Core training aims to fill the skills gap

A new diploma will ensure that ICT skills underpin all curriculum subjects, according to proposals from the DfES

Core ICT training is at the heart of government proposals to bridge the UK's skills gap and turn out better qualified and more highly skilled school leavers into the workplace.

Businesses are to be consulted on the proposals by a working group of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) for educational reform for those aged between 14 and 19.

The research is intended to identify the skills needed by employers to ensure that the UK remains globally competitive, with the CBI claiming two million more highly skilled positions will need to be filled by 2010.

The plan is to have four levels of a new diploma based around 'main' learning, which covers subjects in the current curriculum, and 'core' learning that will underpin all the subjects. This will include functional ICT, maths and languages.

Jan Houghton, spokeswoman for the working group, said it is about raising the general level of ICT literacy in a business context rather than turning out ready trained IT staff.

"It will be a requirement of all pupils to focus on these [core] skills," she said. "In terms of ICT it is about improving their capability so they can use it for the workplace."

History students, for example, would be encouraged to submit a presentation in PowerPoint rather than just in a Word document or using pen and paper, she said.

Houghton said that comments from businesses, including Microsoft, indicated that the UK actually compares quite well to other countries for turning out skilled school leavers, but she admitted "certainly there's more work to do".

Employers' views will form part of the working group's final recommendations to the Government, which are due to be published in October.