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National IT and telecoms academy seeks sponsors

Government calls for employers to lend a hand in setting up new National Skills Academy
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Employers in the IT and telecommunications sectors have less than a month to get involved in the formation of a new National Skills Academy.

A National Skills Academy NSA network is being established by the Learning and Skills Council, the Department for Education and Skills, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Sector Skills Development Agency. The network aims to repeat the success of the Fashion Retail Academy, established in 2005, in other UK sectors where skills are in short supply.

IT and telecommunications is one such sector, with the government having borne frequent criticism over the lack of skilled staff. The academy will, according to the Learning and Skills Council, put "employers at the heart of skills training in order to create a world-class workforce". Other industries for which academies will be established include construction, financial services, manufacturing, and food and drink manufacturing industries, with others to follow.

"Employers have the critical role to play as sponsors, providing a clear vision, strong strategic leadership and funds for sustainable development," said skills minister Phil Hope MP on Tuesday, promising the programme would "play a key part in creating jobs, tackling skills shortages and driving up productivity".

Critics of IT skills training in the UK include Intel Europe general manager Gordon Graylish, who last year blamed an  "almost deliberate streaming by [UK] schools out of mathematics and sciences, based on the fact that those are harder subjects ". Even the minister of state for industry and the regions, Margaret Hodge, recently bemoaned the "boredom of [engineering] courses in university".

University graduates are one group to be targeted by the new academies, as are employers themselves, school or college leavers, existing employees, "new entrants to the workforce" and those seeking a career change. The academies should be up and running by the end of this year.

The closing application date for employers who are keen to get involved in the academy is 5 March. Those interested can contact e-skills UK or the Sector Skills Development Agency.

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