FE white paper sets out ‘ambitious’ reforms to boost jobs and skills

Updated: Jan 22

The government has published its ‘Skills for Jobs White Paper’ that includes a comprehensive list of measures to “realign” the post-16 system around the needs of employers.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee will offer tens of thousands of adults the opportunity to retrain in later life, helping them to gain in-demand skills and open up further job opportunities.

While the Department for Education maintains that the plans are "revolutionary", there are a number of sector leaders who have criticised the papers saying that it "falls a bit short".

Gavin Williamson, education secretary, said: " Our reforms to post-16 education will focus on the skills people and business need for our economy to grow. As we recover from the pandemic, our Lifetime Skills Guarantee will ensure everyone has the confidence and opportunity to gain the skills they need to progress at any stage of their lives."

The white paper also sets out plans to “overhaul” the funding and accountability rules for the post-16 sector, which will be consulted on later this year.

The DFE also plans to introduce new powers to 'step in' when colleges are failing to deliver good outcomes for the communities they serve.

There has been an ongoing debate about college ownership over the past year. Most recently, Education and Skills Funding Agency director, Matthew Atkinson told MPs that he would "definitely like more power” to intervene in the running of colleges.

Key measures outlined by the DfE include:

  • Business groups, including Chambers of Commerce, working alongside colleges to develop tailored skills plans to meet local training needs; supported by a £65 million Strategic Development Fund to put the plans into action and establish new college business centres to drive innovation and enhanced collaboration with employers.

  • Giving employers a central role in designing almost all technical courses by 2030, to ensure that the education and training people receive is directly linked to the skills needed for real jobs.

  • Boosting the quality and uptake of Higher Technical Qualifications - that provide the skills that many employers say they need and that can lead to higher wages – by introducing newly approved qualifications from September 2022 supported by a government-backed brand and quality mark.

  • Changing the law so that from 2025 people can access flexible student finance so they can train and retrain throughout their lives, supported by funding in 21/22 to test ways to boost access to more modular and flexible learning.

  • Launching a nationwide recruitment campaign to get more talented individuals to teach in further education and investing in high quality professional development including a new Workforce Industry Exchange Programme.

Alongside the white paper, the government has published its interim response to the review of Post-18 Education and Funding.

The interim response details immediate plans to balance technical and academic education and future reforms with the higher education Teaching Grant. The final Post-18 review will be set out in the next Comprehensive Spending Review.