From education to employment

FE News exclusive: Bill Rammell, Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education

The world is changing quickly and that means new challenges and opportunities for all of us.

To flourish in the global economy we need innovation, supported by world class skills. We need a major drive to improve the skills of our workforce. We need investment in training supported by the highest quality teaching in our colleges and universities. We need a skills revolution that will boost the employability of millions of adults and help employers harness the skills they need to build successful British businesses. All of this will create a more just and prosperous society.

Further education providers are crucial to the skills vision ““ delivering top quality, responsive training that helps individuals and business improve their skills. The sector is rising to the challenge but we still have a distance to travel to fully realise our ambitions and fulfil our true potential. We are working closely with our partners to build the capacity of the sector through the QIA-led National Improvement Strategy and, through a new higher standard for employer responsiveness and vocational excellence, ensure provision best meets employer’s needs. This is a very exciting time for the FE sector. The publication of World Class Skills in July, and the FE reforms announced last year mean that the FE sector must play a leading role in delivering our skills ambitions.

Train to Gain is helping employers to identify their skills needs, and source subsidised provision that will best meet those needs. We are substantially increasing the proportion of public funding that is demand-led, routing it through Train to Gain and Skills Accounts. We estimate that the total employer-focused funding will reach around £1.3 billion, and that our Train to Gain budget will be around £900 Million by 2010/11. The money is there. It is vital that providers and employers take the opportunity to make it work. By 2010 we should also have made good progress on our vocational qualification reform programme. This is an ambitious vision, but one that will bring the sector even greater rewards.

Through Skills Accounts we will help learners make better informed choices. Learners will have access to high quality independent advice and guidance and will be able to choose the learning which suits them best from a range of LSC sponsored providers.

The development of the Framework for Excellence, the new standard for vocational excellence and employer responsiveness, and the review of the National Improvement Strategy will ensure colleges and providers thrive and succeed in the demand-led environment. We have a radical ambition of a modern, more self regulating form of college and provider autonomy where they work together to set and achieve excellent standards. Workforce reforms mean a new professional status for teachers and new qualifications for them and for principals. This will ensure courses meet the needs of learners and employers.

Progression pathways supported by high quality units and qualifications at Entry and Level 1 will help those who need to progress through manageable and coherent steps to get to Level 2 and beyond. The UK wide Vocational Qualifications Reform Programme has been set up to revolutionise the nature of the qualifications structure in the UK within a simple structure that is underpinned by a credit system that allows credit accumulation and transfer to support learner and employer needs.

The proposed credit and qualification and framework will allow individuals and employers to access smaller chunks of learning and package them together in a way which best meets their needs – at a time that suits them. This will support personalised learning and labour market mobility. To be truly demand-led in the delivery of skills, we want the FE sector to go as far as possible in being responsive and flexible. We are expanding Train to Gain; this and our objective to deliver the 500,000 a year UK ambition for people in apprenticeships will help create a real culture of work based learning.

The creation of a culture of learning isn”t something restricted to the work place or college. The national campaign “Our future. It’s in our hands” was launched by the LSC on behalf of Government in July and will play a really important and powerful role in bringing about this change. If we are to deliver our ambition, we need to change attitudes and aspirations, and for people to make the link between skills and a good job.

We are currently implementing a new entitlement for a first full Level 3 qualification for 19 up to 25 year olds. Young adults under the age of 25 who have missed out on education and training opportunities will be able to get free tuition to obtain a first, full level 3 qualification, equivalent to 2 A levels.

The entitlement, which started in August, aims to remove financial barriers for young adults, providing routes that improve their qualifications and job prospects. The entitlement will encourage young adults to continue studying until they achieve the equivalent of 2 A levels and make sure they can get the qualifications to improve their life chances and contribute more to the economy.

For young people, we are ensuring that education and training will prepare them for life and work through the 14-19 reforms. The reforms offer the opportunity to choose a mix of learning styles and content that is right for them, and this will mostly be done through diplomas. The Diploma is an integrated programme that uniquely combines essential skills and knowledge, hands on experience and employer focused learning to prepare a young person for work or further study. It will contain a minimum of ten days work experience – “learning by doing.” Diplomas will be awarded as a result of achieving a number of components, some which are qualifications in their own right.

Our FE system is good and improving. Our FE system provides an effective solution for learners and employers and is the solid foundations on which to build our World Class Skills ambitions.

Bill Rammell, Minister for State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education“

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