Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe said:
“AELP looks forward to working with the government building on their successful apprenticeship policy and commitment to skills, implementing the Conservative manifesto pledge to ‘level up’ skills opportunities for small businesses. Nowhere is this more needed than in the ensuring of SME access to apprenticeship funding. As a matter of urgency, the February budget and next spending round must ensure that the amazing apprenticeship opportunities are equally accessible for all organisations, no matter what their size, which will also help reverse the decline in the participation of young people and first step apprenticeships that have been hit so badly since the introduction of the levy.
“We need a comprehensive new national skills strategy and getting full value out of the proposed £3bn National Skills Fund should form a key part of that. Our view is that an allocation from the Fund should be directed towards the introduction of individual skills accounts and AELP has prepared a blueprint to share with ministers for these accounts based on a robustly tested and approved provider base, a catalogue of approved learning programmes and an embracing of the latest technological advancements which will allow employers and learners to top them up.
“There are certainly successes we can build on but the new strategy must lead to a rebalancing of priorities which enable more young people who have not succeeded at school to gain access to traineeships and apprenticeships, thereby giving them the chance to earn while they learn. With Brexit now a certainty and the prospect of an Australian-style points system for inward migration with only short-term visas for the lower skilled, many key sectors of our economy will desperately want to see home-grown talent fill vacancies and high quality work based learning programmes offer the solution to that challenge.
“Adult education also needs more investment nationally and in the devolved areas, and again AELP and its members are ready to work with elected leaders to secure more local impact from that investment. For too many years, money from the adult education budget has not been spent wisely and effectively. Now is the time to put it on a new footing with a fresh approach that involves full commissioning and meets local priorities.”