The Conservative Party has had a landslide victory during the 2019 General Election. This was a massive landslide win for the Conservative Party, to put this into context, this has been the largest Conservative Party win since Margaret Thatcher in 1987 and for the Labour Party this has been their worst election result since 1935. The Conservatives required 327 seats and have achieved 364.
So what does this mean for the Further Education, Skills, Work based learning and employability sector?
The Conservative party pledged some big numbers to the sector. With a £3 Billion national skills fund Capital investment of £2 Billion. According to the BBC there has been a Downing Street announcement that there will be a minor cabinet reshuffle on Monday, and Boris Johnson's Brexit bill will be put to MP's by next Friday. It is currently unclear if this could mean a reshuffle for FE? Current Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has retained his seat in Staffordshire South with a 73% of the vote or 36,520 votes.
The 2019 General Election also resulted in some major changes for political figures representing FE and Skills.
Gordon Marsden who has been a long-standing Shadow Skills Minister with the Labour party has lost his seat in Blackpool South to the Conservative candidate Scott Lloyd Benton (Marsden with 12,557, Benton with 16,247).
So this is likely to mean that the Labour party will announce a new Shadow Skills Minister in the near future. Jeremy Corbyn has also announced that he will not lead the Labour Party in another General Election.
Former Skills Minister Anne Milton, who was now standing as an Independent has lost her seat in Guildford.
Anne Milton was Skills Minister between June 2015 - July 2017.
Federation of Awarding Bodies CEO Tom Bewick took a sabbatical to stand as a Brexit Party Candidate in Dagenham & Rainham and won 6.6% of the vote, so we should see Tom back in his role at FAB soon.
The Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson lost her Dunbartonshire East seat to the SNP by 149 votes. Interim leadership of the party will pass to Ed Davey MP and Baroness Sal Brinton, at the moment we are not clear if this could result in a change of team representing FE and Skills.
So how has the sector responded to the 2019 General Election news?
David Hughes, Chief Executive, AoC said:
“As Boris Johnson returns to Number 10 with a clear majority, he has a huge task ahead to take on the biggest problems facing the country. As he looks to boost the economy, strengthen our communities and support individuals – he needs to look to colleges to “get it done”. Previously Boris has praised colleges as a “people’s priority”, and we are keen to work with him to ensure that they continue to be, with a long-term, strong and properly funded plan for post-16 education, skills and training.
"It has been clear throughout the campaign that colleges are central to answering the huge questions facing the country. Attitudes to colleges, skills and retraining have shifted, there is now a consensus that they are vital in creating an education system and economy that is fit for the future. The task for our new government is to stick to its manifesto investment promises and to build a post-16 system for people everywhere, throughout their lives. The new government has the opportunity to develop the new lifelong learning culture which will be vital in a post-Brexit Britain."
Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe said:
“AELP looks forward to working with the government building on their successful apprenticeship policy and commitment to skills, implementing the Conservative manifesto pledge to ‘level up’ skills opportunities for small businesses. Nowhere is this more needed than in the ensuring of SME access to apprenticeship funding. As a matter of urgency, the February budget and next spending round must ensure that the amazing apprenticeship opportunities are equally accessible for all organisations, no matter what their size, which will also help reverse the decline in the participation of young people and first step apprenticeships that have been hit so badly since the introduction of the levy.
“We need a comprehensive new national skills strategy and getting full value out of the proposed £3bn National Skills Fund should form a key part of that. Our view is that an allocation from the Fund should be directed towards the introduction of individual skills accounts and AELP has prepared a blueprint to share with ministers for these accounts based on a robustly tested and approved provider base, a catalogue of approved learning programmes and an embracing the latest technological advancements which will allow employers and learners to top them up.
“There are certainly successes we can build on but the new strategy must lead to a rebalancing of priorities which enable more young people who have not succeeded at school to gain access to traineeships and apprenticeships, thereby giving them the chance to earn while they learn. With Brexit now a certainty and the prospect of an Australian-style points system for inward migration with only short-term visas for the lower skilled, many key sectors of our economy will desperately want to see home-grown talent fill vacancies and high quality work based learning programmes offer the solution to that challenge.
“Adult education also needs more investment nationally and in the devolved areas, and again AELP and its members are ready to work with elected leaders to secure more local impact from that investment. For too many years, money from the adult education budget has not been spent wisely and effectively. Now is the time to put it on a new footing with a fresh approach that involves full commissioning and meets local priorities.”
Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute comments:
"Once new ministers are appointed, they will have lots on their ‘to do’ lists and a chance to make a positive difference. Before the election we set out a number of priorities for the next government. In particular to invest in lifelong learning, take action to improve living standards, and increase both employment and the quality of work. I was pleased to see all the main parties making positive commitments to these agendas.
"We now have a clear result and we look forward to working with the government to deliver on the positive commitments they have made. In particular, on the design and implementation of the National Skills Fund and Shared Prosperity Fund, next steps for the Apprenticeship Levy, and measures to increase the minimum wage.
"I congratulate supporters of FE and adult learning including Rob Halfon on their re-election. But I’m sorry that Parliament has lost champions of lifelong learning like Gordon Marsden, James Frith and Anne Milton. I hope all MPs will recognise the importance of FE and that we can make the 2020s a decade of investment."
Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, Neil Carberry, said:
“Congratulations to the new government on their victory. Boris Johnson’s team must now focus on stability, investment and growth in our economy. Business confidence in the economy is at a low point and job creation is slowing as our research clearly shows. A no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for jobs and must not be allowed to happen. The Brexit transition period must now be put into action and a realistic plan put in place for long-term trading arrangements, including for services – a critical part of our economy.
“The biggest challenge to growth is skills shortages. The nation’s productivity hinges on government’s ability to address this. One huge opportunity is to open up the apprenticeship levy to the millions of people who choose flexible work. But for the sick to be treated, for homes to be built, and for food to be produced, the UK also needs an immigration system that meets employers’ needs for skills at all pay-levels – not just ‘the brightest and the best’.
“Few things matter more to people’s daily lives than the work that they do – the government must act now to underpin the jobs of the future. While we welcome the Conservatives’ promise to review the IR35 tax reform, it is wholly unfit for purpose and implementation must be delayed.
“Our message to the incoming government is to work with us to rev up the UK’s jobs machine and make great work happen.”
Sharon Davies, CEO, Young Enterprise said:
“We congratulate Boris Johnson on being elected as the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom but would remind him that there is a great deal of work to be done in a country that faces staggering amounts of inequality, particularly for young people.
“It’s concerning that social mobility has remained virtually stagnant since 2014 and we urge Government to partner with us to ensure that no young person is left behind. By building space into the school day for non-academic work we can help more young people build the knowledge, skills and confidence in themselves that they need to excel in the world of work. Exposing young people to an enterprise and financial education can have a huge effect on their career expectations and financial well-being.
“Government, business and the third sector need to work together to find solutions for young people, to address inequality of opportunity before this becomes a crisis. We want to work with employers to ensure that opportunities are available to nurture young people, regardless of their background.”
Andrew Harding FCMA, CGMA, Chief Executive — Management Accounting, The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, part of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, said:
"We must take the election of the new Conservative government and its pledge to establish a right to retrain as well as its commitment to establish a £3 billion National Skills Fund as an opportunity to boost productivity and social mobility in the United Kingdom.
"This is a great challenge – and to succeed, we need to invest in both digital transformation and our talent pool. Having a well-trained, tech-savvy workforce able to leverage new and emerging technologies will make or break our success. Yet, a recent report by the Industrial Strategy Council estimates that 20 percent of the workforce will be significantly under-skilled for their jobs by 2030. Worryingly, our own research also revealed that 37% of UK workers don’t feel that they need to learn new skills despite a growing awareness of the impact of technology on jobs.
"In order to address our country’s skills gap and deteriorating productivity, lifelong learning, upskilling and continuous professional development need to play a significant part in the new Conservative government agenda. This is why we need to review our national education and skills policies, in particular the Apprenticeships Programme as it currently stands, to expand to provide for reskilling and lifelong learning, and continue to fund higher-level apprenticeships."
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“Prime Minister Johnson's government inherits a daunting ‘To Do’ list on education.
"In order to build the best education system for the society we want to live in, the NEU is challenging the government to
- End school cuts and invest in education
- End child poverty
- Address the teacher retention and recruitment crisis
- Replace Ofsted with a fair way of evaluating schools
- End high-stakes primary tests
“There are massive problems in the system which the incoming government must address fast. Schools, colleges and nursery schools face continuing, interlinked, crises in funding, teacher retention and workload. The Conservatives were isolated on education during the election campaign – the only party not to recognise the damaging effect of England’s high stakes assessment system, the devastating impact of Ofsted on teaching, learning and teachers’ morale, and how incompetently Ofsted accounts for the cost of poverty.
“The new Government must put funding and teacher morale right at the top of their action plan. Neither taxpayers nor pupils can afford to keep losing teachers at the current rate. Immediate action is also needed to tackle unacceptable workload levels within the teaching profession. Developing a fairer system to evaluate school effectiveness can't wait.
“School funding was raised regularly on the doorstep with Parliamentary candidates and newly elected MPs must work to ensure that all children attend a properly funded school. Parents, teachers and heads will not tolerate five more years of dither and denial about the realities of underfunding. The public is clearly of the consensus that the problem is both real and runs deep.
“Disgracefully, a third of children live in poverty, and this has a devastating impact on their life chances and their access to education. Whilst the Conservative manifesto said little new about children and education, schools across the country are collecting for food banks over Christmas or opening on Christmas Day to support children and families. Ignoring the scale of child poverty and the damage it inflicts isn't an option.
“This election became about so much more than Brexit. Education became the third priority for parents after the NHS and Brexit. Our new Government must not forget this. Children get one chance in education. The NEU will look to be working with the new Government to make a better set of choices on education during 2020.”
Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, said:
“This was a clear mandate from the British electorate to the new Government that it is now time to complete the Brexit process and ensure the UK leaves the European Union on 31 January 2020. Business leaders and managers have been calling for certainty from the Government; we now have it.
“The new Government must now invest in the skills of the modern knowledge economy - digital, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and infrastructure. But it is vitally important to include management and leadership skills in that investment. Without good management practices, it will be tough to turn the investment in these vital sectors into a meaningful boost for Britain's productivity and future potential.”
Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, said:
“We congratulate the Conservative Party on its victory in the general election and look forward to working with Boris Johnson’s Government. It is vital that this new chapter brings some stability and a positive vision for the City, London and the UK.
“With the clock ticking, breaking the Brexit deadlock must be a key priority for the Government. But even if a withdrawal deal is passed, there is still a long road ahead. For the City, it is vital that the future framework agreement recognises the enormous contribution of the services sector, securing maximum market access and developing a structure for the UK economy to prosper in the years ahead.
“Services are the lifeblood of the UK economy and vital to its growth. Politicians across the spectrum should recognise that financial and professional services make a significant contribution, employing 2.3 million people across the country – two thirds outside of London.
“The UK’s future success depends on attracting, retaining and developing high quality talent. A critical first step is creating an effective and efficient visa system to meet demand for talented individuals. But the Government also needs to look closer to home to supercharge our own skills agenda, making sure no one is left behind amidst unprecedented technological and social change.
“Another key priority must be major investment in infrastructure – for London too, as well as the rest of the country. Improved connectivity between our cities will not only strengthen the UK’s position as a world-leading business hub, but also help create greater shared prosperity across the country.”
Kate Palmer, Associate Director of Advisory at Peninsula, said:
"Employers can expect to see substantial changes to employment law under the continued Conservative Government, who this morning maintained power of the nation after nine years at No. 10.
"While not as weighty as the Labour Manifesto on making changes to employment law, the Conservative manifesto promised a wide variety of developments in areas including employee pay and family-friendly rights.
Although not an immediate change, employers are waking up to confirmation that the National Living Wage will increase to £10.50 per hour by 2024, with the age threshold incrementally lowered to 23+ in 2021 and finally 21+ by 2024. The lead in time to this change will enable employers to factor increase wage bills into their future budgets.
"Employers will also have to review their leave policies, as more time off will be given to new parents of a sick baby. A keen eye should be kept on any changes to paternity leave as the party will look at ways to increase take up. With flexible working to become the ‘default’ arrangement, employers may be forced to be more creative with working hours to ensure operational demand is still met. Working arrangements will also be impacted by a right for those with caring responsibilities to take time off.
"With a promise to continue with the Good Work Plan which includes more rights for those in unpredictable work and to keep to the January 2020 Brexit deadline, it’s safe to say that employers will be kept busy over coming months and years."
Let's make a deal pals. One tweet to express devastation/glee then how about we work together?— Lou Mycroft (@LouMycroft) December 13, 2019
Critical. Respectful. Engage in difficult conversations whilst listening + keeping an open mind. Activist across political divides.
Find joy in one another.
Shall we do it?
Governments change, political ideologies change. What has never changed is the commitment and passion of the #careersfamily and @CareersWeek to ensure ALL young people in the UK get the #careers help and inspiration they need for their futures #NCW2020— Nick Newman (@NCWNewman) December 13, 2019
One day to go to the elections: parties are split on many things, but it's great to see they all agree on the importance of adult education and lifelong learning. Let's make sure they won't forget about it after tomorrow. My latest piece for @FENews https://t.co/dqjD7KVkzH— Elena Magrini (@MagriniElena) December 11, 2019
... more sector responses to follow