Last week, the Prime Minister announced our plans to transform the further education (FE) system, making it fit for the 21st century economy, and helping the country build back better from coronavirus.
The Government will offer free, full-funded college courses to adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification – providing them with skills valued by employers, and the opportunity to get ahead in the labour market. This offer will be paid for through a £2.5 billion boost to England's National Skills Fund coming into effect next April.
In addition, the Government will move to a system where every student will have a flexible lifelong loan entitlement to four years of post-18 education. Under this system, it will be easier for people to break up their study into segments, transfer credits between colleges and universities and undertake more part-time study. This will enable more people to do high-quality vocational courses in FE colleges and universities, and to retrain for jobs of the future.
These reforms will be backed by continued investment in college buildings and facilities, including over £1.5 billion in capital funding over the next 5 years. £500,000 of this extra Government funding has already been fast-tracked to Hartpury College to begin immediate work to repair and refurbish their buildings and campus.
On top of this, the Chancellor’s unprecedented plan for jobs is ensuring that apprenticeship opportunities continue to be available to young people and adults, with more funding for Small and Medium Enterprises taking on apprentices, and greater flexibility in how their training is structured – especially in sectors such as construction and creative industries where there are more varied employment patterns.
Finally, I was pleased to see that the Government has listened to the concerns raised by me and other colleagues in Parliament about the need for more scrutiny of Covid Regulations.
The Government have now agreed to hold votes wherever possible in Parliament on significant national measures before they come into force. However, I will be watching closely on how the Government delivers this commitment as non-England/UK-wide measures are still very significant ones.