From education to employment

Keir Starmer announces plans on technical education colleges: Sector Response

This week’s conference will highlight Labour’s laser-like focus on growing the economy in every party of the country so that we can get Britain’s future back.

The change Labour offers is a mission-driven government taking decision for the long term to end sticking plaster politics and turn the page on 13 years of low growth and high taxes under the Tories.

Keir Starmer’s speech on Tuesday will set out the first steps of how we will deliver our five missions. Two of those first steps for national renewal are how we help people get back into work by cutting waiting lists and how we reform technical education to give people the skills they need for the future.

On technical education, Labour will power growth in every part of Britain by transforming existing FE colleges into new specialist ‘Technical Excellence Colleges’. The proposals will give communities the chance to fit skills to the needs of the local economy and empower businesses to play a bigger role in the skills revolution.

With Labour’s plans, local government will work hand-in-hand with local businesses and employers to align skills and training provision with local need and real job opportunities.

‘Technical Excellence Colleges’ would be based on a number of criteria including additional investment from local businesses and improved links to local universities. Bids will be assessed by Skills England to make sure local skills plans meet national strategic priorities to grow the economy and reskill people in the jobs of the future.

The plans will unlock opportunity for people right across Britain and meet the demands of businesses who have been calling for improved skills training. 

On waiting lists, Labour will get the NHS doing more out of hours work to get patients treated faster.

The plan will enable the NHS to provide an extra 2 million operations, scans, and appointments in the first year. Labour is pledging to invest an extra £1.1 billion to provide NHS staff overtime to work evening and weekend shifts, so procedures can be carried out. 

Labour’s plan will see neighbouring hospitals pooling their staff and using shared waiting lists, so they are working more efficiently together and making the best use of available capacity. Patients will be given the choice to travel to a nearby hospital to get treated on an evening or weekend, rather than wait longer.

The plan to get the NHS working out of hours to clear waiting lists follows the announcement of Labour’s Fit For The Future Fund, which would provide enough investment to double the number of CT and MRI scanners in the NHS over the course of a Parliament.

Sector Response

Jasmine Whitbread, Chair, Travis Perkins, said:

“I welcome the announcement today which recognises the importance of plugging the skills gap. By bringing together local authorities, local education providers and the private sector, we will be able to better utilise our skills infrastructure to deliver economic growth and the jobs that businesses need.

“By focusing on core sectors, these new Specialist Technical Skills Colleges will ensure all learners – whatever their age – are equipped for the jobs of the future and the green transition.

“As a leading partner to the construction industry, Travis Perkins is committed to playing its role in tackling the skills gap, which is why we are proud to be a major provider of apprenticeships to companies across our industry. We welcome the opportunity to explore ways to create a workforce that is fit for the future.”

Eoghan O’Lionaird, Chief Executive, Wates Group, said:

“We believe access to a skilled workforce to be a prerequisite for economic growth and we strongly welcome today’s announcement of a plan for new technical colleges and demand-led qualifications that will be delivered in partnership with industry. We look forward to seeing further detail, and to ensuring that the built environment and other sectors have access to the workforce needed to drive long-term economic growth for the communities in which we operate across the country.”

Mark Reynolds, Chief Executive, Mace Group, said:

“The construction industry cannot invest effectively in people and skills until we have clarity on the UK’s pipeline of construction and infrastructure. Over the past few years Mace has significantly expanded our own commitments around apprentice and graduate employment; and we welcome this announcement from the Labour team.

“Local skills challenges need local solutions, and the provision of specialist skills colleges and devolved funding will empower local areas to identify and fund the skills they need.”  

Leo Quinn, Group Chief Executive, Balfour Beatty and Founder of The 5% Club, said:

“In spite of an unwavering focus on investing and developing our own skills pipeline, the construction and infrastructure industry has been grappling with the effects of the skills shortage for many years. Regardless of who is in government, we need urgent action if we are to build the highly specialised skills required to turn plans into projects.

“We welcome any proposal that would prioritise a collaborative approach between government and industry, injecting a renewed focus on training our future workforce through newly created skills academies providing the high-quality apprenticeships we so desperately need – and in turn, boosting the economy and enabling growth across the UK.”

Tom Glover, Country Chair, RWE UK, said:

“The UK is facing a major skills bottleneck in filling the roles required to meet the net zero and decarbonisation challenge, with urgent action required to equip the country’s current and future workforce with the skills they need to maximise the opportunities offered by the green transition.

“It is welcome to see the Labour Party proactively focusing on this challenge as part of its ‘Clean Energy Superpower’ mission and we look forward to engaging on its specific policy proposals.”

Company Spokesperson, SSE, said:

“Unlocking the UK’s massive clean energy potential will not only create and support tens of thousands of good jobs in communities from Shetland to the Isle of Wight, but it will also make this country more energy independent.

“Taking full advantage of this opportunity requires a partnership between industry and government to make sure we have the skills we’ll need to deliver the sustainable jobs, energy security and economic growth we all want to see.  As one of the UK’s biggest clean energy companies we are fully committed to harnessing the full potential of Britain’s workforce to deliver the clean energy transition”.

Dan McGrail, CEO, RenewableUK, said:

“We welcome any new measures which support the development of the UK’s skills base in clean energy, building on the investment and initiatives taken forward by the industry to date.

“It’s through a proactive approach to skills and industrial strategy, coupled with market reform, that we can maximise job growth in sectors like offshore wind, and open up more routes for people in the UK to gain the skills to take advantage of them.”

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