From education to employment

Skills Minister John Hayes reflects on a busy time for FE

Without a doubt it has been a busy few months. It has been a time not only of taking stock and looking at how our FE and skills system is working, but of moving forward and getting things done.

I believe that I, and this coalition Government, have now nailed our colours to the mast. We have set a social agenda through the ‘Big Society’, What Government delivers must meet genuine social need. Our plans for skills will be determined by a process of open dialogue with both learners and the experienced professionals who deliver training on the ground.

One of the first actions my department took was to divert funding from Train to Gain to much sought-after Apprenticeships. £150 million will pay for an extra 50,000 Apprenticeship places this year opening the doors to employment for those who need it most.

Now I am consulting on a new skills strategy that will be published in autumn after the Spending Review. As I have said before, I am determined to have an education system that meets the needs of all those it is serving from start to end: young and old, at school, college or university. Above all, and as my title demonstrates, I am interested in adult and community learning.

The Government has outlined its priorities in developing skills in this country to keep us internationally competitive and to support people in to work. Individual learning and the enjoyment to be had in doing that is central to these priorities.

The need to establish a system that makes possible a truly lifelong approach to learning, nurturing sustainable economic growth and social renewal, is perhaps more urgent than it has ever been before.

When it comes to FE colleges and training organisations, this means freeing them from unnecessary bureaucracy, so that they are held accountable to learners and employers rather than Government and given the freedom to deliver the skills that learners and employers require.

For businesses it means, above all else, listening and responding to economic need. Businesses should be working with Government, colleges, charities and social enterprises to identify training and skills needs.

This is a tight fiscal environment and so we must all also think carefully about value for money. BIS’ funding consultation, running alongside the skills strategy, is asking how we can provide fair and high quality education whilst making sure that we account for the money spent and that it is being put to good use.

We must look to provide less wasteful workplace training for employers and we must support the delivery of further adult education and community learning. Of course this fits in neatly with Chris Banks’ review of co-funding which examined the barriers providers face in securing investment from employers and individuals. I am currently considering the recommendations and implications of this review.

Value for money is something we are hearing across Government at the moment, and it has been central to another review we are carrying out at BIS: a review of offender learning.

Crime currently costs this country around £60 billion a year, with £9 billion of this the result of reoffending. Yet with effective and relevant courses we can cut the figure, by better equipping offenders to find work when they re-join society. The benefits are two-fold and can only have a positive impact on the wider public.

I want offender learning to focus on areas of the economy where we have a skills gaps, and I want the system to be more effective in reducing reoffending. This means a look at learning provision as a whole: the subjects that are taught, how they are provided, the qualifications on offer and the value for money we are getting.

When the review is complete it will affect not just BIS but the Government’s plans to reform the criminal justice system in its entirety.

So whilst the work we have been doing this month has had financial considerations at its heart, it has been above all about value. This is value to be measured not just in notes and coins, but in achievements, enjoyment and satisfaction.

Our skills system is about people, whether they are in college, work or adult education. It must be about them at the end of the day and it must serve them efficiently and effectively. This is, and always will be, my number one priority.

John Hayes is Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning

Read other FE News articles by John Hayes: 

Skills Minister John Hayes unveils a new future for Further Education

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