‘Unit for future skills’ to launch this month

Course information for employers and learners through a new 'unit for future skills' will start being published this month, but will not be immediately useful.

Course information for employers and learners through a new 'unit for future skills' will start being published this month, but will not be immediately useful.

The unit for future skills, announced in the levelling up white paper, will be launched “this month” with an initial data-set which will grow over time. 

The minister for skills, Alex Burghart, made the announcement during a keynote speech for the think-tank Policy Exchange on the future of skills. 

Burghart outlined a series of policy reforms which have been designed to create a more employer-led skills system with local leadership coming from employer representative bodies.

Initiatives included employer-designed apprenticeship standards and T levels, alongside the lifelong loan guarantee, upcoming lifelong loan entitlement and local skills improvement plans. 

“I think it’s important that we don’t just seek to present better choices” the minister said, “but we also give clarity to people about what those choices might offer.”

Burghart’s assertion was the current way of evidencing the success of education was too limited.

Measures such as qualification grades, progression to university, whether students become NEET are all, in his view “basic proxies” and “going forward, these alone will not be good enough.”

The vision for the unit for future skills appears to be an incredibly ambitious one. 

The levelling up white paper, published in February this year, was the first time we saw a mention of the new unit and it was light on detail. 

It said the unit would be cross-government, would be publicly accessible and will produce information on local skills demand, future skills needs of businesses and the pathways between training and good jobs.

A DfE spokesperson at the time told FE Week that the unit would take over the work of the DfE’s skills and productivity board once its schedule of reports had been completed. 

In his speech today, Burghart gave a little more insight in to what use the information published by the unit would have for learners, their families and providers:

“Over time, we want to show what courses and interventions lead to what jobs. I want prospective students to know what happened to people like them, who chose a particular course at a particular institution. What were they doing a year, two years, five years later?

I want employers and providers to know what technical courses are proving effective at getting people into their sectors. And I want government to have a better idea of what works.”

Alex Burghart, minister for skills, speaking at Policy Exchange today

Data provided through a central-government dashboard will, for example, tell prospective learners “whether taking a certain qualification in health and social care go on to work in health and social care, or whether they’re going to work in retail” he said.

Parents too are set to benefit. “It’s also about showing parents that certain technical choices have fantastic outcomes that should be taken seriously” Burghart said. 

Hopes to improve the quality of information available to school pupils are also pinned on the success of the UFS.

Lib Dem peer Sue Garden asked the minister what his plans were to encourage schools to celebrate the achievements of highly skilled students who get apprenticeships in the same way the celebrate academic students getting in to universities.

“This is very much something I hope better data will go some way to address” Burghart said today. Access to better data about outcomes and progression routes will, in the minister’s view, enable “more well-informed conversations about destinations.”

While hugely ambitious, the minister is keen to make a start.

In response to a question from the audience about the timescales attached to the UFS, the minister said his department will be starting to release data this month, but was keen to stress that it will be on an “iterative basis” and so would only be “an indicator of the sorts of things we can start doing over time.”

“Before anyone gets too excited, it’s just the beginning. It won’t give you all the answers you’re looking for.”

Following the speech, the Department weren’t able to tell FE Week what data will be published this month, nor how regularly data will be published by the UFS in the future.

The minister’s full speech from today is available to view online.

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  1. Is this anything more than window dressing to flog loans?

    A young person facing a life decision on which path to take needs to be equipped with wider information.

    The unit of future skills might give them some information on a potential range of careers and future earnings indications, but what about the costs of servicing the debt in acquiring the qualifications.

    In business you would never look purely at income without an assessment of costs – so why should Gov expect individuals to do that.

    Modern day debt slavery / debt bondage.