My passion for adult learning

For all of us continuing to learn is the life-blood of personal fulfilment and renewed opportunity. I am passionate about this because I was - and still am - an adult learner.

Lifelong learning can offer enormous benefits, for those in work as well as the unemployed. I want to develop a series of opportunities that will appeal to the widest range of people. Everyone should be able to use lifelong learning to develop their careers.

Work is changing and time is increasingly at a premium. The skills and knowledge of our workforce are this country's greatest assets. We need to offer people the opportunities to build on these skills and so help business and encourage people back to learning.

That is why the Government plans to increase the number of places in further and higher education by 500,000 by 2002. We also want to be able to offer basic skills courses to a further 500,000 more men and women to help them improve their English and maths.

I am also working to make lifelong learning much more accessible at work. The innovative University for Industry will allow people to learn in their workplace, at home or through a national network of learning centres.

Learning at work - using a personal computer linked to a college course through an intranet - has already been piloted through a number of successful schemes. Major companies like Ford and Motorola have set up excellent "universities" within their own businesses. These allow employees to learn, including using their own computers to access material, provided as part of the specially designed programme through the UfI.

Pilot schemes have already been set up around the country to test ideas which could be used in the UfI. These trials are being expanded this year through pounds 60m of European money available to fund new ways of making more learning accessible and user-friendly.

Everyone in the country will have a return-to-learning centre in their area by the time the UfI is launched in the year 2000. People will benefit from gaining confidence and skills. This will include busy people who cannot attend a formal course on the same day each week. It will help them to use their computer to access training from the UfI through the Internet.

There are a range of other groups we aim to reach, such as people who are long-term unemployed and women returners. One project in Sunderland has offered courses at Sunderland Football Club's ground and in facilities at the Metro Shopping Centre in Gateshead.

We are examining this pilot and are considering whether these exciting ideas could be used to attract more people across the country. We have also set up a new scheme to support trade unions in developing innovative approaches to encouraging learning in the workplace in partnership with employers.

Our plans for learning accounts - encouraging people to invest in their own learning - will help people to take control of their own careers. They will help people learn who are not currently doing so, and encourage those who have done some learning to do more.

The first million account-holders will each get pounds 150 to spend on learning, provided they make a commitment to save a minimum amount of their own money. The Local Government Association has joined us in a thorough review of discretionary support for the forgotten band of students who do not qualify for a mandatory grant.

My goal is to transform the attitude of people to learning at work. It can make a real difference to their lives and help business to flourish. We can make no better investment in our future.

The writer is the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment

Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary General Cover Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Southampton: We are looking for Primary School ...

ICT Teacher for Maternity cover

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job * This is a new post...

Head of English

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Head of English requi...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album