Quango to sponsor skills academy

28th October 2005 at 01:00
National skills academies are having to fall back on the public sector after private investors failed to commit to the multi-million pound investments.

At least one of the bids for the four flagship training institutions due to be announced next week is sponsored by a sector skills council, FE Focus has learned.

The skills academies, modelled on the pound;20 million fashion retail academy bankrolled by retail billionaire Phillip Green, were intended to bring in capital funding from industry.

Further education minister Bill Rammell has said that employers must pay their fair share of improving Britain's skills.

There were 23 expressions of interest in establishing academies, although the Department for Education and Skills has not revealed how many were from the private sector.

According to sources connected with one bid, among the academies announced on Monday will be one for financial services, sponsored by the Financial Services Skills Council.

Like other sector skills councils, it receives cash from the Sector Skills Development Agency, a publicly-funded quango.

The financial services academy is expected to be based in an existing college with a centre of vocational excellence in business studies, sources said. Academies were originally expected to be independent institutions.

Dan Taubman, head of education at lecturers' union Natfhe, said: "Maybe they can't find enough commercial sponsorship.

"We have never been wild about skills academies, but we are pleased to hear they are working with existing colleges."

But, he said, there may be a conflict of interest for a body in charge of setting the skills strategy to become directly connected to a provider.

The FSSC said it aims to attract between 10 and 12 employers to fund half of the cost of the academy. Both the skills council and employers will play a role in governing it.

Teresa Sayers, chief executive, said: "We need employers in all sectors of the industry to join us in the development of the academy, to help us shape the programmes and to provide financial backing."

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