From education to employment

Introducing Alex Burghart, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills – Sector Reaction

Alex Burghart, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills

Alex Burghart appointed Apprenticeships and Skills Minister 

Alex Burghart, Conservative MP for Brentwood & Ongar, has been announced as a parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Education, during a cabinet reshuffle earlier this week (15 Sep).

His portfolio is yet to be confirmed say sources at DfE, but have released his official responsibilities as follows:

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills), Alex Burghart MP

The minister’s responsibilities include:

  • strategy for post-16 education (jointly with Minister of State for Universities)
  • technical education and skills including T Levels and qualifications review
  • apprenticeships including traineeships
  • further education workforce
  • further education provider market including quality and improvement and further education efficiency
  • adult education, including the National Retraining Scheme and basic skills
  • Institutes of Technology and National Colleges
  • reducing the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training
  • careers education, information and guidance including the Careers and Enterprise Company
  • coronavirus (COVID-19) response for further education services

Commenting on his appointment to DfE, Alex said:

“I am very pleased to have been given a role in the Department of Education in the Prime Minister’s reshuffle this week. I am joining the new Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, Ministers Michelle Donelan and Robin Walker, and my Essex colleague Will Quince as a Parliamentary Under Secretary and look forward to the new challenge.

“Having had the pleasure of visiting every school in the Brentwood and Ongar constituency since being elected in 2017, I have no doubt our local headteachers and school staff, parents and pupils will continue to share their views on education policy with me, and I thank them for being so frank about the issues they have faced in recent years.”

Alex Burghart is a British Conservative Party politician who was re-elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Brentwood and Ongar at the December 2019 general election, having first been elected in June 2017. Burghart was formerly a teacher, university lecturer and special adviser to Theresa May when she was PM.

Close to the Prime Minister, Alex has great understanding of how 10 Downing Street and parliament works

Before the reshuffle Alex’s previous role was Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson (since July 2019). So he has had a very close working relationship with the PM. He was previously the PPS Geoffrey Cox when he was the Attorney General and the PPS to Karen Bradley when she was the Northern Ireland Secretary of State.

Strong background in Education, as a lecturer, political advisor and working in a think tank

Alex was previously a political advisor in Education. In 2008 Alex was policy adviser to Tim Loughton who was the Shadow Minister for Children and Young People, he then worked on the Munro Review of Child Protection at DfE.

Back in 2012 Alex was Director of Policy at the Centre for Social Justice Think Tank, which was co-founded by Iain Duncan Smith. In 2016 he was the Director of Strategy and Advocacy for the Children’s Commissioner  Anne Longfield. He then went onto be a part of Theresa May’s policy team when she was Prime Minister.

Accomplished author – particularly around developing solutions for vulnerable children

Alex is the author of ‘A Better Start in Life: Long-term approaches for the most vulnerable children’, published by Policy Exchange in 2013. He is also a published writer about early medieval England and regularly contributed to the Times Literary Supplement for over 12 years!

He was also a part of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Work and Pensions Select Committee. He also chairs the APPG on Adverse Childhood Experiences

Michelle Donelan – Minister of State for Universities 

Michelle Donelan 750x570

Alex will be jointly responsible for post-16 education strategy alongside Minister for Universities, Michelle Donelan MP.

Michelle Donelan was appointed Minister of State for Universities at the Department of Education on 13 February 2020.

She was previously Government Whip (Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury) from 29 July 2019 to 13 February 2020. She was also an unpaid Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education covering the maternity leave of Kemi Badenoch MP from 4 September 2019 to 13 February 2020.

The Minister for Universities’s responsibilities include:

  • strategy for post-16 education (jointly with Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills)
  • universities and higher education reform
  • higher education student finance (including the Student Loans Company)
  • widening participation in higher education
  • quality of higher education and the Teaching Excellence Framework
  • international education strategy including education exports international students and technology in education (Edtech)
  • Opportunity Areas programme
  • Opportunity North East programme
  • coronavirus (COVID-19) response for universities and higher education institutions

 Sector Reaction 

david hughes 100 x100Chief Executive of Association of Colleges, David Hughes said: 

“Over the last 18 months there has been a definite positive shift in the profile and respect for apprenticeships, colleges and skills within government and we would like to thank Gillian Keegan for her contribution to that. She worked hard for our sector and her many visits to colleges did not go unnoticed. I look forward to meeting with Alex Burghart as he takes on the Apprenticeships and Skills brief and welcoming him to visit any of our great colleges.

“This is a once in a generation moment for education and skills. For too long the system has been disjointed and based on unnecessary and unhelpful competition between providers across tertiary education. The expansion of Michelle Donelan’s role, working jointly with Alex Burghart across post-16 strategy suggests a more coherent policy and political framework for tertiary education, mirroring the direction of travel in Wales and Scotland. This could be a great step forwards for stronger working between colleges, universities and apprenticeship providers to help learners and employers navigate a complex system.

“For those that were wondering what was going to happen after the publication of the Post-18 review, the optimists among us, like me, will take this as a positive sign the government is serious about enacting many of its recommendations. 

“As the Spending Review edges closer and the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill goes through Parliament, I look forward to working more closely with Michelle Donelan and building a strong relationship with Alex Burghart in the weeks and months to come.”

tom bewick 100x100Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) said:

“The Federation is delighted with the appointment of Alex Burghart to the skills and apprenticeship brief.

“We look forward to continuing our conversations with him and his department on how we get qualifications reform right;

“ensuring better learner choice for 16-19 year olds in future; as well as increasing the number of high-quality apprenticeships for people living in England.” 

Jane Hickie 20Dec 100x100Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Jane Hickie said:

“We welcome Alex Burghart to his new role which is hugely significant to the ‘build back better’ pandemic recovery effort.  Like the Chancellor, Mr Burghart is another MP who does not have a college in his constituency and we will be saying to him that independent training providers are very good at reaching out to small businesses and individual learners in small towns and rural areas.  They have a major contribution to make to the levelling up agenda, the importance of which has been underlined by No.10 in the reshuffle.

“As well as urging him to support the extension of the employer apprenticeship incentives, AELP will be seeking a discussion with the new skills minister about putting the funding of apprenticeships on a sustainable footing as the levy is bound to come under pressure again as it was before the pandemic. We will also ask him to take a hard look at the Adult Education Budget because in terms of retraining, the AEB could be playing a much more important role in supporting the economic recovery.

“In addition to reading the white paper, we hope that Mr Burghart has in his red box the DfE’s own impact assessment document for the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill which admits that significant costs could be imposed on providers by the introduction of the ‘list of relevant providers’.  Other areas of the Bill which require further scrutiny are LSIPs, the omission of enforcement of the Baker Clause and no statutory backing for the Prime Minister’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee.”

Ian Pretty Dec 2018 100x100Ian Pretty, CEO of Collab Group said:

“Collab Group is delighted to welcome Alex Burghart as the new minister for apprenticeships and skills. We look forward to working with him to take forward the DfE’s priorities for further education colleges.

“With the comprehensive spending review process and the skills bill in progress, the coming months will be critical to ensure that colleges are empowered to deliver a skills led economic recovery. Collab Group colleges are keen to work with Mr Burghart and the DfE to build a world-class system for technical and professional education.”

Tristram Hooley 100x100Tristram Hooley, Professor of Career Education, University of Derby, said:

“Under Gillian Keegan, the DfE gave little thought to how to develop England’s career guidance system. While there were frequently warm words, there was very little action. Yet, the need for career guidance has never been greater.

“The post-pandemic education system and labour market may look very different and people are going to need help in navigating them successfully. Aelx Burghart has a real opportunity to make a big difference here. We need a career guidance system that is more coherent, better resourced and in which professionalism and evidence are valued and supported.”

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