The British government has given the go-ahead to set up a National Skills Academy (NSA) for the UK's fashion, textiles and jewellery sector in a bid to drive up the standard of industry training, improve productivity and tackle skills shortages.

The programme will be delivered through Skillfast-UK, the Sector Skills Council for apparel, footwear and textiles, and aims to ensure qualifications are relevant, not only in their content, but in the way they are delivered.

Businesses are also being encouraged to help shape the course content and qualifications in the hope that they will benefit from access to a more appropriately skilled pool of recruits who are keen to stay in the UK.

"A National Skills Academy will be superbly versatile, offering people the chance to take on bite-sized chunks of learning which are designed to address the needs of employers with specific skills needs," explains Linda Florance, chief executive at Skillfast-UK.

"The mix and match approach to learning that will be so important to the NSA is a direct reflection of the way employers in our sector need to structure their teams, training people to be multi-skilled in order to meet the changing demands on their businesses."

Skillfast-UK is hoping to complete a detailed business plan for the Academy early next year with the first courses starting in September 2008.

Learning providers include Bridgwater, Blackburn and Burnley Colleges, Huddersfield Textile Centre of Excellence and Newham College in London.

The concept of National Skills Academies was developed in reponse to the widening skills gap and aims to provide vocational education and tailor-made training to meet the specific needs of industry sectors and those who work in them.

The government's goal is to have up to 12 academies operational by 2008, covering industries ranging from construction and financial services to food and drink manufacturing.