Education secretary Alan Johnson confirms government approval for national construction skills academy

Education and Skills secretary Alan Johnson has today confirmed the launch of a national construction skills academy, and said that a bid had been accepted for a similar scheme for the nuclear industry.

Johnson announced that the first three national skills academies - construction, manufacturing and financial services - have received final approval and will shortly become operational.

In addition, he said that bids for skills academies from the nuclear industry, the chemical industry, hospitality and the creative and cultural industries had been accepted by the government, and will now be invited to work up business plans for their proposals.

The government aims to have up to 12 academies operational by 2008 and is investing £90m in the programme which will be delivered through the Learning and Skills Council working with employers and their sector skills councils.

The construction academy will not be set in a single location, but instead will take the form of training centres on sites across the country.

Prime minister Tony Blair said the start of the National Skills Academy programme marked a turning point in skills training that would ensure British industry remained competitive in the long term and able to respond rapidly to changing needs and demands.

Blair said: "It is vital that we continue to improve skills right across the board and I am very pleased that we are able to launch the first three academies today.”

Alan Johnson said: "The National Skills Academy programme will improve our capacity for learning by driving up standards and specialisation with the learning sector. This will be good for individuals and employers alike and give all parties a real chance to address the skills gap and close it."

The academies will be part funded by employers: about 50% of the cost will come from the industry, 35% from government and the remainder from other sources such as European funding. In return, employers will be able to influence the curriculum and organisation of the academies, and shape their strategic direction.