From education to employment

David Willetts becomes universities and science minister

Conservative David Willetts has become the coalition government’s Minister of State for universities and science.

The MP for Havant will join new Education Secretary Michael Gove in Cabinet meetings.

Members of the Cabinet are gathering for their first meeting, as Prime Minister David Cameron finalises his Tory-Lib Dem government.

Although the small print of policies for Further Education, employability and skills has yet to be published, it is widely thought Labour’s flagship Train to Gain programme will be scrapped along with a number of education quangos.

There is also likely to be a focus from the Conservatives on Apprenticeships and pre-Apprenticeship provision.

“With Train to Gain being run down, this should require no fresh demands on the Treasury as the money will be switched to help create 400,000 work pairing, apprenticeship, college and training places over two years,” said a spokesman for the Association of Learning Providers (ALP).

“Prior to the election, the Conservatives’ skills team backed ALP proposals for a broadening of the ‘Apprenticeship family’ to cover all NVQ levels in addition to the previous concentration of provision on Levels 2 and 3.”

The ALP is hoping Mr Cameron’s coalition safeguards these proposals in an expected emergency Budget. The voice of independent learning providers throughout England also wants to see the Tories honour their manifesto commitment for 20,000 additional young Apprenticeship places.

On potential plans to rationalise the number of quangos in the sector, ALP cautioned that “the prospect of an emergency budget against the backdrop of an enormous budget deficit should not tempt ministers and officials towards a planner’s paradise”.

ALP insists a demand-led system offers the best value for money for the UK taxpayer.

Frank McLoughlin, chair of the 157 Group, an influential association of 28 colleges that are dedicated to promoting excellence in the UK, also hopes frontline services are protected in the coalition’s drive to cut waste in public services.

“The funding mechanism for the sector has become increasingly complex and fragmented, and we believe that there is scope to achieve significant savings by reducing costly bureaucracy and through economies of scale, shared services and other efficiencies,” said Mr McLoughlin.

He adds: “We look forward to working with ministers in this historic coalition to ensure that FE colleges continue to provide a key resource in enabling the new government to equip the country with the skills required to move out of recession and unemployment as soon as possible and to create a more motivated, unified and cohesive society.”

Susannah Fairbairn

(Pictured: Universities and Science Minister David Willetts)

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