A NEW Internet-based jobs and training service to "unblock the bottleneck" of unemployment will go online later this year, giving instant access to details of around 400,000 vacancies and hundreds of courses.
Jobseekers will be able to use The Bank to match skills with the employment on offer by entering details on a specially-designed search engine. The Bank, a government initiative, will also feature portfolios describing the skills needed for different careers and links to the "learndirect" course database.
The new website, which is being developed at a cost of pound;68 million for launch in the autumn, will be accessible from job centres, shopping centres, pubs and mobile phones and also from touch-screen kiosks in public places. Initially, it will carry vacancies from ES direct, the Employment Service jobs helpline, and later from newspapers and recruitment agencies.
Announcing the new service at the Knowledge 2000 conference in London, Education Secretary David Blunkett said that it would be the "transforming connection between those who want a job and those who want to recruit. It will unblock the bottlenecks that exist in the economy and create a
more flexible and adaptable labour market."
"The Bank has the potential to revolutionise the labour market, by matching jobs to workers, by taking learning out into the community and eventually giving people access to jobs throughout Europe - all at the click of a button. It promises to be the most comprehensive "dot.com" jobs, skills and careers service in the country.
Mr Blunkett told the conference- a government, industry and union sponsored event on the economic implications of information technology - that the know-ledge society was "a reality, not a slogan" but warned that there was a danger of it increasing the divide between the haves and have nots.
"There are those in the workplace and the community who are currently bewildered by what is taking place," he said. Government schemes to lease out computers to 100,000 of the poorest families for pound;5 a week and the establishment of 700 University for Industry learning centres were designed to overcome the lack of knowledge and access.
"The University for Industry and its ability to make a virtual reality out of the learning and skills agenda will be very important indeed."
Prime Minister Tony Blair told the conference that the emergence of the knowledge-based economy marked the most profound change since the industrial revolution and that education would be crucial in helping people manage that change.
"Learning is the key to individuals succeeding in the new economy - at school, in further education and throughout people's lives. It is in fact their route to survive in the new economy."
In addition to government commitments to connect all libraries and schools to the Internet by 2002 he announced a new target of "universal access" by 2005, if not at home or work then through a "nearby public access point".
He said: "Universal access is vital if we are not only to avoid social divisions over the new economy but to create a knowledge economy of the future which is for everyone."