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Mixed news for skills academies

Four new national skills academies are planned for the nuclear, chemical, hospitality and creative industries to continue the drive for employers to invest in FE.

But the latest announcement came as it was confirmed that one of the earlier wave of academies, for food and drink manufacturing, had been put on hold.

And of those academies which are ready, two of them have failed to reach the pound;5 million sponsorship expected by the Department for Education and Skills.

On Tuesday, Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, gave the green light for academies in construction, manufacturing and financial services to open.

He said: "This will be good for individuals and employers and give all parties a real chance to address the skills gap and close it."

But the food and drink academy's business plan failed to pass the necessary tests, as FE Focus reported last month. Improve, the sector skills council responsible, is believed to have struggled to raise sponsorship.

A spokeswoman from the Learning and Skills Council refused to comment on funding details. But she said: "Employer investment needs to be right. The targets, aims and objectives need to be right. Until that satisfies all the parties involved, Improve will remain in the planning stage."

The SSC will be given another month to convince ministers.

The new academies are intended to bring a step closer the target of 12 skills academies by 2008, and one for every sector of the economy by 2012.

Each offers training designed by the industry, but so far the Fashion Retail Academy, sponsored by the Topshop billionaire Philip Green, is the only one to open. It is now in its second year.

The construction academy has attracted sponsors such as Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Mowlem, which have promised pound;7.5 million a year to fund on-site training at England's biggest building sites as well as regional mobile centres.

Sponsorship for the other two academies approved by the education secretary was lower than expected.

The financial services academy will have pound;3.5m for its first four centres of excellence, in London, Leeds, Manchester and Norwich. A prospectus inviting bids had originally said employers should be willing to contribute Pounds 5m.

The manufacturing academy has been pledged pound;3m by companies such as Nissan, Ford, Airbus and Rolls Royce. It will launchby opening a site at Gateshead College.

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