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University places to help beat skills shortage

Published 15 Apr 2008
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Businesses are to contribute funds for 20,000 new university places in plans to promote stronger links between higher education and industry. Many of the places will go to people in work rather than teenagers studying for a three-year undergraduate degree.

The government has pledged to increase the share of workers with high-level skills from 31% to 40% by 2020.

Higher education minister Bill Rammell said: "Every university, college and employer should be thinking hard about how it can respond to this important challenge. "Research suggests that approximately four million people are already considering or would consider higher education and a further six million could be persuaded under the right circumstances.

"There is latent demand for higher level skills within the workforce but releasing it will require changes to the design, delivery and funding of learning to be more responsive to employer needs."

EEF Northern, the manufacturers' organisation, welcomed the new strategy as an important recognition of the need to improve both the supply of high level qualifications and the personal skills needed for success in the modern world of work.

Alan Hall, EEF Northern Director, said: "This news comes as a welcome shift away from targets for targets' sake, towards producing highly qualified people who also carry the skills to make them employable. As in so many other areas of policy we now need to see encouraging words turned into firm delivery.

"The need for an increase in the number of people with high-level skills is acute in sectors such as engineering and manufacturing which are suffering from a shortage of people with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. Simply sending more people through higher education is not enough if they do not have the skills that employers need."

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