UK go-ahead for McQualifications
London, January 28, 2008
Burger chain McDonald's was among several high-profile companies given a green light on Monday to provide national qualifications to their employees, part of a shake-up of British welfare and training.
McDonald's employees will now be able to train for what are inevitably already being dubbed McQualifications -- skills equivalent to an A-level in restaurant management. A-levels are the top examination for British school leavers.
It's part of a government drive to increase the options open to students and young workers, boosting the use of apprenticeships to provide more on-the-job skills and training.
"This represents a major boost to our national skills base, to our ability to compete internationally," said John Denham, Britain's secretary for innovation, universities and skills.
"In this rapidly changing world, Britain will only succeed if we develop the skills of our people to the fullest possible extent."
The programme, believed to be the first of its kind in Europe, will allow McDonald's and other firms, including airline Flybe and rail infrastructure firm Network Rail, to issue employees with nationally approved certificates.
The initiative is among a series of welfare and training reforms unveiled by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, including plans to force the jobless to learn skills and to enlist the private sector in helping the long-term unemployed find work.
"It is time for a wake-up call for young people, employees and employers -- that we now summon ourselves to a new national effort and mobilisation to win the new skills race," Brown said in a speech on Monday.
Brown also threw his support behind controversial welfare reform proposals made last year by investment banker David Freud, saying his government will hire private sector or voluntary groups to "find innovative ways of helping the long-term unemployed ... move into work."
The prime minister is attempting to relaunch his seven-month-old premiership after a series of government blunders and a banking crisis sent his popularity plunging.
The relaunch was thrown off course last week when Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain resigned after police were asked to investigate his campaign finances.
Brown's decision to replace Hain with James Purnell, an ally of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, was seen by commentators as an endorsement of Blair's reformist welfare policies.
With an emphasis on private sector involvement and compulsion, the policies are a far cry from the left-wing policies that his Labour Party championed in the 1970s and 80s.
In a sign of the new get-tough approach, Brown announced that Purnell would intensify welfare reforms "to include compulsion for the unemployed and many inactive men and women not just to seek work but to acquire skills."
"So if the unemployed don't train when given the opportunity it will affect their benefit entitlement," he said. - Reuters