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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee Teacher - Maths

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Reach Volunteering: Would you like to volunteer your expertise as Chair of Governors for Livability?

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor