Greg Wade, Policy Manager at Universities UK

In amongst the flurry of policy announcements from @EducationGovUK, including the Teaching Excellence Framework, post qualifications admissions and the post-18 review, there was the very important, and welcome, Skills for Jobs white paper.

These announcements, alongside the current post-16 consultations on level 2 and below and level 3 represent a major skills reform programme and a major opportunity for the skills sector to work with employers to meet skills needs and drive opportunity and growth.

The white paper provides many proposals which build upon the Prime Ministers keynote skills speech last September including boosting funding for further education, strengthening links with employers, meeting local skills needs and increasing choice and flexibility through the proposed post 18 Lifelong Learning Entitlement.

The Skills Buildings Blocks To Support Future Recovery

It may seem challenging, in the current lockdown and with indications of a double-dip recession, to think about future economic recovery, but it is essential that we put in place the skills buildings blocks to support future recovery. The challenges for everyone, not just employers, have been considerable in both scope and scale. Putting major parts of the economy on pause is unprecedented. The pace of economic change, which was already accelerating, has got faster, with one business leader saying that they had experienced six years of change in six months. Almost overnight whole sectors have faced major change.

These challenges have placed considerable pressure not only on the skills of people in the existing workforce, including those who have had to rapidly change careers, but also on the future skills needs of the economy and how we reduce unemployment. How much does the skills white paper ensure that the skills sector can respond to these needs both now and in the future?

Boosting Funding For Further Education

It is clear that the Further Education Sector needs additional investment, so this is very welcome. We need all parts of the skills system supported to supercharge future economic growth and success. The college sector, together with universities, will have a key role in addressing technical skills gaps, especially at level 4 and 5 with the development of the new higher technical qualifications.

There is a pressing need to increase success and progression at level 2 and 3 not only because it is a vital part of levelling up and increasing opportunity, but also because you cannot meet the higher-level skills needs that are a key driver of economic growth without expanding the talent pool. This is especially so, given the impact of Brexit and the potential turning off of the tap of European talent.**** Again colleges will have a key role the proposals in all of the consultations will need to come together to support flexible opportunity and progression right up to higher level qualifications.

Strengthening Links With Employers

We should applaud any proposals that seek to enhance the collaboration between skills providers and employers. Employer engagement in learning and employer-led qualifications are now a successful model for the delivery of apprenticeships, including degree apprenticeships.

It is positive that this model will help drive the development of technical education at level 4 and 5. With change occurring so rapidly we need effective ways of ensuring employers can work with skills providers to meet their needs as quickly and flexibly as possible.

Meeting Local Skills Needs

The local level is vitally important in responding to employers skills needs, because many smaller companies are locally based and support from the skills sector needs to be tailored to the make-up of the local economy. A local focus is also a key route to increasing opportunities for both young people and retraining adults. The proposed Local Skills Improvement Plans will be able to build upon the Skills Advisory Panels and the collaborative economic strategies that have been developed by Local Enterprise Partnerships and Mayoral Combined Authorities in partnership with the skills sector.

However, it is important that local skills initiatives are well informed by national and sectoral intelligence and advice. The national Skills and Productivity Board could play a key role in informing and advising the local plans saving time and resources that would have to be duplicated if localities had to develop their own intelligence. Sectoral information and intelligence will also be needed to ensure the best possible improvement plans and the potential for revamping the Sector Deals process to support this was highlighted in our recent vision for universities.

Increasing choice and flexibility through the proposed post 18 Lifelong Learning Entitlement

The new proposed Lifelong Learning Entitlement has great potential to increase choice for learners, both those young people entering post 18 education for the first time but also those who might need to retrain and reskill. The commitment to increased flexibility and choice is welcome, especially exploring the role credit and modular provision could play, something we called for in our work with the CBI on flexible learning.

There is still considerable detail to be worked out, but ensuring that what the Prime Minister called the “pointless and non-sensical gulf” between “the so-called academic and the so-called practical varieties of education” when "everything is ultimately a skill", is a priority.

We need all providers to work together with employers and officials to ensure that learners are empowered to combine different pieces of their lifelong learning jigsaw (at different levels, both technical and academic, part-time and full-time and from different providers) to support their careers and meet employers skills needs. This will need to be clearly spelt out in careers information, advice and guidance. Policymakers will also need to make sure that the levels of funding for individuals ensure the delivery of high quality and sustainable provision across the board and consider what maintenance funding is needed.

So Where Do Universities Fit In?

Universities are already delivering about a third of level 4 and 5 technical provision, as well as higher level and degree apprenticeships. Universities have long experience of delivering courses with strong employer engagement where the qualifications are employer-led it has just been called professional education. The delivery of Nursing, Health, Engineering, Science programmes and many others such as Law and Accountancy have had a strong professional focus. We estimate over 40% of undergraduate students are on courses like this.

There are already wide-ranging and extensive links between universities and further education colleges that have a strong focus on enhancing opportunities and meeting employers skills needs, often at the local level. Universities are working with colleges and employers through the new Institutes of Technology, have supported University Technical Colleges and the National Colleges with a partnership led by the University of Birmingham being identified as the preferred bidder to work with the National College of Advanced Transport and Infrastructure. Now could be an opportunity to encourage and develop university and college partnerships to realise the vision outlined in the Future of Colleges report for England report for England of a networked tertiary education partnership to meet employer needs.

Before COVID-19 the evidence of the importance of professional, higher level skilled occupations driving jobs growth was overwhelming. Research from the Resolution Foundation found that 90% of net increase in jobs growth between 2008-18 were in professional and technical roles. The robust demand for degree apprenticeships during the current downturn also indicates the importance of higher level skills.

To meet the expected future demand for higher level skills again we need a whole skills approach, combining academic and technical, universities and colleges or we simply won’t be able to meet demand. The focus on STEM subjects is important but we must not forget services, a key driver of employment, growth and exports and the largest technical skills shortage by number of vacancies. Universities are clearly a key part of the skills system and its response to meeting technical and higher level skills needs

There are some welcome and positive building blocks for building a skills system that drives economic growth and increases opportunities.

Supercharging Economic Growth

To really supercharge economic growth and deliver the Prime Ministers vision of a skills system that benefits learners, employers and the nations of the UK as a whole we need:

A whole skills approach that brings together colleges, universities and other providers to enhance engagement with employers, clarify how local and national skills needs can be met and respond quickly and effectively

A Lifelong Learning Entitlement that puts genuine and maximum choice in the hands of learners suitably informed by information, advice and guidance

Clear pathways, progression and combinations for learners that are flexible and enable learners to develop in ways that suit their needs and circumstances.

We look forward to working with colleges, local partners, employers, learners and policy makes to help make this vision a reality.

Greg Wade, Policy Manager at Universities UK

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 4 hours 12 minutes ago

New £53 million funding for UK manufacturers to boost competitiveness through digital tech: Five brand new digital…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page