Apprenticeships, T-Levels, Devolution… what is the way forward for the Skills System?

Apprenticeships, T-Levels, Devolution… what is the way forward for the Skills System?

12th March 2019

FETL is pleased to announce that Policy Connect, the Skills Commission and Learning and Work Institute is initiating its funded inquiry looking to find solutions to build a successful learning and skills ecosystem that can adapt to future economic and social change.

01 March 2019, Westminster, London

“I hope that ministers will use the support for a 10-year, truly long-term plan in this House to secure the best possible deal from the spending review, and I hope that this will be the start of a different sort of planning for schools and colleges.” Robert Halfon MP, Halfon: FE cuts were ‘not an accident’ [TES, 26 Feb 2019]

The Skills Commission, Policy Connect and the Learning & Work Institute are today announcing their next major research project. The inquiry, grant funded by the Further Education Trust for Leadership, will look at how to build a successful learning and skills ecosystem that can adapt to future economic and social change.

Over the past decades, the skills system has been in constant flux with endless policy change. This has led to a fragmented system that is hard to navigate; an overarching vision is needed so that the sector can flourish in a coordinated way.

Examples of the reforms implemented include: the expansion of apprenticeships, the introduction of T Levels and devolution of the Adult Education Budget. Although these policies are each designed to address challenges in the skills system, they simultaneously involve new ways of delivering learning and new ways of engaging young people, adults, and employers.

The Skills Commission and its partners recognise the opportunity to evaluate the current state of play and establish a vision. This means we can ensure that the government’s landmark investments into the apprenticeship levy, degree apprenticeships, and T-Levels (and more) can succeed together through collaboration for future challenges such as the local Industrial Strategies and the devolution agenda.

Of the inquiry, co-chair the Rt. Hon Sir John Hayes CBE MP, former Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning said: “This research is based on regional evidence sessions to explore local implementation, collaboration and experiences, avoiding a top-down Westminster-only focus. My constituency of South Holland and The Deepings is well-known for its rural industries and production, and taking evidence these areas is vital to highlight skills needs beyond that of the big-hitting cities.”

Inquiry co-chair Barry Sheerman MP, and former chair of the Education Select Committee, said: “Apprenticeships and other reforms have been designed to address current challenges but the constant change is confusing for employers and providers alike. What we now need is clear vision with joined-up thinking so that all involved can work together to address both current needs and future challenges.”

Dr Fiona Aldridge, Director of Policy and Research at Learning and Work said: “Significant change is underway in the learning and skills system. Each of these changes requires new ways of delivering learning and new ways of engaging people and employers. Our ambition is that this Inquiry will demonstrate how these changes have influenced the shape of our current provider base, and provide a blueprint for what a successful skills ecosystem of the future might look like.”


Regional Evidence Sessions

The regional evidence roundtables will be held in: Spalding on 28th March; Middlesbrough on 4th April; and Bristol on 23rd May. These locations will allow the Commission to explore three local areas with different experiences in terms of population, labour market structures, economic output, skills provider networks, and socioeconomic inequalities, all of which influence the local and regional skills systems.

High Calibre Commissioners

“This inquiry is a timely and much needed opportunity to explore the gap between the stated intention of our skills system and its realisation on the ground in different parts of the country. The range in the strong team of panel experts will ensure a systemic analysis and an honest view.” Dame Ruth Silver, President, Further Education Trust for Leadership

The Skills Commission has convened a number of high level commissioners to oversee the research project and provide insight. These include sector experts, employer representatives, and academics.

  • Dr Fiona Aldridge, Director for Policy and Research, Learning and Work Institute
  • Simon Kelleher, Head of Education and Skills, Policy Connect
  • Alice Barnard, Chief Executive, Edge Foundation
  • Alan Cave, Chief Executive, APM UK
  • Verity Davidge, Head of Education and Skills Policy, Make UK
  • Mark Dawe, Chief Executive, AELP
  • Paul McKean, Head of FE and Skills, Jisc
  • Professor Andy Green, Professor of Comparative Social Science, UCL Institute of Education
  • Smita Jamdar, Partner, Shakespeare Martineau
  • Dr Ewart Keep, Director SKOPE, University of Oxford
  • Marguerite Ulrich, Chief Human Resources Officer, Veolia
  • Jasbir Jhas, Senior Adviser, LGA
  • Dr Sue Pember, Director of Policy and External Relations, Holex
  • Paul Eeles, Chief Executive, Skills and Education Group


Further information and facts

  • The 2016 referendum results shines light on tackling local needs and future challenges.
  • Recent decades have seen a host of new policies designed and implemented with little regard for the nature of the skills ecosystem needed to deliver these.
  • Technological advancement is changing the labour market and 10-35% of UK jobs are estimated to be at high risk of replacement in the next 20 years.
  • Since 2000 there have been 25 major reforms to the skills system, and since 1981 there have been 30 major Acts relating to the development, organisation and structure of vocational and further education and skills training in the UK.
  • Adult learners from the most disadvantaged backgrounds engaging the least in learning, according to figures from the Social Mobility Commission.
  • The Higher Education Commission revealed findings that 63% of degree apprenticeship standards have no or just one provider that can deliver to non-levy payers (SMEs) and that 43% of degree apprenticeship standards have no providers that are able to deliver to non-levy payers (SMEs).
  • Examples of the uneven administering of policies without an overarching vision include: 69 providers offer the Chartered Management standard (for levy payers) compared to an average of 4 providers for all other degree apprenticeship standards. This also compares to 17 providers for chartered surveying, 13 for civil engineering, 12 for registered nursing, and 0 for paramedics.

Read more here and download the call for evidence here. 

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