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Executives are getting cheap computer training with taxpayers' money because everybody has ignored Prime Minister Tony Blair's vision of an army of unemployed trained to kill the Millennium Bug. Blair suggested 20,000 unemployed be trained as programmers to fix the bug across the UK, each getting £1,300 training grants from a £26m budget allocation. But the agency appointed to spend the money and the author of the training course decided teaching executives how to use computers was a better way of spending the money. Course author Peter Callahan of Sheffield Hallam University said: "We have the opposite view to Tony Blair. We don't think there is a skills problem." Instead the course covers a few commercial products to fix the millennium bug, then dwells on how managers can use computers in business because "it gives a broader base". IT National Training Organisation project consultant Tony Cusack said: "One of the problems is when there are spontaneous initiatives announced, putting the infrastructure behind it can be a struggle." Cusack said there was no time to teach 'Bug Busters' so the scheme changed. "Part of the broader initiative is not to fix the millennium bug but to upskill people in IT," he said. He said: "It's a political objective and our butts are hanging out for 20,000 people to meet Blair's estimate." Last week it was revealed only 26 people had enrolled. There was also 'no time' to meet Blair's desire to have the course as a nationally recognised qualification, said Cusack. "It's late and it can be argued, too little too late." Callahan said the 10 day programme would cost about £300 a day, leaving companies to pay £1,700 of the training bill. Action 2000 communications manager Elizabeth Allen said questions needed to be asked about how Blair's vision was carried out. ® Click for more stories

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