New university targets the terrified

Ian Nash

Computer lessons for the "terrified" will be among the courses aimed at workers and managers in industry in a new university funded jointly By Government and business.

The much-vaunted University for Industry pilot project in the North-east was finally unveiled by education and employment minister Baroness Blackstone this week.

The employer-orientated initiative is part of the Government's strategy to promote lifelong learning. First proposed by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, it is hoped that it will do for industry training what the Open University did for higher education.

Although it is primarily for the world of work - particularly to improve management skills in small businesses - it will also be aimed at members of the public seeking to improve their skills in employment.

The blueprint by the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research was published last year and the first detailed plans for the university to act as a "broker" linking individuals and companies to courses were published in The TES on May 16.

The institute will co-ordinate and monitor the project at Sunderland University and FE colleges.

Baroness Blackstone was director of the institute at the time. At the launch of the pilot this week she said that the rationale for the UFI had become "not simply an option but a must".

Skills shortages in the computer industry in particular have been identified by employers who reckon Britain needs another 300,000 trained personnel just to keep pace with the rest of the industrial world. A continued fear of computers among adults is regularly identified in surveys as an issue.

Lessons in "IT for the terrified" are therefore among a range of sub-degree courses to be offered in 30 centres. They include further education colleges, libraries and "education shops" in Sunderland's football stadium, Roker Park, and Europe's largest shopping mall, the Metro Centre in Gateshead .

Other courses in the new public-private partnership include communications, literacy, team working and customer service.

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