The engineering industry this week welcomed the drive by the University for Industry to target employers, trade associations and trade unions in its bid to create local community learning centres.
The UfI is mailing 5,000 organisations today to find 100 consortia willing to manage 1,000 or more centres around the country.
The Engineering Employers’ Federation, which had expressed concern that the UfI was `too theoretical’ and would not be focused on industry’s needs, said it welcomed the chance to become involved.
UfI chairman Lord Dearing said the centres will be a point of contact for people seeking qualifications in subjects ranging from basic numeracy and literacy to advanced business management. They could be set up anywhere, from a village hall to a high street, or on a company’s premises, he said.
The centres will be staffed by advisers and equipped with computers for people to search for courses and learning materials, as well as to receive interactive study packages. UfI’s target is for 2.5 million people to use the centres for information and advice by 2002, with a demand for a million courses by 2004, in pursuit of a culture of lifelong learning.
UfI chief executive Dr Anne Wright said: `It is vital that we cater for the needs of all employers. We want to see learning centres in companies that will be open to suppliers and the families of employees.’
UfI aims to have a 1,000-strong network operational by March 2001. But Dearing said a few will open this autumn to start testing the systems they will need.
The winning consortia will be expected to build on a total of £1bn being provided from different sources of public funding.
`The EEF will be delighted to help and support the process,’ said Anne Bailey, EEF head of education and training affairs.