industry was undergoing significant change in terms of the sector's balance, company size, management structures and markets.

The employers should ensure that the changing nature of work was understood and communicated within learning provision - teachers should incorporate this in their lessons from the age 11.

Business could influence post-16 provision by meeting individual and employer requirements for lifetime learning. It should also support learning in work.

For those aged 14 to 24, business could contribute directly to learning opportunities by offering pre-16 work experience, including project work and support for learning materials. It could also support young people who preferred a work-based route to skills development leading to NVQs, and directly through the provision of training places for young people.

The Role of the Business Community in Local Economic Development, from TEC National Council, Westminster Tower, 3 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7SX. Price Pounds 10

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