Letter: No competitiveness without investment

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The Independent Online
Sir: I noted your leading article (25 May) that 'Competitiveness' - the White Paper published by Michael Heseltine - 'marks a new seriousness which needs to be built on'. If only that were true.

The under-investment in human capital that you, rightly, note is such a chronic problem in Britain, that the Government's proposals are just tinkering at the edges. Only 38 per cent of the UK workforce has undergone skilled vocational training, compared with 58 per cent in Spain, 67 per cent in West Germany, 79 per cent in Italy and 80 per cent in France. The long tail of underachievement in education and training is dramatic compared with most other industrial nations. We remain a country desperately short of technical and vocational skills.

Vocational qualifications will continue to be the poor relation while the Government insists that A-levels are the gold standard in education. The cumulative total of cuts to the training budget is pounds 3,730m since 1989/90. The pounds 300m promised over three years scarcely begins to compensate. Only government intervention in partnership with industry can deliver the scale of investment we so desperately need for our future economic prosperity.

Yours sincerely,


MP for Stretford (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

The writer is Shadow Minister for Training.