More cash for IT training

IT chiefs have won a key role in the relaunch of the UK's e-skills training body. Bill Goodwin reports.

IT chiefs have won a key role in the relaunch of the UK's e-skills training body. Bill Goodwin reports.

The public-private sector partnership created to tackle the UK's IT skills shortages has won government backing for an injection of new funding under the latest training reforms.

E-Skills UK was one of only four former national training organisations (NTOs) to be given the go-ahead to apply for funding as a sector skills council this week.

At least 10 other national training organisations are facing closure, with the fate of 19 more hanging in the balance, confidential letters sent out to training organisations reveal.

The creation of an IT and telecommunications sector skills council, representing 6% of the UK's total workforce, will give employers more influence over government training policies and IT teaching in schools and universities, ministers believe.

Senior IT managers from some of the UK's largest organisations have agreed to give up their time to co-ordinate the work of the new IT sector skills council in the largest show of IT user support to date.

They include Maggie Miller, chief information officer at Sainsbury's, Steve Toomey, executive director of Morgan Stanley, Sinclair Stockman, group chief information officer at BT, and Eric Gregory, director of computing at John Lewis.

A sector skills council in IT will attract further injections of cash for schemes like modern apprenticeships, and plans to incorporate supplier qualifications, such as the MCSE, in state-funded university and college courses.

"More than 21 million people - three-quarters of the nation's workforce - use computers at work and about a million of these are IT professionals. By 2010 nine out of 10 jobs will need IT skills. Employer demand for a workforce with top-notch skills will continue and we have to make sure that the education and training we supply produces people with relevant, high quality skills and qualifications to meet this demand," said adult skills minister John Healey.

The green light for E-Skills UK follows its failure earlier this year to secure early government backing as one of five trail-blazer councils.

Ministers turned down the first application after raising concerns that the plans were not radical enough and did not have sufficient backing from employers to make an impact on the productivity of the IT workforce.

But the organisation has worked with government advisers to strengthen its business plans and win wider backing.

"It is a clear indication to employers that we now have government and sector skills development agency support for becoming a sector skills council. We will work quickly to get there," said Karen Price, the chief executive of E-Skills UK.

The timetable for conversion to a sector skills council is still not clear, however, raising concerns that significant delays beyond August, when funding for the former NTOs runs out, could jeopardise employers' support.

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