From education to employment

Tory frontbencher fails to make firm policy but suggests less centralisation in FE

4 million adults would still fall short of the literacy skills expected from an 11-year old child even if the government met its performance targets by 2020.

Furthermore, 12 million would not have the equivalent numeracy skills.

John Hayes MP, Conservative Shadow Minister for Vocational Education outlined these statistics along with the fact that “projections suggest that up to 75% of jobs in 2012 are likely to require skills to at least Level 3, but only 50% of the current workforce have attained this level”.

In addition, “the UK has one of the lowest levels of participation in learning by 17 year olds of any nation in the OECD”.

While admitting that “like other frontbenchers”, he “cannot make firm policy”, Mr Hayes did propose a number of ideas he believes would combat the rising skills inequity, rejecting the notion of immigration as a measure of filling competency gaps: “Predominately young and hardworking people from the new EU states often have skills that we lack. But immigration is a palliative, not a cure for the skills crisis”.

Strikingly, the MP for South Holland & The Deepings said: “Unrestricted immigration strains our capacity to provide school places, healthcare and housing and it has an unpredictable affect on unemployment as recently released figures make clear”.

In a lengthy speech, he claims: “There is a danger that the weight of central direction and control is stripping FE professionals of a clear sense of vision and purpose. Too often vocational education is seen as the poor relation of academic education”.

“A generation cheated; a moral imperative to save the next”.

One of his recommendations is to closer scrutinise the work of the Sector Skills Councils: “We should look again to the role the Sector Skills Councils play. Not all yet work well. But many do. And some, like Skillset, GoSkills and SEMTA, excel. They are employer-led organisations covering specific sectors. Perhaps they should play a more important role at the heart of a demand-led system”.

He also puts forward a more rigorous mentoring programme for apprenticeship schemes, citing the fact that a “lack of mentoring helps to explain why 30 per cent of apprentices drop out of the Modern Apprenticeship programme”.

Furthermore, he proposes extending the specialist school initiative to FE colleges, saying: “We could extend the specialist schools idea to FE colleges, giving birth to a new generation of high profile specialist colleges, endowed by and linked to particular businesses or business sectors”.

“Not two nations ““ the academic and the rest ““ but one, where each according to his aptitude provides to others according to their needs”, Mr Hayes concluded.

For the full text of his speech, click here.

Vijay Pattni.

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