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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Companies such as burger chain McDonald's and budget airline Flybe will be able to offer their own qualifications under a shake-up of welfare and training announced by the government on Monday.
The two employers, and infrastructure firm Network Rail, have been approved by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to award certificates, a government source said.
In some cases the qualifications, in subjects such as restaurant management in the case of McDonald's, will be equivalent to official secondary school "A" level examinations.
"It's a move toward breaking down the divisions between company training schemes and national qualifications," the source said.
Other welfare and training reforms being set out by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his ministers include a plan to force the jobless to learn skills and a plan to enlist the private sector to help the long-term unemployed find work.
Saying Britain faces a "skills race" to succeed in the globalized economy, Brown will say: "It is time for a wake-up call for young people, employees and employers -- that we now summon ourselves to a new national effort and mobilization to win the new skills race."
Speaking to business leaders in London, Brown will also announce an expansion of an apprenticeship program aimed at helping young people get a start in work. Brown's office released excerpts of his speech in advance.
Brown will throw his support behind controversial welfare reform proposals made last year by investment banker David Freud, saying his government will hire private sector or voluntary groups to "find innovative ways of helping the long-term unemployed ... move into work."
With their emphasis on private sector involvement and compulsion, the policies announced by Brown are a far cry from the left-wing policies that his Labour Party championed in the 1970s and 1980s.
In a sign of the new get-tough approach, Brown will announce that new Pensions Secretary James Purnell will intensify welfare reforms "to include compulsion for the unemployed and many inactive men and women not just to seek work but to acquire skills."
"So if the unemployed don't train when given the opportunity it will affect their benefit entitlement," he will say.
Editing by Steve Addison