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Lifelong learning begins at 39


GLENN LOTHIAN has recently beefed up his skills - and had an unexpected chance to take stock of his career plans with a trained professional. He benefited from both after opening an Individual Learning Account, part of the Government's drive to promote lifelong learning. Glenn, 39, works in the print industry where changes in technology mean existing skills can become outdated.

His union, the GPMU, is intent on helping its members stay ahead in the job market through reskilling. It is championing learning accounts, boosted by funds from employers. Each member invests pound;25 in their learning fund and the union matches the money. Employers put in a further pound;100 and the Dorset Training and Enterprise Council doubles it to pound;300.

The package included a guidance session with a counsellor from Dorset Careers. "It made me stop and think about what else I might like to do," says Glenn. "These days people can have three or four careers. It's opened my eyes to what's on offer and whetted my appetite to learn more."

Mothers returning to work in Dorset who have acted as volunteer helpers in schools have used learning accounts to get qualified. More than one third of those who went on an 11-week course have since got paid jobs as school assistants. Others are going on to a teaching qualification.

Glenys Smith, a Workers' Education Association tutor, said the learning accounts had helped reach out to people who had not considered taking a formal course to hone their skills.

"The way Dorset TEC handled it, there were few barriers to getting on the course," she says. "People who are not used to retraining can easily be put off. If there is too much bureaucracy. It made sense to give the guidance session after it had been completed."

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