Instances of serious failure are rare and the government wants to reduce interventions with the Skills Bill, writes Gillian Keegan
This week we introduced the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill in Parliament.
Not only did this mark an historic moment for education, it also signalled how serious we are about skills reform.
While the Bill is just one part of our wider reforms to post-16 education and training, many of which are being consulted on separately or are already in train, each of its nine measures will be vital in making sure we can progress this work.
I’ve been delighted at how much genuine support there is for our reforms, but I wanted to take this opportunity to set out why we need this legislation and why now.
First of all, I want to make clear this is not about taking back control of colleges.
This is about ensuring we can continue to sustainably offer high quality education and training to as many people as possible, and that the training on offer meets the needs of employers and local communities. This is central to our levelling up agenda.
This is about ensuring we can continue to sustainably offer high quality education
There are skills shortages throughout our economy, holding people back from working in highly skilled jobs and stopping employers getting the workforce they need.
We are also still recovering from a global pandemic, which has significantly impacted opportunities for many people.
In 2019 employers reported that they were unable to fill a quarter of all vacant positions, due to not finding people with the right skills.
Skills shortages accounted for 36 per cent of all construction vacancies, and 48 per cent of all manufacturing and skilled trade vacancies.
We need to act now to make sure everyone can gain the skills they, employers and the economy need to thrive.
If employers say they need more engineers or web designers, then it is crucial that we offer more training that will meet that need.
This will support more people into work, including locally, so they are not forced to leave their hometowns to find well-paid jobs if they don’t want to.
There are many colleges and providers that are doing a fantastic job and who are already collaborating successfully with employers to do this. We want to build on this and make sure this is replicated everywhere.
We will do this through our local skills improvement plans.
The Bill will allow us to designate employer representative bodies to lead this work and make it a legal requirement for providers to collaborate on developing these plans, and to pay due regard to them, ensuring skills provision meets local training needs.
An employer-led system needs an employer-led approach, and this is the framework that will make that happen.
It will also offer colleges and providers an opportunity to take a more proactive role in shaping future skills need; and to use their expertise to support employers to make the incremental innovations that are needed to drive demand for higher level skills and boost productivity.
Most colleges are well run, and instances of serious failures are rare. We are already developing a more strategic and supportive relationship with colleges so that problems can be identified sooner and so we can reduce the numbers needing intervention.
The Bill will ensure that when there is failure, we can intervene, such as by requiring a restructure, to support colleges and to protect the interests of learners, employers and taxpayers.
Statutory intervention is only expected to be used as a last resort where it is not possible to secure improvement through other measures.
Statutory intervention is only expected to be used as a last resort
Finally, I want to reiterate that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. That’s why we have put our reforms and this Bill at the heart of our recovery plans and our levelling up agenda.
As colleges and providers, you will all play a vital role in making sure this happens.
I’m excited for the future. With government, employers and providers all working together we will bring about the change that is needed and that will make a huge difference to people’s lives.