Whitehall invests £100,000 in comms staff training

The Government has launched a £100,000 project to train 1,500 comms staffers, as it looks to boost evaluation and digital skills amid diminished budgets.

Aspire: Alex Aiken said the scheme will improve skillsets
Aspire: Alex Aiken said the scheme will improve skillsets

The Aspire programme will target PR operators within departments and arm's-length bodies to hone a range of skills identified as key for the future.

From this week, staff will be given training through face-to-face and online tutorials. Teaching will be provided by teams from inside and outside the Government.

Aspire, which will run 'as long as required', is divided into four sections: Do it Digital, Launching Low Cost Campaigns, Perfect Procurement and Effective Evaluation.

Executive director of government communication Alex Aiken said the training, which according to the Cabinet Office involves an investment of more than £100,000, was part of an effort to 'make better use of the resources we have available'.

Aiken, who was appointed to the role in January, last month acknowledged the need to save money. The current comms budget of £300m has been slashed from £1bn in 2009-10.

Aspire will be funded by Government departments and their various affiliated bodies, and is part of a wider review of comms that is expected to conclude by the end of the year.

Pointing to the importance of evaluation within the training, he said: 'I recognise that if we are going to create exceptional government communicators, we need to improve skillsets.

'Comms is becoming increasingly complex and challenging, and resources are limited and will continue to be limited. So we need to think differently about how to run campaigns.'

One former government comms leader welcomed the news, adding that acknowledgement of the importance of PR in Number 10 may be influenced by 'the need to do positive comms' ahead of the general election in 2015.

The training scheme follows the launch of the new government rosters for PR agencies, which replaced the phased-out COI last year.

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