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Sinn Féin voice concerns over ability of Skills programme to deliver

21 February, 2006


Sinn Féin Education and Training Spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson has said while any increase in funding for skills and training must be welcomed that there are many serious questions over the ability of the £35 million programme to deliver, particularly for those from marginalised or deprived backgrounds.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Any new money for skills and training, particularly for vocational training, must be welcomed. However, there are concerns about how much of this money is truly additional and about how joined-up is the approach of the departments of education, employment and learning and enterprise, trade and investment with training providers and employers.

"To talk about a partnership with schools at a time when there is a significant disinvestment of some £100 million out of the schools budgets with the potential loss of hundreds of teaching staff is nonsense.

"Unless there is real partnership with employers to ensure the provision of quality placements that guarantee the integrity of entitlement and real follow-through then it is difficult to see how this programme will deliver.

"The experience of the Victoria Square development is that despite the promise of 200 apprenticeships that only 89 were delivered and that many from areas characterised as those of multiple deprivation were excluded as a result of the selection criteria.

"It is essential that apprenticeships are based upon a minimum wage and that they are provided through the supply chain through a legal framework for public procurement policy.

"Currently there is no guarantee of second year placements for apprenticeships. Unless government departments can face this reality the truth is that the many serious questions over the ability of the £35 million programme to deliver, particularly for those from marginalised or deprived backgrounds, will remain." ENDS

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