Skills and further education White Paper doesn’t go far enough

This morning the government published the ‘Skills for Jobs White Paper’, detailing the planned reforms for post-16 education.

Kate Dearden, Head of Research, Policy and External Relations at Community, says:

“Whilst we welcome some recommendations of the Skills For Jobs White Paper, we feel that it does not go far enough in its aim of a radical re-alignment of post-16 education to meet the changing needs of the economy and of employers.

We know that the nature of work, and careers, are changing fast. Skills are the new currency in work and will be critical if we are to successfully revive post-Covid Britain. We also know that across the country employers are facing skills shortages and that nationwide we face a mismatch between the skills workers held and the skills they needed to succeed in their jobs.

We are therefore deeply disappointed the White Paper fails to acknowledge the role of trade unions in job-related training, and to see no reversal in the cut of funding to union learning, which last year supported 200,000 learners to get new skills including 62,000 got basic English, maths and IT skills.

We are further disappointed to see a nationwide recruitment campaign to get more people to teach in further education is not partnered with any strong commitments to improving the pay and conditions for those teachers and support staff. After decades of underfunding and being treated as the poor and lower status relation, comparted to other areas of education, further education and those who work in it, need a massive investment of funding and resources.

However, by giving employers a central role in designing technical courses so they are directly linked to skills needed for jobs, we hope this will develop a partnership between workers, employers and unions to create a lifelong learning culture. We know that training and improving skills is not just what someone does up to the age of 18, but is a lifelong necessity in order to keep track with a changing economy. We are pleased the government recognises the urgent need for workers to be able to reskill and upskill flexibility throughout their lives.

Ambitious reform to skills systems is long overdue, and we will be reviewing the details of the White Paper and funding available as part of this package. Government must ensure workers are at the heart of our planning for the future, not as an afterthought, and should be given the skills to succeed.”

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