Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
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Legislative programme promises a better trained workforce, greater opportunity for young people and adults

Legislative programme promises a better trained workforce, greater opportunity for young people and adults

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS News Release (2008/026) issued by The Government News Network on 14 May 2008

* Legal right for employees to request time to train
* Legislation to expand and strengthen apprenticeships

Radical moves to increase the number of people who can gain new skills, become more productive and develop better careers were announced today in the Government's draft legislative programme.

For the first time, employees will be given the legal right to request time to train from their employers, and apprenticeships will receive a boost under new legislation to unlock the potential of individuals and businesses.

The Government will consult on how workers can be legally empowered to request time to undertake training that will benefit them and their employer. The practical arrangements which employers would follow would be modelled on the existing right to request flexible working.

By introducing a new right to ask for time for training, employees will be able to talk to employers about their training needs, and employers will become more aware of the public funds available to support training.

Employers will be legally obliged to seriously consider requests for training they receive but could refuse a request where there was a good business reason to do so. Employers will not be obliged to meet the salary or training costs to enable a request for time to train but we would expect many to choose to do so, recognising the opportunity to invest in their business.

The plans, announced by the Prime Minister to Parliament today, will apply to 22 million employees in England. An Education and Skills Bill will underpin the Prime Minister's drive to extend opportunity, improve national competitiveness and raise aspirations throughout society.

In 2004, 3.2 million unqualified adults were in work but current trends suggest that this will fall to 600,000 by 2020. Nearly three quarters of the 2020 workforce has already completed compulsory education.

Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham said:

"If the job prospects of our workforce are to improve and the country is to succeed internationally, we have to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to rise as far as their abilities can take them.

"Learning starts before school and it should not stop when you leave. While it is right that we consult on this proposal, I believe that skills development has to become an integral part of working life for everyone. A right to request training will help ensure this becomes a reality.

"It will allow millions of employees to start a conversation with their employer about how they can become a more productive member of staff and in turn will encourage employers to better tap into some of the major Government supported training programmes available to them."

The right will be backed by ongoing Government investment in skills and training which will rise to £5.3 billion per year by 2010-11. In particular, employers will be encouraged to take advantage of the Train to Gain service, which helps businesses identify and address skills needs, further supported by Government funding rising to over £1 billion a year by 2010/11.

Equally, the established network of over 19,000 union learning representatives, skills accounts, with resources tailored to the individual, and the new adult careers and advancement service - both of which will begin operating across the country from 2010 - will help people to maximise the benefits of the new right for them.

The new Education and Skills Bill will also set out measures to further establish apprenticeships as a key route to unlocking talent and improving the national skills base.

The Government wants to make sure that far more young people, and older workers, can start high quality apprenticeships. A new National Apprenticeship Service will lead the drive for more high quality apprenticeships, backed up by a new legal definition of an apprenticeship and a new right for suitably qualified young people to get an apprenticeship.

The Bill will build on the draft Apprenticeships Bill to be published this summer, and will strengthen and help to expand apprenticeships by:

* For the first time, establishing a statutory basis for the apprenticeships programme, clarifying the legal status of apprentices and ensuring apprenticeships agreements are in place between employers and learners;

* Creating a National Apprenticeship Service to provide new, focused leadership for the Apprenticeships programme, bringing together a wide range of services and operations currently dispersed among a range of agencies;

* Providing a statutory entitlement to an apprenticeships place for all suitably qualified young people who want one; and

* Ensuring that schools provide comprehensive information about apprenticeships.

Mr Denham added:

"This Government has rescued and rebuilt the apprenticeship programme and our ambition is to make it an option of choice for as many people as possible. Today's proposals will underpin that ambition.

"Taken together, this draft legislative programme is a real boost to skills and is further evidence of this Government's determination to help people get in to work and get on at work. We must secure a prosperous future for our economy and a just one for our society. "

Notes to Editors

1. Details of the Education and Skills Bill are contained in the Government's green paper Preparing Britain for the Future - the Draft Legislative Programme 2008-09. This sets out the UK Government's plans for legislative and key non-legislative action in next year's Parliamentary session. See http://www.CommonsLeader.gov.uk/draftprogramme.

2. The bill also sets out measures covering children and schools, referred to in DCSF's press notice, available at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk.

3. If you want to make Your Voice heard, you can comment on the programme. See http://www.CommonsLeader.gov.uk/YourVoice.

4. You can also see what is going on in your region
Site link: http://www.CommonsLeader.gov.uk/regionalactivity

Skills

5. In World Class Skills: Implementing the Leitch Review, we stated that the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) would report to Government in 2010 on whether a statutory entitlement on training is appropriate, and whether further institutional change is required to deliver a better integrated employment and skills service. We have decided that the 2010 review should not now consider the issue of compulsion in terms of whether the Government should introduce a statutory entitlement for training for those with skills below level 2. That review will now be completed in 2014/2015. The review would still be of fundamental importance in considering the efficacy of the skills and employment policies and systems and progress towards meeting our skills ambition. It would be making vital recommendations for Government to consider and act upon. The 2014/2015 review will have the same terms of reference as for the 2010 review.

6. Overall funding for adult skills and apprenticeships will increase to £5.3 billion per year by 2010-11.

7. Investment in Train to Gain, which helps employers to identify and address their skills needs, including public funding to sit alongside their own investment, will rise to over £1billion in 2010-11.

8. Up to one fifth of the UK's productivity gap with France and Germany can be attributed to poor relative skills.

Time to Train

9. The proposed legislation would work so that:
* employees can ask their employer for time to train, where the training will benefit both them and the employer;
* requests do not have to be about accredited programmes, but might simply be for short, unaccredited, training;
* the employer must consider a request carefully, but could decline it for a good business reason; and there will be no requirements on employers where an employee was recruited less than 26 weeks previously;
* employers agreeing a request can agree to meet the employee's salary during training if they wish, but are not obliged to do so if it is 'off the job' training;
* employers agreeing a request can organise the training if they wish, and indeed pay for it, but there is no obligation to do so. Work-based training would naturally count as 'time to train';
* alternatively the employee may need to arrange their own training, perhaps through a local college, but will benefit from being released from work. The employer would not be expected to pay towards this if they did not wish to do so; and
* the practical arrangements which employers would follow would be modelled on the existing right to request flexible working, with which many employers are by now familiar. Appeals to employers, and tribunal arrangements, would also follow that system.

Apprenticeships

6. Funding for apprenticeships will increase by almost a quarter between 2007/08 and 2010/11, to over £1 billion. Funding will be available specifically for expanding apprenticeships for those aged 25 or over.
Apprenticeship starts have increased from 65,000 in 1996/97 to 180,000 in 2006/07. They are projected to grow to almost 210,000 by 2010/11.

7. The Apprenticeship Bill, to be published in draft form this summer, will form part of the Education and Skills Bill to be introduced in the next parliamentary session.

Skills Accounts

8. We will start to offer Skills Accounts nationally from 2010 onwards. Skills accounts will be available alongside the adult advancement and careers service to give all adults better access to the range of services and support they need over a lifetime to take control of their future.

Through a Skills Account, an individual will have:
- A virtual "voucher" of state funding, representing their entitlement, to purchase learning at a quality assured provider of their choice;
- Access to a portal of comprehensive and up to date information through the adult advancement and careers service, signposting the learner to the choices and learner support available;
- A clear and inspiring record of their future goals, skills and career achievements, accessible online, providing clear evidence of a commitment to training and progression that can be shared; and
- Ongoing targeted advice triggered towards the end of each phase of learning, enabling individuals to unlock the provision available.

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