I welcome the thematic report from Ofsted Skills for Employment, which my Department commissioned last year. Colleges, training providers, local Jobcentres and other organisations have worked hard to introduce major changes to the way in which skills provision for the unemployed is organised and delivered. Whilst the timing of the research means that it inevitably reflects a system in transition, Ofsted has identified some very good practice and has set out some valuable suggestions as to how training for the unemployed should develop.
I will be considering the Report’s recommendations in detail alongside other evaluation that we will be getting of the reforms. However, I want to set out now what I am doing, and what I plan to do, to support the sector to deliver excellent provision, to give unemployed people the skills to get into and stay in work. This is one of my highest priorities, of vital importance to our economy and fundamental to the Government’s wider welfare reforms.
I am very pleased that many colleges and providers have responded to the challenge and are finding innovative ways to transform their offer to the unemployed. The Report tells us that there is a lot of good practice already, and I am ensuring that we continue to disseminate that and help to build the level of capability, working with our partners in the sector.
Ofsted reports that many providers are using labour market information well to identify local needs and that some are responding quickly with short vocational courses and genuine work experience in collaboration with employers. This confirms my view that the best job outcomes derive from programmes linked to actual job vacancies using the sector-based work academy model, and I intend to build on this, particularly for young adults as this is an important element of the Youth Contract. We are providing full Government subsidy for pre-employment training for the unemployed and testing the use of job outcome payments in the coming academic year. I will examine the results from that carefully, to inform decisions on a longer term approach.
Good quality provision which delivers results for individuals relies on close working arrangements with local Jobcentres. I recognise that this can bring challenges, particularly in the early days of a partnership. However, providers in many areas have developed good relationships to fit their local circumstances. I am keen that bureaucracy does not get in the way of effective provision and will continue to work with my colleagues in the Department of Work and Pensions to drive forward a more streamlined process.
In general, I am proud of the quality of further education and skills provision. In HMCI’s most recent Annual Report, it reported that around 70% of further education providers were rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ at their latest Ofsted inspection. In this new report, Ofsted has quite rightly highlighted the importance of initial assessment and provision which genuinely prepares unemployed people for work, particularly in English and maths. I will give this area particular attention as we take forward the outcomes of our wider English and maths review.
Ofsted’s Report provides a great opportunity to learn from the past year’s experience and build high quality programmes for the unemployed in the coming academic year.
I welcome and applaud the FE Sector’s willingness to embrace change, readiness to innovate and impressive commitment to learners and communities.
Thank you for all you do.
John Hayes MP is Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning