Further education changes lives. The sector plays a pivotal role not just in powering our economy but also helping people realise their ambitions.
I know that perhaps better than most. My dad was a lorry driver in Yorkshire, and I worked and took vocational qualifications before heading to university later in life. One of the reasons I am so thrilled to be skills minister is because I know first-hand how the right skills can help people follow their dreams.
Getting on and building a career isn’t all about academia. That’s why we are pursuing policies that reflect that reality, such as continuing our roll out of T Levels, with 16 courses including engineering, finance and digital now available at more than 175 providers across the country.
I had the pleasure of joining some of the first ever students to get T Level results at Nelson and Colne College in Lancashire this summer. It’s brilliant that so many of them have gone on to apprenticeships, full-time jobs or places at university.
But further education isn’t just about young people preparing to enter the workforce. The sector is just as vital for adults looking to retrain or upskill at any stage of their life.
I’m in love with ‘Skills Bootcamps’ and over the summer I had the opportunity to visit one for trainee HGV drivers in West Yorkshire. It was inspiring to meet people working hard to gain a new skill – one that is close to my heart and which helps keep the nation moving.
Through ‘Skills Bootcamps’ and ‘Free Courses for Jobs’, we are delivering the skills Britain needs, and we’ve invested more than £260 million in the past year to expand these excellent adult training schemes.
That’s on top of continuing to fund adults to get the essential skills in literacy, numeracy and digital they need for a workplace that is constantly changing, often in the blink of an eye. This includes up to £559 million through the new ‘Multiply’ programme, which will help adults to develop essential numeracy skills.
Our very first Institutes of Technology are now up and running, and next year we will see the next wave open their doors. Two new institutes will offer world-class training that builds on the UK’s global reputation for excellence in education.
We are pushing ahead with our plans to boost apprenticeships, not just in traditional sectors such as construction and manufacturing but also in fields as diverse as marine navigation, solar panel installation and video game design.
Degree apprenticeships offer a great alternative to studying a traditional three-year degree, and we want to see more of them, giving people the chance to get vocational experience alongside their degree.
I know people are understandably concerned about rising costs. So I’d like to take this opportunity to reassure you that we are committed to supporting our brilliant FE sector, so that it can continue to offer high-quality education and training.
We’ve increased funding for 16-19 education by £1.6 billion in 2024-25 compared to 2021-22, including an upfront per-student cash boost.
In addition, our new Energy Bill Relief Scheme is providing a discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices for organisations and businesses, alongside support for households facing rising bills.
I know that many of you will have questions regarding the Office for National Statistics review and the potential reclassification of the Further Education sector. We are continuing to work closely with the sector on this issue as it develops.
Our skills agenda is at the heart of our plans to level up the economy, and we’re focused on transforming the post-16 education and skills landscape, giving people and businesses the skills they need to flourish.
It’s what all our young people and adult learners deserve, and it’s what our country needs. I look forward to working with you all.