Government support of up to £1 million for skills and workforce development in the textile, clothing, leather and footwear sectors was promised today.

Speaking to the business community at a briefing in Sheffield, Minister for Adult Skills, John Healey MP, introduced five brand new Sector Skills Councils. Among them is the SSC for textiles, clothing and footwear. Known as Trailblazer SSCs, the first five will help to set the standard for other SSCs, which will replace existing National Training Organisations (NTOs) later in the year.

The region's textile, clothing and footwear employers were represented at the event by Edward Stanners of Berwin and Berwin. His company supplies customers like Next, Moss Bros, John Lewis and House of Fraser, as well as exporting to the United States, France and Spain. Mr Stanners said: "Award of trailblazer status is a tremendous coup for our industry. In part it is recognition of the £16 billion the sectors contribute to the UK economy. Over 200,000 people are employed in textiles, clothing and footwear. It also underlines the importance that the government places upon skills training and labour market information for our sectors."

Edward Stanners believes the SSC initiative will help the industry face the future with confidence. "With government support of up to £1 million, this is a real opportunity to drive up workforce development, productivity and competitiveness."

John Healey MP said: "Sector Skills Councils represent a new opportunity for employers UK-wide to have greater influence over the provision of learning in schools, colleges and in the workplace. These new bodies will be created by business for business and will put employers centre stage in the drive to reduce skills gaps and improve training. The Government recognises that employers are best placed to know where the skills shortages are and to identify action plans to tackle them."

The SSC for textiles, clothing and footwear is being formed by the three former NTOs: CAPITB Trust - the clothing and allied products industry NTO, NTTO - the National Textile Training Organisation and FLNTO - the Footwear and Leather National Training Organisation.