Voluntary sector skills body 'ready by September'

Skills - Third Sector will put charities on equal footing with public and private sectors, says chair Dame Mary Marsh

The new voluntary sector skills body should be established by September, according to Dame Mary Marsh, its interim chair.

The Office of the Third Sector and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills have pledged £2.5m over three years to set up Skills - Third Sector.

It is being established as a charity and will perform a similar role to the sector skills councils by addressing skills gaps and ensuring the needs of voluntary organisations are considered in the development of national occupational standards.

"It is hugely welcome," said Marsh. "It will put the third sector on a proper equal footing with the public and private sectors in the world of employment and skills."

The organisation will provide a central point where charities can find out about training opportunities as well as ensuring charity qualifications are accredited by other sector skills councils. It is currently recruiting a full-time chair and 10 trustees.

"We would like to see a third sector footprint in every sector skills council," said Marsh, who is director of the Clore Social Leadership Programme and former chief executive of the NSPCC.

The Government's third sector review of 2007 recommended a feasibility study into a third sector skills body. The study was concluded in January 2008 and funding was announced in October.

Janet Fleming, former head of the Workforce Hub, has been appointed project director to help Marsh establish the new body.

Marsh said a Skills - Third Sector website would be set up by June and the board would be fully operational by September.

She said charity employees would benefit because the recognition given to their courses would make skills more transferable, and charities would be better informed about initiatives such as Train to Gain, which helps employers improve the skills of their workforce.

Lord Young, minister for skills and apprenticeships, said the body would "link the third sector in to the complete national skills framework".

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