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Swell start for workers' core skills

A qualification to improve workers' core skills and raise their self-confidence has been given a Swell opening.

A conference in Stirling last week, organised by Scottish Workforce Empowerment for Lifelong Learning (Swell), heard a new Scottish Progression Award for Enterprise described as a "halfway house" between vocational qualifications in the workplace and the higher qualifications offered by colleges.

Joe Wilson, Scottish Qualifications Authority business manager, said that the qualification would deliver core skills at work and "soft skills" such as enterprising values and attitudes. It will be offered as individual units or as a full group award.

"The target markets," Mr Wilson said, "include employed adults who lack self-esteem and a belief in their own abilities and are unable to recognise opportunities open to them for progressing in their work, and the vulnerable unemployed who may face redundancy through economic change."

The first courses leading to the award are expected to be available within six months.

People in remote areas who struggle with access to learning feature in another Swell-funded initiative which involves a partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Iain Morrison, UHI learning manager, said that the aim was to strengthen learning opportunities at the 60-plus community-based learning centres in the Highlands and Islands.

The pilot programme will build up connections with local industry, set up a database of local enterprises and develop a mentoring-based system to offer support to learning centre staff and make access for learners easier.

Among other strands of the Swell project, the conference heard, was an ICT work-based training programme in Edinburgh, an STUC pilot to tackle equality and racism in the workplace, and a Learndirect Scotland initiative in Lanarkshire to review older workers' skills and experience. It aims to improve their job performance and prospects.

Lorraine Glen, Swell project manager, told The TES Scotland that the project was still in its early stages and "the big push" is expected to come towards the end of the development phase around spring 2005.

"We hope that the work undertaken by the different strands will eventually influence governmental, educational, industrial and trade union policy bodies in developing their strategies. The kind of successful initiatives we have heard about will enter the mainstream of lifelong learning approaches in Scotland."

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