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Skills can save us, says Blunkett

The National Skills Task Force has been asked by Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett to look at how to strengthen training in the workplace, including apprenticeships, writes Ngaio Crequer.

Addressing the Trades Union Congress annual conference in Blackpool, Mr Blunkett also announced a Pounds 38 million-a-year funding package to help the new regional development agencies, working with further and higher education, to develop skills strategies. The package includes a new Pounds 5m rapid-response fund to re-train people made redundant or at risk of losing their jobs.

Mr Blunkett said: "Education and training are the best economic policy we have - the key to providing us with the skills we need for the future. The new money I have announced will help the regional development agencies, together with further and higher education, to ensure that gaps in skills and training are tackled head on.

"Training will help fill the vacancies of today and the jobs of tomorrow, in a world where lifelong learning really will make the difference between success and failure. Our task is to widen the available pool of labour to raise competitiveness rather than reduce the economic activity levels within our own country or to see unemployment as a tool in anti-inflationary policy. We must use skills as a way out of the difficulty."

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