Jane Hickie

@jane_hickie @AELPUK response to FE white paper 

AELP welcomes the Skills for Jobs white paper with its outcome focused approach and emphasis on working closely with employers.  

We are also pleased that the role of independent training providers is recognised, not just in delivering apprenticeships but also in adult education and other forms of training.

Other positive steps forward which AELP has supported previously include: 

  • expansion of digital skills provision
  • moves to an all-age careers service for England
  • the Baker Clause enforcement measures and its extension to Year 7 pupils
  • a consultation on provider performance accountability, providing that under-performance is acted upon by the contract awarders
  • T levels not being the only non-apprenticeship level 3 vocational qualifications on offer
  • investment in workforce development across the FE and skills sector. 

Local Skills Improvement Plans

AELP believes that piloting the Local Skills Improvement Plans would be prudent and will be important.  There are major issues to untangle and understand. The local skills and employment infrastructure is complex, so it will be vital for all the stakeholders to see more details including what the proposed chamber-led trailblazers are going to be responsible for.  

For example, which budgets will come within the scope of the Plans and will they work on a funding allocation model because the white paper infers a move away from using procurements?  Another question is whether these Plans will only operate outside the mayoral combined authority areas. 

AELP will be happy to input into the discussions on multi-year contracts but in the same way that the DWP managed the Work Programme, there must be potential penalties, including contract removal, or clawbacks for providers and colleges that perform poorly. 

It is a sensible approach to change to ensure that the key proposals in the document will be subject to further consultation or pilots, such as the trailblazers. 

Another major refresh of the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers so soon after the last one will not be celebrated in the provider community, but we are not going to oppose it in the current circumstances but the ESFA should work closely with the sector to ensure the exercise is managed effectively.

 Association of Employment and Learning Providers managing director Jane Hickie said

“The government has adopted the right approach to reform bearing in mind that we are in an economic recession. The emphasis should be on learners finding jobs or retraining. 

“Independent training providers have led the way in the growth of apprenticeships and they are also major drivers of provision in traineeships, study programmes, ESF projects and adult education.  Therefore the proposals for chamber-led Local Skills Improvement Plans for programmes other than apprenticeships need careful unpicking and piloting, involving all the key stakeholders. 

“The reforms for careers advice, especially in relation to the Baker Clause, receive an unreserved welcome from AELP.  The extension of the Baker Clause’s scope to Year 7 pupils is fantastic because this will help raise awareness about apprenticeships further and address issues such gender stereotyping in certain professions. 

“Strengthened accountability for provider performance is supported but we have been here a few times before.  We have always supported provider accountability for performance and this remains an important part of sector management to ensure that good performance is rewarded.  We hope that real teeth are evident from now in tackling poor quality and that a good track record of delivery is properly recognised in future contract awards, whether the funding system is local or national.

“AELP and its members looks forward to playing a full part in taking the proposed reforms forward.”

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