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AELP welcomes Skills Bill progress, but reforms must to go further to maximise learner and employer choice

Jane Hickie
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@AELPUK welcomes Skills Bill progress, but reforms must to go further to maximise learner and employer choice

 The UK Government’s Skills and Post-16 Education Bill has received its House of Commons 2nd Reading, and moves to Committee Stage shortly. AELP welcome the principles and direction of travel contained in the Bill but warn more must be done to increase learner and employer choice. Local Skills Improvement Plans, the list of relevant providers and a further measures to extend and better enforce the Baker Clause need ironing out as the legislation makes further progress through Parliament.  

AELP has welcomed the UK Government’s flagship Skills and Post-16 Education Bill receiving its Second Reading in the House of Commons – but has warned that more needs to be done to strengthen the Bill to make the most of this opportunity to increase learner and employer choice.

The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill has now received its Second Reading in the House of Commons, giving MPs their first opportunity to debate the Government’s attempts to use the FE sector to ‘level up’ Britain. AELP welcome the Bill’s progress. However, whilst the direction of travel is positive AELP still remain concerned about a number of elements in the Bill. These include the creation of Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs), the conditions for joining the list of relevant providers, and a lack of enforcement on the Baker Clause in the Technical and Further Education Act 2017. 

Case must be made clearer for Local Skills Improvement Plans

Although we welcome news that learning providers will be given a role within LSIPs, we remain concerned that they are not a solution to the employment engagement issues identified in the DfE’s impact assessment document. Furthermore, there is absolutely no guarantee that LSIPs will be able to articulate employer and learner demand everywhere and so the Bill’s provisions on this require careful scrutiny. We would like to hear a stronger rationale from ministers for proceeding with them. 

List of relevant providers

AELP has no argument with new legislative measures to protect the interests of learners if ministers feel more are necessary – for example, we understand why those who run providers on the proposed list of relevant providers should be ‘fit and proper’. However, any conditions imposed on providers should be proportionate. No consultation has taken place on the conditions attached to a provider being on the new list. As a result, the conditions assigned to being on the provider list need full scrutiny at committee stage. 

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Measures to extend and better enforce the Baker Clause

We welcomed the inclusion of the Baker Clause in the Technical and Further Education Act 2017 and we have worked with the Department for Education on monitoring its effectiveness. There is growing concern that the clause lacks teeth and there is a widespread lack of compliance. We strongly support the government’s stated intention in the Skills for Jobs white paper to introduce a three-point-plan to enforce the Baker Clause. However, the Bill is in danger of missing an opportunity to introduce the plan. 

AELP Chief Executive Jane Hickie said: 

“AELP’s fundamental belief is that FE and skills provision should secure sustainable employment for individuals and improvements in workforce productivity while retaining a drive towards improving social mobility or ‘levelling up’. 

“Although the Bill in its current form improves the situation, there is still work to be done to maximise learner and employer choice. The Government should clarify the rationale for LSIPs, be clearer on the conditions assigned to those wishing to join the list of relevant providers, and use the Bill to outline measures to enforce the Baker Clause”. 

The Bill – which has already been through the House of Lords stages – will now move to Committee stage in the House of Commons where it will receive further scrutiny in due course.

 

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