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Skills champion pushing water uphill

Straight-talking Peter McGowan finished his stint as vocational skills champion for Wales in April.

Jane Davidson, former education minister, saw the promotion of non-academic qualifications as crucial to her vision of the Learning Country. Yet the Assembly government has not replaced him.

"His final report is being considered by the ministerial advisory group," said a spokesman. "A decision on the future appointment will be made subject to this and the Webb review into FE."

But with Webb's findings not due until November, little time will remain for an appointment in 2007.

Mr McGowan, a business adviser who spent much of his 18-month stint touring Wales preaching the value of skills, says: "My advice to the Assembly is quite simple replace me. This was a real role."

His final report stresses the need for better communication. John Graystone, chief executive of the FE body fforwm, says: "Peter McGowan was there too short a time to transform the cultural approach."

Russell Lawson, spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, said: "Mr McGowan had good ideas but there are so many competing messages basic skills, apprenticeships, on-the-job training. I think he was always going to be pushing water uphill."

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