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pound;90m for new centres of excellence;FE Focus

Forty new centres of training excellence will be created as part of the University for Industry at a cost of pound;90 million, the Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett announced this week.

Colleges were invited along with employers and training and enterprise councils to bid in partnership for the cash, part of the pound;100m allocated in the Budget to tackle skills shortages.

The centres will emphasise information and communications technologies.

"We will concentrate our help on people and firms who do not have ready access to current programmes and initiatives," said Mr Blunkett.

He expected them to be established by the end of the year. They would also be called on to give training in high-tech skills for engineering and general manufacturing, he added.

"I no longer expect to hear the complaint 'but I cannot get the training I need'," said Mr Blunkett.

The UFI would receive pound;10m from the Budget allocation to help with its official launch next year.

Mr Blunkett also announced the creation of a Skills Challenge Fund to help people not currently in training to gain or update their skills in key shortage areas

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