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Improving skills

Letter from Westminster - 10 May 2004

Skills are good. They give us, as individuals, better job prospects, a decent standard of living, and personal fulfilment. They allow us to compete, as a country, in the global economy on the basis of quality, rather than low wages. This, in turn, is good for employment, and good for our schools, hospitals and other vital public services.

It is unsurprising, then, that Labour is striving to make Britain the best educated, best trained workforce in the world.

This is no easy task. Government neglect over many years has left us with a scandalous legacy, with no less than seven million adults lacking even basic skills. Today, schemes such as Learn Direct, employer training pilots and union learning funds are giving practical new skills to over one million more adults than six years ago. Apprenticeships - once dying - now cover 250,000 young people. And our schools are critical too, which is why the spending review Treasury Ministers are currently working on will provide extra investment in exchange for higher standards.

The Government's proposals for helping more people to access a world class university education have also been the subject of much debate recently. Rather fewer column inches are devoted to those measures that will help people reach the age of 19 ready for higerh education or skilled employment - things like Education Maintenance Allowances, available nationwide from this September. With so much changing, it is important that everyone is aware of the options that are now available to them. So, if you would like any further information, please contact my office on 0117 909 0063.

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