FE sector welcomes new minister Gillian Keegan

Further education leaders praise former degree apprentice Gillian Keegan's 'first-hand experience and knowledge'

Coronavirus response: Skills minister Gillian Keegan has written to apprenticeship providers

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.


Reshuffle: Gavin Williamson to stay on as education secretary

Background: Who is the new skills minister? 

Quick read: New skills minister confirmed


'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.”

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