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Seats on 'shadow board' agreed

A breakthrough has been made in the attempt to set up a single organisation responsible for post-16 skills training.

It has been agreed that the major employers, including colleges and universities, will take the lion's share of seats on the shadow board of the lifelong learning sector skills council.

Between 20 and 30 sector skills councils are being set up to oversee training and qualifications across UK industry. The lifelong learning SSC is seen as pivotal because it deals with the workforce that is responsible for training all the others.

In lifelong learning, there had been concern among FE colleges that the Department for Education and Skills wanted a bigger "footprint" for the organisation, insisting on the inclusion of libraries and youth services.

But it has now been agreed that the FE college sector, universities, workbased learning and community-based learning will get five seats each on a 23-seat shadow board. Libraries' and youth services' interests will be represented as part of community-based learning, although they have not been guaranteed places in their own right.

The remaining three seats are reserved for a chairman, still to be appointed, and two major employers from the private and public sectors, outside education, to represent the "demand side".

It is not yet clear how the organisation will include the views of the trade unions, which is one of the roles of SSCs.

Jonathan Mackey, on secondment to the fledgling SSC from the DfES standards unit, said: "Once the shadow board is in place, it is expected that arrangements will be made to involve the relevant trade unions."

The shadow board must put together a formal proposal to the Sector Skills Development Agency, the organisation which acts as midwife to new SSCs. If the SSDA approves the bid, it will provide funding for a "development phase".

This stage will need to be reached by the end of this year if the new SSC is to stand a good chance of getting its licence to operate from Education Secretary Charles Clarke by the end of June, as planned.

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