Devolution must be central to new government's #skills and #training agenda

The Future-Ready Skills Commission has called on the new government to honour its manifesto commitments around skills, training and adult education, and press ahead with the devolution of skills to local regions by implementing the recommendations of its Interim Report, following its latest meeting last week.

Education, business and local government leaders have called on the new government to honour its manifesto commitments around skills, training and adult education, and press ahead with the devolution of skills to local regions by implementing the recommendations of its Interim Report, following the latest meeting of the Future-Ready Skills Commission last week.

The new government’s manifesto included commitments to give people "the tools and training to flourish in the economy of the 21st century" and to ensure that opportunity is more equally spread throughout the country.

The Future-Ready Skills Commission says these goals can be achieved by implementing the recommendations of its Interim Report, published in November, which argues that the skills system needs to be responsive to the needs of local people, employers, and education and training providers.

The Interim Report identifies 10 priorities for change, setting out a roadmap to creating a skills system that addresses the challenges and opportunities in the UK economy in the years ahead.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the Future-Ready Skills Commission, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said:

The new government has talked about a ‘dramatic rebooting’ of the UK’s training system and making sure everyone has the skills they need to flourish – the recommendations of the Future-Ready Skills Commission set out a clear way they can achieve this goal.

Our aim is to design a skills system that is effective for both employers and workers and we believe the 10 key principles for change identified in our Interim Report strongly support the new government’s skills agenda.

We hope the new government will work with us to explore how investment in skills and training can make the system more responsive to the needs of local labour markets and how we can implement the Future-Ready Skills Commission’s recommendations.

In its manifesto the new government pledged to create a £3 billion National Skills Fund offering match funding for individuals and SMEs for education and training; invest in an upgrade of the entire further education college estate; expand Institutes of Technology to connect high-quality teaching in STEM to business and industry; and more investment in local adult education with a strengthened civic role for universities and colleges.

The Future-Ready Skills Commission’s Interim Report makes the case that the current complex, highly centralised nature of skills funding, training and careers information has resulted in a national skills system that does not meet the needs of all the people, businesses and local economies it is intended to serve.

Based on evidence gathered through an extensive review of the current skills system, the Future-Ready Skills Commission Interim Report has identified 10 priorities it believes must be addressed in order to create a devolved skills system that works for employers, individuals and training providers:

Top 10 priorities

1. Careers information

Careers information needs to be relevant to the local labour market and empower individuals to make informed decisions.

2. Integrated Strategies

Employment and skills should be integrated within local housing, transport and environment strategies.

3. Joined up progression to work

The local approach to skills, employment and health needs to be joined up to support progression to work.

4. Simplified skills offer

The skills offer for businesses needs to be simplified through coordination at the level of functional economic areas.

5. Increase investment in technical education

Investment in technical education and skills should be increased to sustainable levels.

6. Greater collaboration

Greater collaboration is needed in order to spread good workplace practices to improve business performance and productivity.

7. Affordable learning

Making it easier and more affordable for people to access education and training, with finance that removes barriers and supports progression in learning. The learning offer should be simplified and made more affordable, with the right level of finance that removes barriers to access and supports progression in learning.

8. Employer motivation

Motivating employers to train and re-train staff and support progression. Employers need to be motivated to train and re-train staff and support progression at all levels, including those in lower paid work to gain higher level skills.

9. Responsive to local economic priorities

Local areas should have strengthened responsibilities  for planning the provision of technical education and training so that it is responsive to local economic priorities.

10. Greater employer involvement

Giving employers greater influence over the design and delivery of technical training to ensure it is responsive to local economic priorities. Employers need greater influence over the design and delivery of technical training to ensure it is responsive to local economic priorities.

The Commission is now working toward its final recommendations, which will be published in late spring 2020

The Future-Ready Skills Commission is an independent, national commission supported by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and made up of experts and leading thinkers from business, education, local government and think tanks.  

Its primary scope is to understand how the skills system, from post-16 education through to adult skills and career development, could be shaped to better meet the needs of local economies with greater devolution across England, while meeting future challenges and opportunities in the workplace. 

Case study: West Yorkshire Combined Authority reboots adult re-training

In supporting the goals of the Future-Ready Skills Commission, West Yorkshire Combined Authority is demonstrating the value of locally led initiatives to deliver skills and training that meet the needs of local people and labour markets and connects them with opportunities for high quality employment.

The Combined Authority’s adult re-training programme, [re]boot, launched in late 2019 and targets career changers, under-employed and unemployed graduates, and individuals returning to the labour market after a period of absence.

Part-funded through European Social Funds (ESF) and delivered through the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges and Leeds Trinity University, [re]boot offers the opportunity to upskill and gain new qualifications and employment in the Digital and Creative, Construction and Engineering sectors, where there are skills shortages in West Yorkshire.

Training is designed to drive progression, in particular from Level 2 to 3 to 4, and provide an essential springboard for participants looking to progress in priority sectors. Initial courses have focused on improving digital skills, while in November a further cohort of 25 individuals started on a TV production course, entirely taught by industry professionals run through Leeds Trinity University.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the Future-Ready Skills Commission and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and Leader of Bradford Council, said:

The success of projects like [re]boot show what can be done when training is designed to meet the specific needs of the local labour market. If the skills system is to work for people and businesses, then we need to put the power to decide what training opportunities are needed in a local area in the hands of those who are best placed to understand this.

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