Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO of City & Guilds Group

@CityandGuilds Industry Skills Board writes to @GavinWilliamson and @GillianKeegan @EducationGovUK 

The City & Guilds Industry Skills Board (ISB), last night (8 Apr) sent a letter to the Department for Education – calling attention to the vital importance of the Further Education sector to employers and the wider economy, and calling for more support, equality and clarity for this sector that’s currently at risk.

This letter was signed by Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO of City & Guilds Group, along with other members of the Industry Skills Board. The Industry Skills Board is a panel of employers – of various sizes and from a range of sectors – who provide The London Institute of City & Guilds with impartial advice and guidance on skills strategy.

Letter in full

City & Guilds of London Institute
1 Giltspur Street

08 April 2020

Employers need the Further Education sector now more than ever

Dear Rt. Hon. Gavin Williamson MP and Gillian Keegan MP

In recent years, the business sector has worked hard, with partners from the Further Education sector and Government, to establish a thriving, high-quality apprenticeship system that helps to plug vital skills gaps and provides people from all generations with a valuable route into employment. After several years of hard work, we have finally, collectively, produced an employer-demand led system. However, this fledgling system is now at risk because of the pressures placed upon the supply chain by the COVID19 closures.

We understand that determining how to keep the country’s industries operational during the current situation hasn’t been easy. And that difficulty is further exacerbated in sectors with a complex structure such as Further Education, which is made up of a tapestry of interconnected state funded colleges, Independent Training Providers (ITPs), Awarding Organisations and End Point Assessment Organisations (EPAOs).

What many may not realise is that 70% of apprenticeships are delivered by ITPs of apprenticeships are delivered by ITPs, and it’s these very organisations that are currently at risk, putting the Government’s apprenticeship strategy in jeopardy. Unlike schools and state-funded colleges, ITPs will not receive full funding to keep them afloat during this difficult time. This may cause many to go out of business and leave employers, like us, without access to a vital skills supply chain. Furthermore, unless the funding agreed for ITPs and FE colleges also flows throughout the whole value chain through to the assessment and awarding organisations, we may see wider structural collapse.

We need to emerge from the wartime-like conditions that we find ourselves in, ready for what comes next. This needs foresight and action today. The aftermath of lockdown and the current health emergency is going to result in a substantially different jobs landscape, with many left jobless and destitute. The skills system is part of the essential national infrastructure needed to equip people with the skills they need to enable the country to recover economically. Losing substantial parts of the skills system now will prolong the recovery.

Without increased support from the DfE that goes beyond the Treasury’s current measures for private businesses, the whole sector’s capacity to train high-quality apprentices may be badly damaged – just at the time we need it most.

If we fail apprenticeships now, we risk the whole skills system collapsing. Today, we as a collection of independent mixed-economy employers, who make up the Industry Skills Board (founded by The City & Guilds of London Institute), are calling on the Government to do three things, in order to save the future of the Further Education sector, for the sake of individuals, businesses and our economy. We commit to offer our own skills and experience as employers invested in the skills system to find practical ways of implementing these:

  • Support the whole sector: The FE, skills and apprenticeships ecosystem is incredibly complex, and needs all its parts working successfully in order to function effectively. We urge the Government to show its support for the entire sector, in the form of some additional level of underwriting of typical Apprenticeships/ITP funding rates between now and August. This would essentially provide a more stable cashflow situation for the next few months and be calculated based on known ESFA information, creating parity with schools, colleges and Adult Learning Providers. Of course, there would be caveats to this; any centre that accepted this offer should expect clawback if the business engagement fell short of the subsidy.
  • Enable and support innovation: Necessity is the mother of invention, and this crisis will inevitably give rise to change and innovation both in the FE sector and the wider working world. We need targeted funding and support to accelerate the adoption of innovative forms of outreach and engagement with learning. It might be in the form of matching funding investment or simply covering infrastructure upgrades in internet connectivity, mobile kits, or learning content acquisition/production. This should not be a short-term ‘quick fix’ during COVID19; all investment must be proven to lead to a sustained change in business behaviour and practice.
  • Clarity and equality: We need much more clarity around the support measures for the sector– and the employers that depend on it. We would ask for a targeted ‘Friday’ letter, similar to what has already been issued for schools and colleges, that calls out the support now being offered for the apprenticeship sector to help them to stabilise now and recover quickly when we emerge the other side so that we don’t see the mass exodus of skilled staff from the sector in the coming months.

Based on the above, we ask for these measures to be put in place now as a safety net which allows people and employers to retrain and reskill in order to help support the nation’s recovery efforts.

We need more support, equality and clarity for the sector. We need that support now, before it becomes too late.

Yours sincerely

The members of the City & Guilds Industry Skills Board

Kirstie Donnelly MBE – City & Guilds Group, Andy Smyth - Ah Ha! Consulting Limited, Warren Page – Xtrac, Karima Khandker – Heathrow, Lizzie Crowley – CIPD, Joanne Bradford – Marstons, Michael White – RBS, Mark Lavington – PGL, Anthony Impey – Optimity / Federation of Small Businesses, Mark Maudsley – GTL England, Dominic Gill - PPG

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