Conference season is here and Brexit will dominate. But what about education and skills? We asked two politicians to set out their plansby Gordon Marsden , Alok Sharma / September 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
It’s time for a National Education Service
Gordon Marsden Labour MP for Blackpool South, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Skills
The skills gap in the UK has grown as we enter a period of Brexit uncertainty. Our traditional solution to filling this gap has been to take skilled labour from outside the UK. But Brexit will make that harder. We must invest now in a far broader workforce.
Consecutive governments have failed to act. Since tuition fees were trebled in 2012, part-time and adult higher education has suffered a 59 per cent drop in England. In Further Education, the adult skills budget was cut by 40 per cent. These cuts have stopped attempts to close the skills gap. It will soon be difficult to build skilled local economies or address our productivity crisis. The government’s latest skills initiative, T-Levels, is mired in controversy.
Meanwhile the number of adults in government-funded further education is still falling. The Skills Minister recently told parliament: “we should be shocked that one in two adults have the numeracy skills of an 11-year-old.” The UK is ranked 20th globally for English and maths, with 20 per cent of young adults below the basic level. Around 9m adults have low literacy or numeracy. More than 700,000 young people (16-24) not in work or education.
The complacency surrounding basic skills and those not in education, employment or training must end. That is where Labour’s National Education Service, launched this spring, would play a central role. It would benefit workers currently in low-skill, low wage work who need new skills, as well as millions whose livelihoods are threatened by automation.
We would create a coherent system of skills with a strong focus on retraining. Universities and colleges will all have a crucial part to play.
Labour’s plans would support the neglected young, enabling them to acquire skills with our restored Educational Maintenance Allowance. We would also turbo-charge the Traineeship programme, which has been so abysmally neglected by this government, alongside our pledges on tuition fees and our commitment to a Lifelong Learning Commission.
This will not all need to be micromanaged by Whitehall. If Labour mayors and combined authorities can develop local strategies to boost skills in the service sector, the digital economy, creative industries and in…