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RESPONSE: Commissioners respond to the Skills For Jobs White Paper

21 January 2021

Responding to the UK Government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper for English colleges, Commissioners respond.

Amanda Melton CBE, Member of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future and Principal and Chief Executive of Nelson and Colne College Group, said:

“The UK Government’s commitment to reshaping the skills system marks the first time in many years that English colleges are put front and centre of major policy reform proposals. Today’s Skills for Jobs White Paper represents a vital opportunity for a brighter future for the many people, communities and businesses colleges support, with colleges recognised as vehicles to build back better.

“For too long English colleges’ role in the education and training system and in supporting people with the skills they need has been undervalued and underfunded. The clear commitment to bolstering further and technical education means that more people will be able to get the skills they need for good jobs and businesses will plug skills gaps. Colleges are well placed to deliver growth in higher technical education and are ready for the transformation required to keep up with the changing world of work.

“To maximise the role of colleges, routes into learning have to be clearer, more flexible and accessible to everyone, from any background and no matter their age. That’s why the proposal for a Lifelong Loan Entitlement is an important commitment to giving people the skills they need in a way that suits them with adequate and flexible finance.

“It’s been clear from our work over the past two years that the college sector is willing and able to do much more for people, productivity and place – with the right support and investment from government. I know that people right across the sector are keen to continue leading this conversation – ultimately to ensure that we ensure the quality, capability and capacity of English colleges to deliver what we need from them to create a sustainable, fair and prosperous future.”

Professor Ewart Keep, Co-Director of SKOPE and Emeritus Professor in the Department of Education, University of Oxford, and Commissioner on the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, said:

“Colleges dedicate significant time and resources to supporting businesses up and down this nation. With the White Paper’s proposals - from College Business Centres to Local Skills Plan - they have a chance to do even more to boost jobs and productivity.

“Putting employers at the heart of the system also means colleges working together in a coordinated approach met by universities. Local plans would mean that the skills system can together even better deliver on skills needs that are reflective of and reactive to local needs.

“To take full advantage of the transformational potential of colleges these reforms must be met in the long-term with meaningful and sustainable investment so that they empower people with opportunities for lifelong learning and support, to boost productivity, and to strengthen every community’s sense of place.

“As we have said in our recent reports, the process is important - and has to reflect a more collaborative approach, with the government seeing colleges as strategic partners in their own future.”