IPPR North Senior Research Fellow, Anna Round said in response to Gavin Williamson’s (@GavinWilliamson) post-16 Further Education Skills for Jobs White Paper:
“Skills will be vital in the recovery from Covid-19 – and from the long-term social and regional inequalities that the government has promised to ‘level up’. The ambitious programme set out in today’s White Paper offers a real opportunity to improve access to vocational learning and match skills development to the needs of local economies.
“The proposed Local Skills Improvement Plans can be a game-changer, building on a strong track record in many local areas of partnership working to identify and address skills priorities. This was a major finding in our 2018 Skills for the North report, and it’s good to see it given a central role in the new proposals. The planned College Business Centres also have the potential to forge essential links between skills development, innovation and productivity.
“Likewise, lifelong learning has for too long been treated as a peripheral issue within the education system. But in a rapidly changing economy and a society where many people will need to work for longer, opportunities to learn and to retrain are increasingly important. As well as a new funding framework, better careers advice and clearer pathways for adult learners will help to improve access.
“The White Paper is an important first step. Now we need funding for further and vocational education on a scale that matches the boldness of its proposals, and continues to reverse a decade of underinvestment in FE and skills – as recommended in IPPR’s 2020 report, Going Further: The case for investing in further education and adult skills. And we need further devolution of powers to combined authorities and local leaders, so that skills provision can be fully integrated into their strategies for dynamic and inclusive regional economies”.