Halfon loses apprenticeships and skills ministerial role in reshuffle

Halfon loses apprenticeships and skills ministerial role in reshuffle

It is a change that will shock the FE sector.

Apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon has this evening been told he will not return to his ministerial role, FE Week understands.

Mr Halfon, who took up the role of Apprenticeships and Skills Minister from Nick Boles on July 17, 2016, is well known for his passion for FE and skills and had spent his first year in the job visiting many providers across the country.

His replacement has not been confirmed, but education secretary Justine Greening has kept her position in the cabinet. Ms Greening was appointed secretary of state for education and minister for women and equalities on July 14, 2016.

Mr Halfon has a strong record of interest in the FE sector and took part in an FE Week profile interview back in November 2011. At the time he spoke of his enthusiasm for apprenticeships and university technical colleges, and the importance of basic literacy.

In 2013 he was presented with a Politician of the Year award from Avanta, a large employment and training provider, for his work promoting an apprenticeship scheme.

From May 2015 to July 2016 he was a minister without portfolio, meaning that although he did not have a specific responsibility he still attended cabinet meetings.

The ministerial change comes in the middle of a wide and deep FE reform programme, and Halfon worked on introduction of the apprenticeship levy, college area reviewsdevolution of the Adult Education Budget  and the launch of a Post-16 Skills Plan.

In his first opinion piece for FE Week in September 2016, he set out his case for “boosting social justice, economic productivity, and our country’s skills base”.

He said at the time: “We cannot treat apprenticeships in isolation as a way to solve the skills gap. “This is why we are building our apprenticeship programme alongside improving careers guidance in schools, boosting the quality of our FE colleges and ensuring we build the clearest paths for technical and vocational education.”

In an interview with our editor Nick Linford in October of the same year, Mr Halfon faced questions about the government’s choice to soften proposed cuts to the 16-18 apprenticeship framework rates, after FE Week campaigned on the issued.

He responded by saying that the changes were a mark of his willingness to listen to public opinion.

“It’s been an honour to have served as Apprenticeships Minister. I’m proud we have a record 900K apprentices & to have passed the FE/TE Bill – Halfon tweet this evening

He said: “People are saying this is a U-turn, but actually I would describe it as listening with elephant-sized ears.

“I made it clear at party conference. I made it publicly clear in articles that we have listened –and that’s what my job is to do.”

Mr Halfon has also attended FE Week events to contribute and listen to the views of attendees.

He was present at the launch of the FE Week #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign in September 2016, and our #SaveOurAdultEducation campaign in February this year, both of which took place in the Houses of Parliament.

In April this year he spoke to FE Week shortly after the snap election was announced. At the time he admitted there was “a lot more work to do” on the issue of mandatory GCSE English and maths resits for grade D students, but added that he was “very proud” of the progress being made on apprenticeships.

“We’ve got 900,000 apprenticeships in our country at the moment. Highest on record,” he said.