Cabinet Office
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Government departments make pledge to raise skills

Government departments make pledge to raise skills

CABINET OFFICE News Release (GS/000-1) issued by The Government News Network on 18 April 2007

Released by the Cabinet Office on behalf of Government Skills

Leaders across central government today, Wednesday 18 April, made a commitment that every eligible employee will be helped to gain basic skills and a level two qualification (broadly equivalent to 5 GCSEs at grades A* -C). This commitment covers over 475,000 people working to deliver public services in nineteen departments.

Permanent Secretaries from fourteen of the departments joined Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service (who made the skills pledge on behalf of the Cabinet Office), at a signing ceremony organised by Government Skills, the sector skills council for central government.

Sir Richard Mottram, Chairman of Government Skills, said:

"I am delighted that these departments which together employ over ninety per cent of those working for central government, and one and a half per cent of the entire UK workforce, have specifically committed to raise the skills and qualifications of their employees. This clearly signals the determination of the civil service to meet the skills challenge highlighted in the Leitch report on skills.

"Not everyone realises the range of roles carried out by civil servants - the vast majority of our staff are based up and down the country delivering services to the public. Our skills challenges are very similar to those facing the wider economy. There remains much work for us all to do in developing our action plans to implement the pledge, but today's event provides a useful opportunity for us not only to set an example to other employers, but also to demonstrate clearly to our own staff the importance we attach to skills development now and in the future."

To ensure progress against the pledge can be monitored effectively, Government Skills has commissioned a skills survey across the entire sector. Andrew McDonald, Chief Executive of Government Skills, said:

"This survey will give us a very detailed picture of the current skills of employees which we can share with employers - and training providers - to enable us to plan more effectively the learning and development activity required both now and for the future. This is a vital part of our work to ensure employees within the public sector have the right skills to deliver effective public services."

In response to the commitment made today Sir Digby Jones, the Treasury- appointed Skills Tsar, said:

"I make no apologies for calling loudly upon government to lead by example in this area and so I am delighted to see government taking up the skills challenge within its own workforce. These people do a vital job - they deal with our tax claims and pay our benefits and pensions as well as delivering advice and support to businesses, schools and families. I will follow the progress made with real interest."

Notes to editors

1. In his report on skills published in December 2006, Lord Leitch warned that unless strong action was taken over the next few years to address skills levels in the workforce, the UK economy was likely to be seriously damaged in its ability to compete in world markets. He proposed a skills pledge - that every eligible employee be helped by their employer to gain basic skills and a level two qualification. The pledge is currently a voluntary commitment, but Lord Leitch also proposed that unless significant progress was made by 2010, the government should consider legislating to require employers to provide support.

2. The DfES is the departmental lead on implementing Lord Leitch's recommendations. Signing on behalf of his department, David Bell, Permanent Secretary for DfES said:

"It is hugely important that the Department for Education and Skills itself is one of the first Government Departments to make a public commitment to the skills pledge to enable all our people to acquire the skills they need to operate effectively at work and in life.

"This signing sends out a very clear signal that the principles of the skills pledge are highly relevant to employers and employees alike. This government wants all employers to equip every eligible employee with the basic skills and first level two qualification they need to succeed. Lord Leitch's ambition for the nation to become a world class leader in skills by 2020 is achievable if we work together. I urge every employer, both in the private and public sector, to follow our lead and sign up to the skills pledge."

3. Government Skills is coordinating central government employers in making the skills pledge. The departments signing the pledge at today's ceremony today were: Cabinet Office, Department for Education and Skills, Department of Health, Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, HM Treasury, Home Office, Treasury Solicitors Department, GCHQ, Department for International Development, Department for Transport and Department for Communities and Local Government. Those departments unable to attend today's ceremony were: Department of Trade and Industry, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Ministry of Defence and Crown Prosecution Service.

4. Government Skills was licensed as a sector skills council in January 2006 and is one of 25 SSCs charged with driving forward the skills agenda and representing the views of employers. Government Skills covers the skills and development of all those working in central government, plus those in the armed forces.

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