The upcoming general election has got everyone talking, but what are the two main parties, Labour and Conservative, planning to do for the Further Education sector? We read through both manifestoes for the FE and skills sector to find out what these parties are pledging to focus on.
What are Labour pledging to do for FE Colleges?
Labour’s main emphasis is on their plan to offer free, lifelong learning in FE so that everyone can upskill or retrain at any point that they choose in their life. They believe that lifelong training will deliver productivity and growth to the economy and transform communities across the UK. They will also devolve responsibility for skills to city regions or local administrations.
They would like to abandon the Conservative plans to invest money into technical colleges, and instead would prefer to use the money to increase the number of FE teachers. They would also like to extend the existing support for training to teachers in the private sector.
Labour agrees with many of the broader aims of the Sainsbury Review, but wants to ensure that vocational routes include the service sector as well as traditional manufacturing which will work alongside the industrial strategy that they plan to deliver for the whole economy. In order to implement the Sainsbury Review they will invest more in the FE and skills sector, specifically, by bringing the funding for 16-18 year olds in line with Key Stage 4 baselines, restoring the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16-18 year olds from lower and middle income backgrounds, and replacing Advanced Learner Loans and upfront course fees with direct funding, making FE courses free at the point of use.
In terms of apprenticeships, Labour feels that employer-led training is the most effective way of meeting the growing skills gap in the UK. They support the apprenticeship levy but want to set a target to double the number of completed apprenticeships at NVQ level 3 by 2022, give employers more flexibility in how the levy is used and set targets to increase apprenticeships for people with disabilities, care leavers and veterans.
To read the full Labour manifesto, click here.
What are the Conservatives pledging for FE Colleges?
The Conservative focus for Further Education is on moving forward together. They will introduce a National Investment Productivity Fund, including £250 million in funding for skills by 2020 to boost productivity. They would plan to introduce new institutes of technology in every large city in England that will be backed by leading employers and linked to universities. These institutes will provide courses at degree level and above, specialising in technical disciplines, higher level apprenticeships and bespoke courses for employers. They will also replace the existing 13,000 technical qualifications with T-levels across 15 different routes in various subjects.
They want to deal with the skills shortage by looking at a much more local level. To meet this target, they plan to ensure that Further Education Colleges deliver the skills needed by local business through Skills Advisory Panels and Local Enterprise Partnerships working at a regional and local level. They will also introduce a right to lifelong learning in digital skills and give employees the right to request leave for training.
The Conservative plan to deal with apprenticeships involves, among many other things, creating 3 million apprenticeships for young people by 2020 and introducing significantly discounted travel fares for apprentices to ensure that no one is deterred from an apprenticeship due to travel costs. They also want to launch a major review of funding across tertiary education as a whole, looking at how students can get access to financial support that offers value for money, is available across different routes and encourages the development of skills as a country.
Finally, they are pledging to invest in Further Education Colleges to make sure they have world-class equipment and facilities. They will also create a new national programme to attract industry professionals to work in Further Education.
You can read the full Conservative manifesto by clicking here.
Here at TeachInFE we hope that whichever party wins the general election maintains a strong focus on the Further Education sector, giving it the support, recognition and funding that it deserves. If we are to close the ever-growing skills gap in the UK, Further Education is the way to achieve this.