SIR Humphrey Appleby might have said "No, Minister," but the creation of a National Training Organisation for thousands of civil servants is a key plank in the Government's modernisation drive.
The Central Government NTO will be responsible for turning the civil service into a "learning organisation", identifying the skills people need and devising a training strategy.
Sir Richard Wilson, head of the home civil service, said one of the organisation's first tasks will be to develop a range of marketable qualifications for its 450,000 staff.The civil service had been the only part of the public service without an NTO and last year's Modernising Government White Paper recognised that one was needed.
It aims to ensure that all civil servants have the skills needed to bring about change in an organisation notorious for its resistance to embrace new ways. "The organisation will be in a position to identify training requirements, to improve standards across the civil service and to advise departments on the best way of developing their staff," Sir Richard said.
Malcolm Wicks, the lifelong learning minister, said a particular priority would be developing civil servants' information and communications technology skills. He was confident the nw body would help the Government develop a civil service that was at the forefront of lifelong learning.
The central government organisation is the 77th NTO to be created. More than 93 per cent of workers have such a body for their industry. They aim to boost business performance and competitiveness by improving employees' skills and competencies.
Ministers and senior civil servants are also being encouraged to improve their skills with the new Centre for Management and Policy Studies. The centre, which will take over from the Civil Service College in Sunningdale, will support ministers in key aspects of their jobs and give policy-makers access to the best research and international experience.
Mo Mowlam, the Cabinet Office minister, said government needed to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking as well as to the best research.
Professor Ron Amann, the centre's chief executive, and deputy chairman of the Economic and Social Research Council, said: "We will work with departments to help them achieve a step change in the quality of policy-making and management, and to develop a government that is innovative in process as well as purpose."
Central Government NTO: www.
central-gov.nto.org.uk. Tel: 020 7270 1597