Skills for Jobs White Paper - Statement

– in the House of Lords at 1:01 pm on 26th January 2021.

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The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Thursday 21 January.

“With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the publication of a skills for jobs White Paper on the next steps for post-16 education reform.

Last October, I notified the House of our plans to introduce a dynamic programme of measures to reshape this country’s further and technical education landscape, which is a key part of our mission to empower everyone in this country and level up those areas that have been overlooked and underresourced for too long.

I informed honourable and right honourable Members that the details of how we would do this would be spelled out in a White Paper, and I am pleased to announce its publication today.

The House needs no reminding that this country stands at a critical point in its history. We have some enormous challenges ahead. There is an urgent need to rebuild an economy injured by the Covid pandemic. We have already outlined an unprecedented support package to protect jobs and offer retraining to those who have lost theirs due to Covid-19, but beyond Covid we must also forge a new identity as an independent trading nation. Both those challenges have exposed our need for a strong and flourishing technical education sector to fire up the jobs of the future.

This White Paper is our blueprint for that future. It will play a pivotal role in creating jobs and rebuilding our economy. Through the lifetime skills guarantee, we will help people train and retrain at any stage of their lives. Our new flexible digital skills bootcamp training will give people the technical skills they need for great jobs through 12 to 16-week courses, and those bootcamps will expand into other sectors, such as engineering. From this April, tens of thousands of adults will be able to benefit from almost 400 free courses, which will be the first phase in the lifetime skills guarantee. These fully funded courses, which range from engineering to healthcare and conservation, will be available to adults without a full qualification at A-level equivalent or above, to help them gain skills that are in demand and that will open up exciting job opportunities for them.

In April, we will also kick-start the expansion of higher technical education, as we work towards making it as easy to get a loan for an approved higher technical qualification as it is for a full-length degree. We will also introduce pilots to encourage more flexible and modular provision, so that courses are more accessible and convenient. Lifelong loan entitlement will be up and running from 2025 and will build on the changes we are bringing in through this White Paper. Learners will be able to fit study around work, family and personal commitments and retrain as their circumstances and the economy change.

This White Paper is going to put employers firmly at the centre of our local skills systems, working in partnership with colleges and key local stakeholders to shape technical skills provision, so that it better supports the local economy. It will introduce German-style local skills improvement plans, which will be led by business organisations such as local chambers of commerce. Those plans will identify the skills that an area needs and spell out what needs to change to make training more responsive to employers’ needs. In turn, our further education colleges will shape the courses they offer to meet those skills needs, and we will make strategic development funding available to help them do that. We will start the ball rolling with a small number of trailblazer areas this year, and we will pilot a strategic development fund of £65 million in 2021-22 to help providers reshape provision to meet local employers’ needs.

By putting the employer voice at the heart of skills provision, we will ensure that technical education and training gives people the skills they need to get great jobs in sectors that the economy needs and boost this country’s productivity. We will back this through £1.5 billion of capital funding to upgrade our further education colleges. Today we announced the next phase of the FE capital transformation fund, and last week we made the next wave of capital funding for T-level providers available, with £135 million available to those delivering them in September 2022.

As far as long-term plans are concerned, we are going to move to a more coherent, simpler funding model that we will design together with the sector, and we will consult on it later in the spring. It will ensure a far more focused approach to funding. The consultation will be guided by the principles of high value, greater flexibility for providers, and enhanced accountability, which will see providers taking greater responsibility for their results. By 2030, we expect nearly all technical courses to follow employer-led standards, so that we ensure that the education and training people receive are directly linked to the skills that they will need to get a job.

We will continue with our existing programme of reforms in areas such as employer-led apprenticeships and our T-level programme. All apprenticeship starts are now on employer-designed standards. We will support employers in making greater use of their levy contributions by improving the transfer system and having more flexible training models.

The White Paper will also extend our network of institutes of technology to every region of the country, and we will see a corresponding increase in higher-level technical skills in science, technology, engineering and maths. In this way, we will future-proof our workforce, so that we are ready to deal with a constantly evolving economic landscape.

All our reforms depend on our ability to recruit and retain top-quality teaching staff in the further education sector, so we will launch a national recruitment campaign for further education teachers, strengthen initial teacher education, improve the support that new teachers receive, and help to provide more opportunities for improved training and development, such as work experience, as part of our industry exchange programme.

When the Prime Minister announced the lifetime skills guarantee last year, he spoke of how we will align our further and higher education sectors. I can tell the House that we have published the interim conclusion of the review of post-18 education and funding, which addresses some of the key recommendations made by Dr Philip Augar in his report from 2019. I have laid copies of the report of Dame Shirley Pearce’s independent review of the teaching excellence and student outcomes framework, and the Government’s response, before both Houses of Parliament. Today I have also published the post-qualifications admission reform consultation, which seeks views on whether to change the system of higher education admissions and move to a system of post-qualification admissions.

Our proposed reform to the teaching grant for the academic year 2021-22 will allocate funding in a way that delivers value for money for students and the taxpayer, and increases support for strategic subjects such as engineering and medicine, while slashing the taxpayer subsidy for such subjects as media studies. We want to ensure that our small and specialist providers, including some of our top music and arts providers, receive additional support, and that grant funding is used to support students effectively as well.

This spring, we will consult on further reforms to the higher education system, including the introduction of minimum entry requirements to higher education institutions and addressing the high cost of foundation years, before setting out a full response to the report, and a final conclusion to the review of post-18 education and funding, alongside the next comprehensive spending review.

The White Paper is a step change in how this country prepares people for their working lives. I know there is enormous cross-party consensus, and a real will on all sides of the House to make a real change in this sector—a change that has been needed for so long. I very much hope that all Members will work together to ensure that we can deliver on this. These proposals will ensure that people can learn the skills they need to get a great job and have control over the means of ensuring a more fulfilling and productive life. This White Paper will be the lever to unleash our nation’s creativity and talents, and will make this country an economic force to be reckoned with. I commend this Statement to the House.”

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Shadow Spokesperson (Further & Higher Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and International Trade) 1:13 pm, 26th January 2021

My Lords, I welcome this White Paper—it is not often that I say that—and I am glad that the Government have finally recognised the importance of further and technical education, especially after a decade of cuts to the FE budget. This is particularly welcome within the current context of Covid-19, with the ONS announcing today that unemployment has risen to 5%. Many people will need to retrain to re-enter the workforce, and the Government have to act fast to address the uncertainty in our economy.

With that in mind, what sectors will be included in the lifetime skills guarantee, and how will this change depending on the needs of the economy? What support will be available to those who are already qualified to level 3 but need to train for jobs in a new industry, or those who are not qualified to level 2?

In the year when the UK is hosting COP 26, I was saddened to see that climate change is not mentioned once in the White Paper. How does it align with the UK’s net-zero target?

We also got within this package of announcements the “interim conclusion” to the Augar review, which promises four new consultations on reforms to higher education, the lifelong loan entitlement, modularisation and the TEF. When will these conclude?

The legacy of 10 years of cuts will not end with this paper, and the Association of Colleges has even said that, despite recent uplifts, funding remains inadequate. I echo that. When will the education sector be given the long-term funding settlement that it needs?

I reflect that, if Covid has taught us one thing, it is that the care sector needs more training and support. FE is well placed to upskill this sector, and I had hoped that we might have seen some specifics on how this might be achieved. That was an opportunity missed.

I also implore the Minister not to forget about universities, with many facing job cuts. Can she confirm that new support for higher education will be provided in the upcoming Budget? Given the uncertainties of the last year, this sector requires stability and commitment, so why have the Government decided to cut support for London’s world-class institutions, and why have they not given more thought to integrating support for upskilling using the university sector and getting better integration between and across the sectors?

Parity of esteem between HE and FE is long overdue, so this White Paper goes in the right direction but not far enough. Finally, when will FE stop—[Inaudible]—of our education sector and be given the long-term funding settlement that it deserves?

Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Deputy Chairman of Committees

We lost the last part of those remarks, but I will call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Storey.

Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Education)

I very much welcome the Statement and the Skills for Jobs White Paper. As the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said, we have seen further education become almost the Cinderella of the education service, and it is really welcome that at long last we are now realising its importance in terms of capital investment in plant and sites and revenue investment. However, on the latter, I ask the Minister to consider the point made by Sir Ian Diamond’s commission: that colleges need three-year grant settlements to give them room to develop and that one year is not sufficient.

As a country, we face a whole host of challenges to do with training and skills—not least the climate emergency, the effects of Brexit and changes in the world of work—and of course a demographic time bomb is ticking away, with demand outstripping the supply of young people entering the labour market. We have already seen this in sections of our economy—the construction industry, for example. It is a sobering thought that by 2030 the number of people aged 65 and above is projected to increase by 42%, while the number of those aged 14 to 64 is forecast to grow by only 3%. It is clear that we need to be nimble in how we respond to skills shortages and skills development, and not get caught up in structures.

The ambition to open funding and finance to everyone throughout their lives is welcome. Many earners face additional barriers to accessing education, so we need to ensure that finance is available to meet those demands. Why are these loans are not being introduced until 2025—and why loans, not grants? We know that adults are more averse to taking on debt. We should review the limits on accessing education and training while in receipt of universal credit, with the principle that individuals should not be penalised for engaging in education and training.

The careers service, careers advice, careers education and careers guidance should be of high quality and given face to face, not micromanaged from the top. The proposed careers hubs have to have the support and expertise that is much needed. Can the Government ensure that we look also at building the skills that are needed for the green economy? They have focused a lot of support on people who do not have level 3 qualifications, but what about those who have not completed level 2? Do the Government not accept that they, too, will need support and help?

Finally, I am attracted to the suggestion by the Association of Colleges that the Government should form a cross-departmental ministerial task force to oversee a new government 10-year strategy for education and skills to drive industrial strategy and other priorities, working with employers and other key stakeholders.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for welcoming this report. It is good at this time of crisis to have good news and to know that in the past year, £600 million has been invested in the FE sector and £1.5 billion of capital is committed over the next few years.

The noble Lord correctly highlights the fact that at the moment people need to retrain, and quickly. That is why we have acted very quickly on the national skills fund so that the level 3 entitlement, which enables every adult to get their first full level 3 qualification, is in place. We have also had the first round of boot camps, which enable people to do eight-week to 12-week training courses and give them a fast-track route to an interview. We need to be nimble, which is why those initiatives have been introduced as part of the national skills fund before consultation on the rest of it is complete.

That is also why the Government will introduce local skills improvement plans and, because of the need for nimbleness in retraining, why the lifelong loan entitlement will be for four years. People who already have an undergraduate degree may then want to do a level 4 or a level 5 higher technical qualification. That will be introduced in 2025.

On conservation, I can tell the noble Lord that 400 courses have been made available under the level 3 entitlement, and they are focused on skills that we believe will lead quickly to jobs. Conservation is included in the level 3 entitlement.

The noble Lord referred to various aspects of the Augar review. Many of its recommendations have already been delivered: the level 3 entitlement; the investment in the FE estate, as I have outlined; the capital investment in new places for 16 to 19 year-olds to meet demographic changes; and the lifelong loan entitlement. There will be a consultation on other aspects of the Augar review in the spring, including the minimum entry requirements for higher education, and a full and comprehensive response to coincide with the next comprehensive spending review. Augar is a dynamic piece of work that will help us respond to the current crisis.

With regard to colleges, there will also be consultation around the need, identified in the Augar review, to consider multiyear settlements for FE colleges. We recognise that one of the issues facing them is the year-on-year funding so we are looking to address that.

On higher education funding, we are ready to implement restructuring should any of the HE sector need it, and we are closely monitoring the finances of those autonomous institutions. On the noble Lord’s point about the teaching grant, or T-grant, the other main source of income for universities, that is being redirected to strategic subjects. Obviously, these currently include subjects in the area of healthcare, but also certain arts subjects that we believe are not getting adequate funding. Those subjects are crucial to the labour market but we do not believe that the additional weighting given to London is the best way to fund that, and it is not consistent with the Government’s wider aim of levelling up different areas of the country. However, universities are dynamic partners in many of the institutes of technology which focus on STEM subjects, 11 of which are now open. It is good to see them working with the FE colleges and local employers on that initiative. There were perhaps a couple of final points from the noble Lord, but unfortunately the connection was interrupted. I apologise for missing those.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, raised the issue of the accountability and funding of the FE sector. As I have said, we are looking into Augar’s recommendations on that, and it is also part of the remit of the FE commissioner —that role will be looking at the sustainability of the FE estate across the country, which is a vital part of reskilling people.

On the matters around the construction industry that the noble Lord raised, we have introduced a T-level in that sector, one of the first for 16 to 19 year- olds. With regard to the noble Lord’s point about demographics, he divides the population into, I think, people under and over 64, but we now know that people are working longer and their careers may involve more than one sector. Hence our concern with flexibility: levels 4 and 5 are more modular, and access to those qualifications will help people to train, and retrain, as will the four-year loan entitlement.

The noble Lord specifically raised the issue of entitlement to benefits while learning. We are alert to this issue in relation to people claiming universal credit. People can take part in eight weeks of full-time learning and maintain their entitlement to benefit, and there is no restriction on part-time learning. For people who have particular vulnerabilities and are at risk of long-term unemployment, that period of training can be longer.

On funding support, particularly for 16 to 19 year-olds, there are residential bursary funds to enable students to access specialist provision that is not available within their normal travelling range. Such funds are distributed by the FE sector. We are therefore aware of the need of those on benefits to have flexibility with regard to training. Careers advice is of course also a vital part of this package: £100 million is being invested in the careers service, much of which is targeted at face-to-face provision. Enterprise advisers are being rolled out by the Careers and Enterprise Company, which helps schools.

The noble Lord mentioned the need for net zero carbon. The Skills and Productivity Board provides a national picture of our economy. Its advice is given to the Secretary of State in accordance with the industrial strategy, so we are linking them up. At the local level, however, it is important that the local skills improvement plans will be employer-led, respond to local economic need and involve the devolved authorities. We then have a strategic development fund to enable the colleges to design the content of the courses that local employers are asking for. The overall ambition is that by 2030, almost all technical qualifications will be based on the employer-led standards that have informed the apprenticeships and the T-levels, so that the level of qualifications is high.

Finally, the noble Lord mentioned level 2 qualifications. As noble Lords will probably be aware, there is a second -stage consultation on level 3 about what qualifications we need to continue funding that are not T-levels or A-levels. There is also a call for evidence on level 2. We are particularly aware of young people who are further away and may not have got qualifications during their 11 to 16 years education and how we can enable them to get level 2 or level 3 qualifications and get on the qualifications ladder. The country needs a higher level of technical skills and enhanced respect for that sector, because men and women who have level 4 or 5 qualifications earn, on average, more than those with a level 6 undergraduate degree. This change has been overdue for decades in this country: to give as much respect to technical qualifications as we do to academic ones.

Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, we now come to the 20 minutes allocated to Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be as short and sweet as possible so that we can call as many speakers as possible. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, for the kerfuffle that led him to appear early during the discussion, and I call him now.

Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking Lord Baker of Dorking Conservative 1:30 pm, 26th January 2021

My Lords, I am very disappointed that university technical colleges are not mentioned at all in the White Paper for 16 to 18. We fulfil the very first sentence of the White Paper, which reads:

“Putting employers at the heart of the system so that education and training leads to jobs that can improve productivity and fill skills gaps.”

We are supported by over 500 companies. Employers come in and teach, and they produce projects for students to work on in teams. There are 48 university technical colleges with 16,000 students, and we have the lowest level of youth unemployment of any schools in the country. To fulfil the hopes of this White Paper, we need more university technical colleges.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, I hope my noble friend Lord Baker will think that this answer is sweet for him. We as a Government support a strong cadre of university technical colleges. Indeed, one opened with the full support of the sector and the local authority in Doncaster in September. There are UTCs that Ofsted has rated as outstanding, such as the Ron Dearing UTC, and obviously that forms part of the name of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust. When there are further free school applications, we look forward to any applications that are put forward for UTCs. We want to see a strong cadre of UTCs.

Photo of Baroness Coussins Baroness Coussins Crossbench

My Lords, the White Paper focuses on English, STEM and digital skills, but employers and the British Chambers of Commerce also say that the UK’s deficit in foreign language skills damages the economy and inhibits recruitment across all sectors and at all levels. Languages are not just an academic discipline; they are a vital technical skill that can boost export growth and social mobility. So will the Minister agree to look at how to integrate foreign language skills into the plans for technical education and the remit of the careers hubs?

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct about the importance of modern languages, which is why they are part of the English baccalaureate and why we have given £4.8 million to fund the modern foreign language pedagogy pilot, which is looking at the attainment of languages at levels 3 and 4. However, I suggest to the noble Baroness that, when employers are leading on the local skills improvement plans, if the employers in a region say, “Actually, what we need in addition to that technical skill is a language—for instance, Polish or any other language”, it is open to them to say, “This is a skill that we need in the local area.” Then, as I have said, the strategic development funds will help the colleges to have the content of courses to match that skills improvement fund. If employers need those skills, we hope to see the need for foreign languages coming in as part of many higher technical qualifications and integrate it in that way. I invite the noble Baroness to make sure that employers are doing that as these plans are developed.

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Labour

My Lords, I welcome the Government’s White Paper but I share some of the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Bassam. Implementing many of the Augar report’s recommendations is important, although personally I think that instead of talking about loans we should be talking about a graduate tax, which is a much more progressive approach.

I have two points that I want to raise. First, there is a recognition that the Government have to increase the number of apprenticeships. If that is the case, they have to look at the application of the apprenticeship levy in a way that encourages many more SMEs to take on apprentices. At the moment SMEs are saying they find the scheme complex and an administrative burden. We need to ensure that we remove that complexity and encourage many more SMEs. Secondly, does the Minister recognise the importance of a government National Careers Service website that could become a single source of assured career information for young people and adults?

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord’s introduction regarding apprenticeships. The levy has now been in existence for five years. It has enabled significantly more workplace-based training and, I would say, has enhanced the reputation of apprenticeships as an alternative to academic study.

As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, we have offered £2,000 for any new apprenticeship start, which is for a younger person who is under the age of 24, or 25 if they have any HCP, and £1,500 for any other apprenticeship start. However, he is right that the apprenticeship service has been a work in progress. The SMEs now have access to the service via a website that should enable them to access the training that they want, rather than only being able to access training from contracts with providers that were entered into centrally. They can go on that website and reserve the training places that they want to have, and SMEs have been given a small number of guaranteed places.

We are also looking at the development of the levy and at easing the transition and the payment of the levy down the supply chain, which often involves making the levy available to small and medium-sized enterprises. We hope that the introduction of the apprenticeship service to SMEs will help with some of the bureaucratic issues that the noble Lord outlines.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, there is much to welcome in the White Paper, but why do the Government constantly betray their ignorance in claiming originality for employers being at the heart of this? Employers have always been the drivers for work- based skills and qualifications. However, as previous Governments have discovered to their cost, it is essential to have input from teaching experts, namely colleges, and assessment experts—that is, awarding bodies. I declare an interest as a vice-president of City and Guilds, for which I worked for 20 years. What input is anticipated from colleges and awarding bodies to ensure that these skills are fit for purpose?

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, the key aspect of this is that employers are involved in setting the standards in relation to these qualifications. They will be at the heart of producing the local skills improvement plans, but they will work with the colleges. We recognise that the status of FE employees has not perhaps been what it might have been so we are investing in that workforce, in enhanced initial teacher training for it and in industry exchanges. So while the employer-led bodies will form those plans, they will work closely with the FE colleges and I am sure they will consult the awarding bodies that the noble Baroness makes reference to.

Photo of Viscount Eccles Viscount Eccles Conservative

My Lords, obviously I welcome the White Paper, but it worries me to a large extent because there must be limits to what central government can do to match the skills of people to the jobs available. Things move very fast. Throughout the White Paper, the theme emerges of what employers want. This may be strange, but I am slightly suspicious of employers and what they want. It is easily said, but who are these employers? Big ones, presumably. Who represents them? Is not the really important question: what are these employers doing to help themselves?

That brings me to the general position of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, regarding the relationship between education and training. In my opinion the White Paper is very weak on where the boundary lies between education and training. I urge my noble friend on the Front Bench to think very carefully. It is not possible for any education service to make employees oven-ready for employers, as it were. They can take them so far but the employers have to do the rest. There should be a lot more concentration on the duties and responsibilities of employers for training.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, there is a limit to central government, which is why the key strategy here is local skills improvement panels, working closely with colleges and the devolved authorities. That is matched by the Skills and Productivity Board, which will give a national picture. In relation to the question of who these employers are, when one looks at what is happening with apprenticeships, there are trail-blazer groups of employers. This is not just picking one person. The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education oversees these trail-blazer groups. They include small and medium-sized enterprises and we are so encouraged that, as my noble friend made reference to education and training, much more is now taking place in the workplace. When one looks at apprenticeships, one sees that they have good training in the workplace as well as time out of the workplace to do that training. There are workplace placements for T-levels as well, so that those young people have a period of weeks in the workplace. So my noble friend is right that employers have a responsibility, and that is why employer-led bodies such as chambers of commerce are going to be involved with the local skills improvement plans.

Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench

My Lords, I was a member of the Centenary Commission on Adult Education, which reported in November 2019. I welcome the Skills for Jobs White Paper. It confirms the importance of collaboration between businesses and colleges for improving people’s career prospects. Putting employers at the heart of new qualifications right across England will build on the success of these local partnerships. They will ensure courses remain in lock-step with industry need and give learners confidence they are gaining skills that lead to jobs. Would the Minster agree that new technologies mean that nine in 10 employees will need to learn new skills by 2030, and the Government commitment to delivering the flexible learner entitlement, boosting access to modular learning, is hugely welcome and will support more adults into training? Would the Minister agree that this should be backed up by turning the apprenticeship levy into a flexible skills levy at Budget?

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The noble Lord is correct that one of the areas where we lack productivity and we know we have a skills gap is the digital sector. That is why digital has been a focus of those eight to 12-week bootcamps that I outlined, with a fast track to an interview. So the noble Lord is entirely right in relation to that. I will take his suggestion about the levy back to the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, as one of the few in your Lordships’ House with a Higher National Diploma qualification from a technical institution, rather than a university degree, this is an issue of great importance to me. The aspiration and language used in the ministerial Statement is to be welcomed. However, the most important aspect now is delivering on the words in the White Paper. I therefore ask the Minister: while it is right and, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Bassam, overdue that FE and apprenticeships receive additional investment, is it not a reality that universities also play a vital role in the delivery of technical skills, and that the divide between academic and technical education is far more complex than some would acknowledge? What is the Minister’s vision for a more integrated tertiary education that incentivises apprenticeship providers, FE and HE to work collaboratively to deliver choice, flexibility and clear pathways for students, young and old?

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I am grateful to hear the noble Lord’s own career history. I think the institutes of technology are the first examples we have of the HE sector working with the FE sector in STEM with local employers. He is right that we want to see parity of esteem, but the situation we are dealing with is that for decades this country has not been like many of our European partners in valuing these technical qualifications. That is what we need to level up at the moment. There are degree apprentices, and I believe that Minister Keegan is the only Member of the other place with a degree apprenticeship. It is important that we got T-levels validated for UCAS points, so that they are also an access point, and you will see them merging in. This is a work in progress, but the most important thing in this country is that we respect technical qualifications. That is the first job we need to do and a clear ambition of the White Paper.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I should first remind the House of my declared interests in the field of education. There is a great deal here about bootcamps to get people ready for study. I believe these are designed to help with things such as basic skills as well. Will some consideration be given to those with special educational needs in how these are structured? Anybody who was around when we did the last Education Bill knows how much time we spent making sure the dyslexics and others were allowed to actually get apprenticeships, while also having some realistic form of saying that for the English qualification you have got to get through. In this world, when we talk about technical skills, the answer is usually on a programme that is built into your computer software. That is there. Are we going to accept that that is used to acquire these skills, and will we make sure that when we are training people in technical IT skills they know how to access and integrate it?

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, in relation to special educational needs, I will go back and look at that. We are into the second procurement phase of the bootcamps and I will make sure that he is given the details in relation to special educational needs. In relation to what we are trying to focus on with level 4 and 5 qualifications, employers will be in the lead on the standards. I want to be very clear to the noble Lord that if what they outline for that qualification is to give the learner the knowledge, skills and behaviours to do that job and there is no additional English and maths requirement, that will be the framework. I hope that encourages the noble Lord that it will not be the case that “You must have passed x exam”. With the employer in the lead looking at those qualifications, if they say those are the functions and what you need for the job, there is to be no additional English and maths requirement.

Photo of Lord Aberdare Lord Aberdare Crossbench

I was pleased that the White Paper recognises the importance of high-quality, impartial careers advice and guidance and seeks to create a clear careers system catering for all ages. Can the Minister tell us about how the Government will bring about the proposed alignment between the Careers & Enterprise Company and the National Careers Service to achieve this, including the four principles they say they plan to follow? What plans are there to provide the funding required, so that everyone who needs it has access to qualified personal careers guidance—something notably missing from the White Paper—perhaps as part of a new lifelong careers strategy?

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, as I have outlined, there is going to be £100 million invested in the enterprise advisers—which I believe are part of the Careers & Enterprise Company—and more into National Careers Service guidance and a new website in relation to that. One must not forget as well that nearly £1 billion has been invested in work coaches at the DWP, who are also a vital part of the careers strategy.

We are aware through the Careers & Enterprise Company that, particularly in relation to technical education, it is important that local employers are brought into our schools, so that all the opportunities available, particularly careers and apprenticeships that might not be part of the secondary school workforce experience, are brought in front of young people so that they know all the options that are open to them.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative

My Lords, I welcome this White Paper. Is it important to emphasise, using the Baker clause, that those considering their careers should be fully aware of careers open to them which do not require them to go to an academic course?

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, there are requirements on the local authority, and indeed on provider schools, to make sure that their young people are aware of the opportunities for them, so that if they choose to go down the route of a UTC or studio school, many of which have an entry point at 14, they are made aware of that. It is the role of the Careers & Enterprise Company to make sure that other roles and occupations are brought in front of young people, so that they know the full options before them in terms of academic and technical qualifications and career routes.

Photo of Baroness Uddin Baroness Uddin Non-affiliated

My Lords, in my communities there are thousands of well-qualified young people, who have lived in the shadows of successful corporate business organisations in Canary Wharf and the City with a palpable record of providing few opportunities for work, other than in paltry numbers in the poorly paid hospitality-based sector, causing continued disparities. Therefore, I welcome the Statement and the paper and its focus on local skills improvement plans, on strengthening the statutory footing on which business organisations will be expected to participate and on improving local skills and so increase access to jobs. Given the deepening current unemployment crisis, can the Minister say what further steps the Government will take immediately to increase the number of industry and sector-based paid apprenticeships? I urge the Government to reconsider their loans into grants, if they are really serious about upskilling the population.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, it is inspiring to hear the noble Baroness. When one thinks about being in those parts of east London, I believe, that she makes reference to, it is interesting to look from where people live and see Canary Wharf and those buildings at the end of Whitechapel Road. From a local skills improvement plan point of view, obviously it will involve the London Mayor, but actually having those career opportunities and the local skills that are needed for those young people to access those jobs, which they can see in those institutions visible to them, is part of this strategy. We are pleased that, with the full maintenance loans that are also available, we have seen record numbers of disadvantaged students going into higher education. The largest increase has been within the British black African cohort who have been accessing universities, so we are seeing improvements there.

Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Deputy Chairman of Committees

My Lords, the time allowed for this question is now up. Before we move on to the next business, we will pause for a moment or two to allow people to get in and out.