The Skills Landscape – All Change?

GTA England Positioning Statement; Tom Wilson, Chair, GTA England

As we approach the main summer holiday period and a welcome break in the midst of all the current changes, we do have at least one firm marker in place in the appointment of the Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP as Minister for State. DfE have not as yet confirmed that his portfolio will include apprenticeships and skills, but we hope that this announcement is made soon. He is well regarded and has a strong interest and a background in apprenticeships so his appointment is very welcome.

As with all changes there are benefits for some on leaving the EU as the weaker pound may bring export benefits for some sectors. The impact on the home market may be a slowdown in investment, including investment in skills and we will need to wait for the autumn spending review to assess government’s response.

In the mean-time, preparations are continuing for the introduction of the levy, though we are still waiting for publication of the additional employer and provider information and guidance, originally scheduled for the end of June. The economic case for investment in skills to drive productivity is all the more essential in times of economic uncertainty, and whether or not the levy goes ahead, the assumption must be that it will. GTAs will need to show they are ready and able to make it work.

Finally, the recently announced Sainsbury review and accompanying Skills Plan have been broadly, if not universally, well received. The Sainsbury review calls for:

  • Skills to be grouped into 15 clusters and a single Awarding Body to be chosen, via competition, for each qualification or group of similar qualifications in each cluster.
  • Vocational (or rather professional/technical) training to be given higher status
  • Schools and colleges to encourage young people to make an equal choice between academic and professional/technical routes at 16 or 17 (either an apprenticeship or a college based course which must involve a substantial element of real work experience).
  • An expansion of the Institute for Apprenticeships remit to include oversight of technical education

The call for professional and technical skills to have higher standing has been widely welcomed, including by the Board of GTA England. There are however, as discussions at the July GTA England Board meeting evidenced, some significant implications from implementing the plan as currently drafted, not least because of the lack of additional funding to implement these changes. We will also need to work hard to ensure that the current focus on colleges is replaced with a more balanced view
about who delivers apprenticeships; given that that 80% of apprenticeship are delivered by other providers, including the GTA network. You can view the Sainsbury report and the skills plan here

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