Since the establishment of Ufi Ltd in 1998, we have seen the development of the world's largest government-supported e-learning service starting to address the skills needs of individual learners and employers. Ufi , working with 600 partners, has provided lessons for more than 900,000 people, some 60 per cent of whom have not participated in formal learning for at least three years. This is an important achievement at a time when the skills deficit in the UK has been identified as a barrier to maintaining a competitive position in the global economy.
With the launch of the Government's National Skills Strategy, Ufi will play an increasingly important role in boosting people's employability and organisations' competitiveness. By inspiring existing learners to develop their skills further and winning over new and excluded learners, learndirect is leading the way in work-based learning relevant to business needs.
Ufi's approach is not revolutionary. We work in close collaboration with other key players and, for example, recognise the role of union learning representatives in embedding a learning culture within organisations. We provide flexible e-learning solutions, particularly in the workplace.
Ufi continues to push the boundaries of existing learning methods in its adoption of new technologies to deliver Skills for Life and adult literacy and numeracy in new and exciting ways. In recent months, important progress has been made as the national basic skills test has been successfully delivered online. Learndirect has developed a range of Skills for Life learning materials for the workforce and is working with employers to tailor products to meet the needs of employees to improve their skills in maths and English.
The development of premier business centres, aimed at supporting small firms, is now starting to yield results. Learndirect's approach to offering business solutions through a tailored portfolio of courses is clearly what small firms want. It is also critical to understand the varying needs for skills development within different sectors. Ufi is already delivering bespoke information and advice to four different sectors supporting approximately 7.5 million employees - 25 per cent of the workforce.
Ufi places high priority on quality in all aspects of the consumer's learning experience. In the past year, the overall performance of the learndirect delivery network resulted in significantly improved inspection grades that now mean the network is performing at a consistently high level.
Ufi will continue to ensure that it plays an important part in raising the skills levels of individuals and the productivity levels of the economy as a whole.