The Government’s new strategy for skills, Skills for Sustainable Growth, and its sister publication, Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth, have been announced by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, and Skills Minister John Hayes.
The announcement – which sets out the Government’s vision for further education and skills training – was announced during Mr Cable’s keynote speech at the annual Association of Colleges conference in Birmingham.
Skills for Sustainable Growth sets out new Government reforms to improve the skills of the workforce and the performance of the economy.
The reforms include increasing the number of Apprenticeships available to 75,000; reducing bureaucracy in the further education sector; introducing government backed loans for learners aged 24 and over; and replacing Train to Gain with a programme to help small employers train low-skilled staff.
There has been mixed response from the sector after this afternoon’s announcement.
Brendan Barber, TUC secretary general, said:
“There is much to welcome in the strategy – plans to increase the number of apprenticeships, continued free courses for adults who struggle with their reading and writing, and the recognition that unions are key to helping people sign up for learning at work.
“But at a time when UK employers are still putting far too little money into training their staff, cuts to the funding of courses which adults can currently access for free will force many more employees who want to get on at work to fund their own training.”
Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), has called for more proposals based on the needs of learners, rather than the economy:
“Although the government is being honest about the significant budget cut for further education and skills, it is being disingenuous about the significant impact these cuts will have,” she said.
“Abolishing the education maintenance allowance will be hugely detrimental to developing skills amongst young people, as will removing funding from over 24s who want to take a GCSE or equivalent.
“Making apprenticeships the only option for those wanting vocational training appears deeply flawed. It is dubious whether companies will be able and willing to provide apprenticeships when the economy is weak. And we fear less scrupulous firms may use unpaid apprenticeships rather than employing staff to do their jobs.”