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Adults head for top of the class in basic skills.

The North-East has seen the highest rise in the number of adults getting the basic skills for employment, new figures have shown.

Figures from the Learning and Skills Council show that the number of adults in the region with a Level Two qualification ( the equivalent of five good GCSEs ( has risen from 66.1% in 1999 to 74.5% in 2005.

The 8.4% increase is the largest in the country and sees the North-East going from being the third worst qualified region in 1999 to now being the second best.

Education chiefs in the region said that the increase in skills levels would help the North attract more jobs and improve companies' profitability.

Business leaders also welcomed the news, saying that it would be a boost to the North-East economy.

Chris Roberts, regional director of the Learning and Skills Council North-East, said: "This is fantastic news for two reasons.

"It's great for the individuals concerned because it gives them a huge advantage in the labour market.

"To get three-quarters of the adult population at this level, when it was only two-thirds six years, is a fantastic achievement."

Yesterday's figures also showed that more young people in the region are also achieving a Level Two qualification by the age of 19. In 2004, 65% of young people had gained a qualification by the age of 19, but in 2005, this had risen to 67.4%.

Karen Brown, director of training and skills development at the North-East Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is extremely encouraging news. NECC, as a training provider itself, has seen success rates at this level rise by 22% which illustrates the overall picture presented by the LSC.

"Importantly, we are seeing more employers taking on these newly qualified people which shows the real benefit to anyone questioning the value of taking part in a course. Successful candidates not only get a certificate; they are getting good jobs."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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