Industry given chance to steer UK training policy

IT professionals have been offered a unique opportunity to influence the government's approach to training and qualifications,...

IT professionals have been offered a unique opportunity to influence the government's approach to training and qualifications, following the publication of a skills white paper, industry leaders said this week.

The government has promised additional funding for training UK workers in technical skills to the equivalent of two A-levels and a role for businesses in developing qualifications.

Launching the white paper last week, education minister Ivan Lewis said, "We want every sector to come forward with proposals that demonstrate the priority of their needs. We will be positive in seeking to support those who do."

Karen Price, chief executive of E-Skills UK, the industry/government body charged with improving IT skills in the UK, said, "This is a unique opportunity. We will not get it again. The power will be dependent on the industry demonstrating that it can put a compelling case to government."

The IT industry needs to work with E-Skills to develop a "sector agreement" to support funding for technical training and to promote it to the Skills Alliance - the government body that will implement the white paper - she said.

"As one of the first sector skills councils, we expect to develop one of the first cases," Price said. "We need to engage employers about how their needs should be addressed. We have to make a compelling case for the needs of our sector."

A successful sector agreement would unlock government funding for employers and staff to improve IT skills for business from the Learning Skills Council, which will have a total budget for all industries of about £9bn.

Industry will also have a role in developing qualifications in IT. The aim is to set out what employers are looking for in IT qualifications and to make academic and IT industry qualifications more compatible, Price said.

Philip Virgo, strategic adviser at the Institute for the management of Information Systems, welcomed the white paper. He said the IT industry should lobby for greater tax incentives for self-financed training.

"There are a large number of people in our industry that have been made redundant and need to retrain themselves. They are having to do that after they have paid tax. If industry backs the regional pilots then the prospects [of tax breaks] are remarkably good."

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