UK government announces new skills academies

New skills academies were announced today under a multimillion-pound British government drive to improve training of workers in industries ranging from rail to biotechnology.

The national academies will cover five sectors - rail engineering, logistics, green building services, biotechnology and composites - funded by £12 million of public investment matched by private firms. A further £2.9 million Government funding is being spent on an academy for the power industry. Over 300,000 people are expected to take part in all the training programmes over the next four years.

The government also said it will help create up to 1,000 apprentices a year in the nuclear industry as part of plans for 35,000 advanced and higher apprenticeships for people aged between 19 and 30.

During a speech in London, business secretary Lord Mandelson said: "Ambitious government projects like High Speed Rail and new civil nuclear power need a range of new skills to make them a reality.

"We are investing in the industries where employers' need is greatest - tens of thousands of people working in these industries, the consumers they serve and the UK as a whole will see the benefit. New academies and investment by employers, in partnership with colleges and the education sector, will create the best training that gives people the skills they need to boost their careers and drive the economy forward."

Eva Eisenschimmel of EDF Energy, commented: "The UK needs the right workforce to build a low-carbon economy. Energy and related services are going to be a huge growth area for jobs and can help drive the country through the recession.

"Business, government, skills bodies and education and training providers must all be part of a co-ordinated plan for the future."

Welcoming the rail engineering academy, transport secretary Lord Adonis said: "The creation of this new academy is very timely. Just last week I set out proposals for a new high-speed rail network linking London to Birmingham, Manchester, the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds.

"Building and maintaining this network would not only create significant new opportunities for the UK's design, engineering, construction and manufacturing sectors, it would require a new generation of skilled railwaymen and women.

"Over the next 20 to 30 years the UK will require a step change in transport capacity and connectivity. We believe high-speed rail is the way to achieve this step change and this academy will help provide the skills we would need to make it a reality."

Tom Wilson, director of unionlearn, said: "One year on from the announcement of the New Jobs, New Industries agenda, the government is demonstrating that positive government support for skills development can help build industry and help people into jobs.

"The joint investment programme and national skills academies will help industries with the highest potential for growth to meet their priority skills needs. 

"The national adult advancement and careers service, the new skills accounts, 1,000 new apprenticeships in the nuclear energy sector and new higher level apprenticeship frameworks are excellent news for people looking for different pathways into work."

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