This week will see a major development in further education and skills in England. From 1 April, the Skills Funding Agency will fund and regulate adult further education and skills in England. Alongside other changes to the post-19 landscape I believe it will transform the adult skills system and play a fundamental role in growing the economy.
We have seen huge improvements in further education and skills in recent years with more people successfully completing apprenticeships than ever before, FE college success rates rising to 80.7% in 2007/08 and over 1 million people gaining qualifications through Train to Gain.
But we must do more. Both as a nation and as individuals, our skills help determine our ability to compete in the global economy. It is critical that we have the right support in place to optimise our potential.
The Skills Funding Agency will do just that. It is not a planning agency, but a funding agency that will take its lead from individuals and employers. In response to their demand for skills it will swiftly and efficiently route funding directly to colleges and training organisations. To help secure our economic future its strategic priorities will recognise those industries which have high potential for growth and incentivise those choices which drive growth.
We have designed this new agency to be responsive, focused and efficient. The result will be reduced bureaucracy, simpler systems and a more relevant service for learners, employers, colleges and training organisations alike.
There will be clear, tailored contact points for everyone and we have created clear process through which employers can influence the strategic priorities of the Skills Funding Agency. Better information flowing from nationally consistent systems will allow employers and adults to decide what they need, rather than the Government telling them. Crucially, it will also give colleges and training organisations the freedom to be innovate and be entrepreneurial in meeting the needs of employers and learners.
The Skills Funding Agency will support easy access and support to learning through four key channels. The Adult Advancement and Careers Service will provide people with information on what learning is available and how to access it. The National Apprenticeship Service will promote apprenticeships and provide support for employers and apprentices throughout their learning. Train to Gain and the National Employer Service will provide specialised learning to meet the needs of employers. Most learners and employers will continue to access publicly and privately funded learning through direct contact with colleges and training organisations.
As new and established businesses grow to meet the opportunities in the new global economy, the new adult skills system will ensure they are able to get the skilled workers they need in the right place and at the right time. It will also empower individuals to make the most out of their careers. The Skills Funding Agency will offer the support needed as we work to secure the economic recovery and look towards future growth and prosperity.
Kevin Brennan is Minister for Further Education, Skills and Apprenticeships
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