The chancellor, Gordon Brown placed skills development at the centre of his pre-budget statement, announcing plans to help employers in train low-skilled employees.
The skill levels and qualifications of the workforce will determine the prosperity of the country, he said. But for decades low skills had been the UK’s "Achilles Heel".
Brown announced the creation of a National Employer Training programme to be rolled out from 2006 will offer firms financial assistance to train low-skilled employees. A network of "skills brokers" will help employers identify their skills gaps.
The budget statement also offered measures to make it easier for women to work, with measures to increase free nursery education to 15 hours a week, and new plans for schools to open between 8am and 6pm to assist working parents with children.
Brown said the government would review the level of tax credit on research and development spending by mid-sized science-based firms, currently 4% compared to the average UK level of 10%.
Tom Wills-Sandford, director of campaigns at Intellect, the trade association for the UK IT, telecoms and electronics Industry said, "Industry welcomes any measures which improve the R&D tax credit, and is encouraged by the Chancellor's plans to review the current system and undertake benchmarking exercises."
"However if R&D is to increase within the UK then this reviewing and benchmarking process must take place across the board, and not focus solely on the medium-sized enterprise."