Jamie Driscoll, Mayor, North Tyne Combined Authority

From the Adult Education Budget to the National Skills Fund

The additional opportunities the National Skills Fund will offer are welcome. This, in conjunction with our newly devolved Adult Education Budget will start to address the decline we’ve seen in the adult education participation rate in the North East, which according to the Learning and Work Institute has the lowest proportion of adult learners in 2019.

Any new money that is coming into the Combined Authority from central government is a fraction of the money that a decade of austerity has taken away. These are our taxes being returned to us. As the IFS has stated, the proposed £600m per year National Skills Fund would ‘reverse about one fifth of the cuts to total spending on adult education and apprenticeships since 2010’.

Safeguarding the Skills of our Workforce

By devolving this fund to Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs), regions will be empowered to safeguard the skills of their workforce and will be trusted to make the best decisions for the future prosperity of their region.

This additional investment is sorely needed. Industrial Strategy Council analysis has found that by 2030, about 20% of the labour market could be under-skilled for their job requirements. If skills mismatch in the UK’s labour market is projected to worsen, then we need to mitigate against this by making lifelong learning the norm.

These lifelong interventions will vary by sector and job role, but workplace skills set to experience the most acute under-skilling in 2030 are basic digital, STEM and social and emotional skills. Unison has identified that digital, supervisory and management skills are most needed in the workplace, with older workers needing more computer and digital skills.

The National Skills Fund is ideally placed to respond to these skills needs. The Fund shouldn’t be prescriptive in the courses or sectors it will support and be flexible enough to allow each MCA to respond appropriately with the best fit provision for lifelong learning, through the appropriate learning providers.

Creating Synergy within the North of Tyne Combined Authority

We are keen to avoid duplication and ensure alignment of skills interventions. There is an obvious synergy between a National Skills Fund targeted at adults and the work ongoing devolution of the Adult Education Budget.

From August this year, the NTCA will become the funding commissioner for the Adult Education Budget in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. This allows us to focus funding of approximately £22million on the current challenges facing our region; high levels of worklessness and economic inactivity, low employment rates and high in work poverty.

In the longer term, our economy will shift toward growth in sectors such as digital and technology, financial and professional business services, health and life science, energy, offshore and advanced manufacturing and tourism, leisure and culture. We are going to work with our providers to drive our residents toward opportunities in these sectors.

We will also be supporting already excellent local provision. There will be ongoing skills replacement needs as people leave the workforce, with analysis showing that the North of Tyne area also has skills shortage vacancies in Transport, Business Services & Education and the wholesale & retail sectors. We are also mindful of economic shocks that may be forthcoming and be ready to respond to these through our provider network.

And we will be working with further education colleges and local authorities based in and around the North of Tyne area to address these challenges, whilst also working with innovative and high-quality providers selected through last year’s procurement activity. Ideally more local and smaller providers should be involved upskilling their workforce, the National Skills Fund is an opportunity to support smaller business that have difficulty accessing training and development opportunities through other channels.

The National Skills Fund will provide wraparound support for this activity by taking our residents beyond their initial levels of training and build a culture and habit of lifelong learning and opportunity.

It makes sense for MCAs to take on this commissioning, to ensure that it complements, and does not compete with, existing skills interventions in a region. This will ensure that we make adult education meaningful and tailored to the individual, not the institution. A route to richer lives, not just better trained workers.


1: Devolve the National Skills Fund to Regions and LEPs

The £600m per year National Skills Fund should be devolved to and commissioned by Mayoral Combined Authorities (where they exist) and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

2: Use the National Skills Fund to Assist Small Firms to Train

The National Skills Fund should be available to support smaller businesses that have difficulty accessing training and development opportunities through other channels.

3: Use the National Skills Fund to Fund Flexible Provision

The National Skills Fund should not be restricted to courses or sector and be flexible enough to allow each region to respond appropriately with the best fit provision for lifelong learning.

Jamie Driscoll, Mayor, North Tyne Combined Authority


Making a Success of the National Skills Fund

As we enter the 2020s, adults and employers are confronted with unprecedented economic and labour market change, in this context NCFE and Campaign for Learning asked twelve authors to set out their initial thoughts on the National Skills Fund, and the journey towards a ‘right to retraining’. 

These leading thinkers recommend policies for the reform of adult education to support a changing economy in this collection of articles.

Exploring the proposed National Skills Fund and an individual’s right to retraining in more detail, these articles highlight some of the major challenges the policy faces, alongside issues which are set to further impact the economy.

The authors are:

  • Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute - Renewing Lifelong Learning through the National Skills Fund

  • Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) - Backing Adults: Turning the National Skills Fund into Skills Accounts

  • Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) - Funding Skills Accounts through the National Skills Fund

  • Ewart Keep, Director of SKOPE, University of Oxford - A Dual Approach - Retain the National Retraining Scheme and Devolve the National Skills Fund

  • Jamie Driscoll, Mayor, North Tyne Combined Authority - Devolve the National Skills Fund to Elected Mayors and LEPs

  • Gemma Gathercole, Productivity & Skills Executive Officer at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) - The National Skills Fund and Part-In, Part-Out Devolution

  • David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges - Bringing the National Skills Fund and Adult Education Budget Together

  • Simon Parkinson, CEO and General Secretary, Workers’ Education Association (WEA) - The National Skills Fund – Engaging the Whole Community

  • Kim Chaplain, Director for Work, Centre for Ageing Better - The National Skills Fund – No Older Adult Left Behind

  • Greg Wade, Policy Manager, Universities UK - HE and FE must collaborate over the National Skills Fund

  •  Andy Westwood, University of Manchester - From the National Skills Fund to a ‘Right to Retraining’

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

#SkillsWorldLive Video: Why is it important to have diversity in apprenticeships?


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 1 hour 53 minutes ago

Think20 - The #FutureOfEducation After COVID |...

Think 20 (T20) is the official engagement group of the G20, and is composed by think tanks and research institutions which serves as the 'idea bank'...

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