The further education sector has welcomed the appointment of new minister Gillian Keegan.
Last week the MP for Chichester told Tes that she had been appointed minister for apprenticeships and skills. Her ministerial duties were officially confirmed by the Department for Education on Monday evening.
Since the most recent skills minister, Anne Milton, left the post in July 2019, the skills remit has been personally held by education secretary Gavin Williamson, with former minister Lord Agnew taking on responsibility for the FE provider market in September.
But the FE sector has welcomed the news that Ms Keegan, a former degree apprentice, will be taking on the role.
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'First-hand experience' of apprenticeships
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “It’s great news that Gillian with her first-hand experience and knowledge of apprenticeships has been appointed to the post. Her corporate background also helps her understand the levy issues very well and she knows the power of work-based learning.
"AELP looks forward to discussing with her the immediate challenge of funding SMEs’ [small and medium-sized enterprises'] apprenticeships as well as wider skills provision. Gillian’s apprenticeship for Matt Hancock at the health department is now over and we see how it leads to a well-deserved promotion.”
Kirsti Lord, the deputy chief executive of the AoC said that the organisation looked forward to working with Ms Keegan.
She said: "With a renewed focus on colleges, skills and apprenticeships it is a crucial time and absolutely right that we have a designated skills minister to prioritise this work. I hope this latest appointment means that holistic reform to the post-16 education system and making sure everyone can achieve, regardless of their background and circumstances, will be priority for this government.”
Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: "We offer our congratulations to Gillian Keegan and look forward to working with her. Our members will continue to make a vital contribution to the government’s ambitions for the economy, skills and social mobility. With a Budget, the next stage of the level 3 qualification consultation and a Spending Review on the horizon, it is set to be a crucial year for sixth-form education, and the new minister’s support will be very important."
Keegan must 'hit the ground running'
University and College Union head of further education Andrew Harden said: “This is a critical time for the further education and skills brief so Gillian Keegan will need to hit the ground running. The minister’s top priority must be to address the pay crisis in colleges and close the £7,000 pay gap between school and college teachers.
“Reviewing the apprenticeship levy and securing long-term investment for the sector will also be crucial in ensuring that colleges can continue to deliver the high-quality learning opportunities this country needs. The government must ensure it matches its enthusiasm for further education and skills with proper funding.”
Huge congratulations to @GillianKeegan & @michelledonelan new Ministers @educationgovuk . Both passionate about FE, Skills, Apprenticeships & Degree Apprenticeships too. With @GavinWilliamson #DfE will have a strong pro skills, pro apprenticeships agenda. Exciting times ahead— Robert Halfon MP -Working Hard for Harlow- (@halfon4harlowMP) February 15, 2020
This is great news and something @AwardingBodies @PaulEeles have been calling for. It also shows equal weight is being given by @BorisJohnson towards technical and vocational education, as well as schools and universities. Thank you @10DowningStreet @GavinWilliamson #LoveAOs https://t.co/U52OElGYAC— Tom Bewick (@TomBewick) February 14, 2020
Congratulations to our fantastic co-chair @GillianKeegan on her well deserved promotion to @educationgovuk. Gillian is a passionate and tireless advocate for quality apprenticeships, and we look forward to continuing to work with her in the new role.— Apprenticeships APPG (@ApprenticeAPPG) February 14, 2020