Moving towards the next stage in its policy towards lifelong learning, the UK Government published a Green Paper "The Learning Age" which is claimed to contain radical measures to transform learning. It includes details of a new University for Industry and plans for Individual Learning Accounts.
David Blunkett, Education and Employment Secretary, launched his vision of Britain as a learning society and called for a revolution in attitudes to learning. He considers that:
"Learning is the key to prosperity - for each of us as individuals, as well as for the nation as a whole. Investment in human capital will be the foundation of success in the knowledge-based global economy of the twenty-first century
.... To achieve stable and sustainable growth, we will need a well-educated, well-equipped and adaptable labour force. To cope with rapid change and the challenge of the information and communication age, we must ensure that people can return to learning throughout their lives. We cannot rely on a small elite, no matter how highly educated or highly paid. Instead, we need the creativity, enterprise and scholarship of all our people."
There are two key initiatives in this green paper:
individual learning accounts which will enable men and women to take responsibility for their own learning with support from both Government and employers
the University for Industry which will offer access to a learning network to help people deepen their knowledge, update their skills and gain new ones.
Full details of the Green Paper can be found at:
The web site is set up to enable an online consultative process on each section of the report. This enables responses to be easily structured and also makes it much easier for processing the comments. An innovation in open government.
Blunkett was also able to announce a £160 million boost for Lifelong learning on the 13 March this year. He and Padraig Flynn, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, reached agreement on a package to support lifelong learning and other actions to help people up-grade their skills to meet changing labour market needs. This will come from funds under Objective four of the European Social Fund. This is the first time that the United Kingdom has applied for this money.
Objective four of the European Social Fund has the following priorities:
anticipation of labour market trends and vocational qualifications requirements;
vocational training and retraining,
guidance and counselling;
assistance for improvement and development of appropriate training systems, with particular reference to the specific needs of small and medium enterprises.
In Great Britain, Objective 4 will focus, in particular, on employees in businesses with fewer than 250 employees and those at risk of redundancy especially the unqualified and those with lower skills. Activities, which may be eligible for part funding, will include projects to support:
the University for Industry
individual learning accounts
the national skills agenda
Investors in People for SMEs
employee development schemes.