‘Skills were at the top of the agenda at the event in Birmingham, and featured in the speeches of numerous party heavyweights including education secretary Justine Greening, chancellor Philip Hammond, defence secretary Michael Fallon and even prime minister Theresa May, who proclaimed training a key element of the government’s new industrial strategy.
This show of support for skills – and in particular apprenticeships – follows a commitment from the government to implement the recommendations of the Sainsbury Review in full as part of its skills plan, albeit without a whiff of additional funding.
However, following Ms Greening’s insistence that the skills plan is “a big focus for me as secretary of state”, and an admission from Mr Hammond that more work is needed to address the skills gap, has led to speculation that more cash could be made available in the chancellor’s upcoming autumn statement.
Ms Greening, who was introduced by Fujitsu marketing apprentice Jess Shaw before her speech on Tuesday, made a firm commitment to “transform” technical education, and claimed there had been a “renaissance in apprenticeships” over the last six and a half years.
The education secretary said she was now determined to put technical education “on a par” with academic-based study………
Apprenticeships were also on the agenda for Mr Fallon, who announced that the armed forces would aim to deliver 50,000 over the course of this parliament, while environment secretary Andrea Leadsom boasted that the government was “trebling” starts on food- and farming-related frameworks.
The skills plan will see 20,000 post-16 vocational courses replaced by 15 ‘pathfinder’ routes – covering college-based and employment-based training.
This reflects the recommendations of an independent panel, led by Lord Sainsbury, which was set up by the government in November 2015 to look into reforms to technical and professional education.
Plans were also unveiled ahead of the conference on Saturday to fully fund IT courses for adults, putting ‘digital literacy on a similar footing to English and maths.’ - FE Week