David Evennett is Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills

Earlier this month, I was fortunate to be part of a special Apprenticeship Week event, during which I shadowed apprentices working in a hairdressing salon in my constituency. This is the second year that I have participated; having shadowed child care apprentices in Bexleyheath last year. Both times, I have been very impressed with the work ethic and commitment of the apprentices and the dedication of the staff in trying to help them develop.

I am a big supporter of Apprenticeships. Not only are they an important part of our system of vocational education, they support business and represent an investment in the future of our country, particularly in these difficult economic times. That is why we want to develop and expand Apprenticeships and pre-Apprenticeship training if the Conservatives win the General Election.

Providing the funding for these places is not enough. We need to work with businesses, so that it is easier to run Apprenticeship schemes, and ensure that they have the support they need. We also need a new system of careers advice, so that people of all ages can find out about Apprenticeship opportunities.

We are currently discussing the submissions we received from the sector to our recent consultation on FE funding and learning accounts to see how our programme could be best delivered. Perhaps the most common response to our consultation was that the current system of funding is unnecessarily bureaucratic and complex and often based on national, rather than local requirements. It has been suggested that information gathering and compliance costs FE colleges around £220m a year - we can’t go on like this.

We hope to publish a new paper very soon, detailing how a Conservative Government could reduce the bureaucratic burden, increase flexibility, and deliver our plans for more pre-Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship training.

As ever, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any examples or cases that you would like to raise with me to help inform our policy development.

What is our skills strategy for 50+ employees?

We have developed skills policies for people of all ages. Our all age careers service would be open to everyone, providing advice on skills opportunities and career development. Our proposals to expand pre-Apprenticeship training and Apprenticeships will be open to all. But specifically, we would also have a Community Learning fund, so that older people can develop new skills.

What is our skills strategy for a low carbon future?

A Conservative Government will make developing renewable and low carbon energy sources a priority; so it is important that there are opportunities to develop skills in this area. We have already committed to increasing the number of university places by 10,000. We would reduce bureaucracy, and give colleges greater freedom, so that they are in a better position to respond to the demands of companies and organisations involved in delivering renewable and low carbon energy in the future. We also want to create clearer pathways from vocational routes into Further and Higher Education.

Is there a case for thinking about student support post-18 not simply in terms of one (relatively generous) system for HE and another (impoverished) one for FE but to move towards a more coherent unified system - and one which is more equitable between full and part-time study?

I appreciate the points you have raised. I believe that Lord Browne’s review of student support and finance should be looking at a wide range of issues, and not just university tuition fees. There does need to be a fairer deal for part-time and mature learners.

How would a Conservative administration fund adult Level 3 apprenticeships?

Conservatives would refocus the Train to Gain budget to provide more pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training, including at Level 3. We have been consulting on how this could be delivered, including through our proposed Lifelong Learning Accounts.

David Evennett is Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills

Read other FE News articles by David Evennett:

Universities and Skills Shadow Minister answers policy questions

Help us shape the future of Further Education

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