Dobson calls for training strategy

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NATIONAL standards and a national strategy should be introduced for Training and Enterprise Councils, the private sector-led bodies responsible for pounds 2bn of government training expenditure, Labour said yesterday.

Frank Dobson, the party's employment spokesman, said the Government was set to cut funds and reduce standards.

'I don't think the Government gives a toss about training. It's all of a piece with their general attitude. They have made clear by their rejection of the European Social Chapter that they don't believe Britain should compete by having a highly-skilled, highly- trained workforce,' he said at a fringe meeting at the TUC in Blackpool.

Mr Dobson said Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Employment, was preparing everybody for things to get worse. 'What they are really saying is that they believe Britain can only compete if our people work longer hours for lower wages,' he added.

An independent report on the performance of TECs by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies concluded that the network had fundamental problems, beyond a shortage of cash.

Jamie Peck, of the University of Manchester, said the market for training set up by the TECs was not working.

'They are looking at short-term targets. There is very poor planning and not enough investment in high technology and high skill training,' he said.

TECs had also failed to provide sufficient opportunities for those with special needs, such as the disabled and young people with learning difficulties. The centre recommended that a new national training body should be established to set targets and enforce a framework of quality standards.

At a local level, TECs should be made to be more accountable and be required to publish basic statistical information on budgets, training numbers and outcomes.

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