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People 1st: We need industry support

18 May 2006

I refer to your recent article on junior chefs and the National Skills Academy (Caterer, 11 May, page 34). Nice title, some excellent content, however a real pity about some issues which I have outlined below.

Your article states that the bid to develop a National Skills Academy last September failed as it didn't present a "united front" and that People 1st "lost most of the few friends it had made" and "momentum with the Government".

The bid was co-ordinated by People 1st on behalf of employers. Twenty-three bids were submitted from different industries, and we got through to the shortlist of seven. The bid received extremely good feedback on a number of counts, and the four selected were construction, manufacturing, financial services and food and drink production. They may possibly have been more united, but more importantly they were also each backed by several million pounds of employers' money to invest in skills training.

We're resubmitting a bid this June. It will be stronger, with commitment from employers serious about staff training and willing to invest time and money in a future academy. But the more support we can get from industry, even in terms of employers signing up to say they support the need for an academy for our sector, the more chance we have to succeed.

This is not People 1st's bid, it's industry's bid. Anyone interested in finding out more about the academy vision should visit www.people1st.co.uk. If you like it, please sign up to support it. If not, let us know why not.

On a wider issue, your article quotes misgivings from such passionate figures as Professor David Foskett, whom I've known and respected and who seems to have held me personally responsible for the decline in the UK's social infrastructure for the last 10 years. However, David criticises People 1st without any evidence to support his claims. He seems to have forgotten the fact that we've managed to develop and obtain funding for a new qualification to develop chefs in college, an alternative to the NVQ which many employers and educators (including himself) have complained is not fit for its purpose. We're helping to change an entire education system here.

We've lobbied the Government to bring forward work on a new vocational diploma for school pupils that will be available nationally in a few years' time and will help get cooking back into schools. If any readers are interested in being involved and making sure this diploma helps develop school pupils who are "work ready" for our sector, please let us know.

The National Skills Academy is a huge opportunity for us to win government money away from other industries and aim for excellence in all aspects of training. It's therefore essential that employers across our sector see the full picture. Please give us a call and we'll gladly come and give you the whole story.

Phil Raynsford
Policy and programmes director, People 1st

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