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pound;3.4m balancing act

Balancing the demands of life and work could be coming to a place near you, if Glenrothes College has anything to do with it.

The college is the lead partner in the Worklife Adaptability Partnership, just awarded pound;3.4million from the European Union's Equal programme to help businesses become more innovative in their working and employment practices. The emphasis is also on eradicating discrimination in the workplace wherever possible.

Leigh Berridge, the development partnership manager based at Glenrothes, says the intention is to look at ICT solutions to make the workplace more adaptable, including the use of broadband. The project would also be aiming to support businesses in rural areas and targeting the 45-plus age group.

There is a growing awareness among employers of the importance of investing more in the training of older workers, Ms Berridge says. The "demographic timebomb" of a falling population and the shortages of skills that will result make this a pressing necessity.

The initiative involves an unusually diverse group of 12 different interests including FE colleges, universities, local enterprise companies and local authorities.

Ms Berridge says this allows each partner to play to their strengths. "For example, we will use the universities' expertise in research, putting it into practice rather than leaving it on a shelf, while colleges will concentrate on delivering company training, drawing on their better links with employers."

The partnerships are not just across the EU, and between colleges and universities, but also involve "unheard of" links between the east and west in Scotland, she adds. Lessons learned and mistakes made will be fed into the mainstream system. The latest award of European cash, which is for three years, follows an initial phase worth pound;3.8m.

Glenrothes believes the initiative is timely as employers increasingly are forced to review the way their staff balance their lives and work, through more flexible working and benefits packages. These include flexi-time, staggered hours, job-sharing and the option to work from home.

The partnership aims in particular to support companies which recognise the scope for "employment and career development for women and men with primary care responsibilities and other domestic commitments".

Among developments has been a job rotation project involving Stirling Council and the Greater Pollok Development Company in Glasgow. This extended to 30 small to medium businesses in each of the two areas where local unemployed people received training for a minimum of six months, substituting for employees who had been released for staff development.

"It's a win-win-win situation," according to the partnership. "Companies win, workers win and the unemployed win - social inclusion, lifelong learning and economic development in one package."

Mark Cullens, the assistant principal of Glenrothes College, hails the funding as "an excellent vehicle for innovative developments and for creating sustainable income for the future."

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