Skip to main content

“Skills for Sustainable Growth”

Volume 518: debated on Tuesday 16 November 2010

Today I am publishing “Skills for Sustainable Growth”—the Government’s new strategy for skills. The strategy takes full account of responses to the skills consultation which I announced on July 22.

Our ambition is to transform the nation’s performance so that we have a world-class skills base that provides a consistent source of competitive advantage. As skills can also transform life chances, we must make sure that everyone can access skills opportunities to extend their wider benefits throughout society. Drawing on the responses to our consultation exercise, our goal is to build a skills system where learners are in the driving seat. We understand that in a modern economy, businesses and individuals are better than Government at deciding what skills they need.

The strategy is based on the coalition principles of fairness, shared responsibility and increasing freedom. Funding for skills will focus strongly on those with the greatest need. For others, there will be a shared responsibility between employers, citizens and Government for ensuring skill needs are met, and an expectation of co-funding with contributions that reflect the benefit each receives. To underpin the informed choices individuals and employers invest in, we will improve access to information about skills through a new all-age careers service. A reformed skills system, freed from unnecessary bureaucracy and regulation, will be better able to respond to their demands.

Apprenticeships will be at the heart of the system we will build, supported by a system of valued qualifications. There will be a new role for employers in shaping the skills system and particular support for small and medium-sized enterprises. We need employers to get involved, to shape the system and utilise the skills of their work force, so that they get the most from their investment. We will support them in implementing proposals they make for raising their game on skills.

As a principle of fairness, Government retain a responsibility to ensure that everyone has the basic skills they need to access employment and participate in society. In supporting learners we will offer every adult a lifelong learning account which provides access to the new FE student loans. To inform empowered learners by providing independent advice and guidance we will create the all-age new careers service because we know that good careers guidance is the basis for increasing social mobility. We will also develop a new model for adult and community learning—the budget for which will be protected—that will support the development of the big society and create progression routes to formal learning.

The strategy sets out a vision for a radical reform of the skills system, transforming and simplifying the skills landscape, and introducing new freedoms and flexibilities for providers. Above all we must abandon the culture of bureaucratic central planning and allow the energy, commitment and the resourcefulness of individuals and employers full rein.

Copies of “Skills for Sustainable Growth” will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.