Famed UK producer Iain Smith (Children Of Men, Cold Mountain) has been appointed to chair the Film Industry Training Board (FITB).

The appointment was confirmed today by The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).

Under Smith, the FITB will have statutory levy powers. Its role is to ensure that the quantity and quality of training are adequate to meet the skill needs of the industry. It will oversee the delivery and operation of the Skills Investment Fund (SIF), a training levy for the film production industry which will now move from voluntary to mandatory towards the end of 2008.

'I am delighted to announce the appointment of Iain Smith OBE as Chair of the FITB to lead the establishment of the Board,' said David Lammy MP, Skills Minister. 'It is fantastic to have someone of Iain's calibre and reputation leading the Board, and I look forward to working with him.'

As he takes up his new position, Smith has expressed his relief that the Government is now supporting training for the industry.

'When I started out, it was a real struggle to get any financial support (for film training) from the regular education authorities,' Smith noted. 'I've always felt that it (film training) is one of the many, many important foundation areas to consolidate and get right.'

The voluntary levy for film-makers - the Skills Investment Fund (SIF), collected by Skillset - currently represents 0.5% of a film's production budget. The levy is capped at about $80,000 (£39,500).

Some UK producers have complained they were not fully consulted about plans to put the training levy on a mandatory basis.

Smith commented that there has been 'a very detailed consultation with the industry through the regular channels. Unfortunately, you can be as diligent as possible and will claim not to have heard the news.'

He insisted that low budget production will not be adversely hit by the mandatory levy. 'One of the first things we will be looking at on the board of the FITB will be exactly that - is there an intervention we need to make to ensure we are not have a contrary effect than the one we would like.'

The new FITB boss anticipates that the mandatory levy should yield an extra $1m (£500,000) a year for training.

Smith stated that in the current tough economic climate, training must remain a priority. 'It's a vicious circle here. If we say, we are falling on hard times, let's not educate our people to take advantage of what opportunities arise, then we will just be perpetuating the vicious circle.' He added that the it is now the FITB's responsibility 'to speak back more than has happened in the past to explain (to the industry) what we are doing.'

Alongside his new duties FITB Chair, Smith will continue producing and executive producing. 'I ma having to balance plates on top of bamboo poles but I've tended to do that all my life. I have the energy and I have the will and I want to give whatever service I can to this business.'

Smith is currently assembling the cast for his next project The Originals, a Chariots Of Fire-style drama about the 1905 New Zealand All Black rugby team during their tour of Great Britain.

Stewart Till, Deputy Chair of Skillset, said: 'Iain's appointment is great news for the industry. His experience and contacts in the international film industry make him the ideal person to lead the establishment of the FITB. He is passionate about developing talent at every level of the industry and I am sure he will make a big impact in this important new role.'