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Teamwork courses come to Cornwall

The final piece of the jigsaw is almost in place as a project to help lecturers train students in the "soft skills" of the workplace reaches the last corner of the country.

Cornwall College is at the advanced stage of negotiations to become one of six centres in England - and nine in the UK - that will offer a new professional development course designed by Deloitte, the accountancy firm.

All colleges will now be able to send staff on the three-day training programmes which enable them to return to the college and teach level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) "soft skills" courses alongside existing vocational courses.

The project was set up and funded by the Deloitte Foundation, the firm's charitable arm, in response to criticism that teenagers often enter the workplace lacking the teamworking and communication skills needed in businesses.

Bob Thust, who manages the employability programme for Deloitte, said: "This isn't just about looking after our own recruitment stream. We're talking about the full range of vocational areas and we see it as part of our commitment to community involvement."

The project is one of many helping colleges develop their awareness of the needs of businesses, although the focus on soft skills is a relatively new development in the area.

The New Engineering Foundation provides colleges with subsidies to release lecturers for workplace experience so they can update their knowledge.

A scheme in Northern Ireland operated by the Learning and Skills Development Agency also gives tutors hands-on experience.

While lecturers are keen on further professional development and colleges work hard at building relationships with employers, limited resources prevent many tutors from taking time away from their full-time jobs.

The National Employers Skills Survey of 2003 acknowledged that, while progress has been made, a lack of soft skills continues to be a factor affecting the productivity of British businesses.

Even employees with good technical skills sometimes lack the problem-solving and customer-handling techniques that give firms a competitive edge, the survey found.

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