Skill levels for the under-25s rising

Delighted as I was with the coverage of my speech to the annual Fforwm conference in Wales, I hope you will not think me ungrateful if I seek to correct a small number of inaccuracies in your article "Educate everyone under 25 for free" (TES, May 24, 2002).

I most certainly did, and do, advocate a fully funded entitlement for level 2 education for every adult of working age. However, what I proposed for all those under 25 was not free education to level 2, but a full entitlement to level 3 - equivalent to A-levels.

These are not new proposals. They originated with the national Skills Task Force which I chaired for the then education secretary, David Blunkett, from 1998-2000, in which we also argued that consideration should be given to support costs and income-contingent loans for adults facing significant barriers to learning.

The skill levels required for sustainable employment are rising. Employers will increasingly be looking for level 2 to be the minimum entry level for rewarding work, and many estimates suggest that around two-thirds of jobs will require level 3 by 2010. The UK will certainly not succeed in getting a sizeable proportion of the population to level 4 and 5 skills if we don't raise the aspirations of all young people to achieve at least level 3. In coming decades, it may be necessary to consider raising the minimum expectation for older workers towards level 3.

It is also true that I drew attention in my speech to a suggestion in the excellent interim report of the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee in Scotland. The report proposes consideration of a lifelong entitlement for all adults, post-compulsory schooling, to what would be the equivalent of around six years of learning within their evolving Scottish credit and qualifications framework.

While complimenting the Scots for the sweep of their vision, I did not advocate UK-wide adoption of these proposals as suggested in the article. We would need to understand a lot more about the potential costs of this proposition before it could be put seriously before the Treasury for implementation. But I did point out how limited my proposals were in the context of the Scottish report.

Chris Humphries Director general, City amp; Guilds 1 Giltspur Street London EC1

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