Nick Boles has been named as the new minister responsible for FE and skills in Prime Minister David Cameron’s reshuffle today.
The former planning minister, who founded the think tank Policy Exchange, has a joint brief with the business and education departments.
He takes over from Matthew Hancock, who had been in the role since September 2012, and who has been promoted to minister for business, enterprise and energy attending cabinet.
Mr Boles, 48, is MP for the Grantham and Stamford constituency in Lincolnshire.
He is close to the prime minister and chancellor George Obsborne and once shared a flat with the former education secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Boles is openly gay and in a civil partnership and part of his new brief will also be implementation of the government’s gay marriage policy.
The FE sector welcomed Mr Boles' appointment and praised the work of his predecessor.
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "He [Boles] has some significant challenges ahead of him including making a key decision about the future funding for 16 to 18-year-olds and the proposed reform of apprenticeships. I very much look forward to working with him."
Dr Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group of colleges, said: “We want to thank Matthew [Hancock] for his commitment and focus on FE colleges; the 157 Group had a strong and fruitful relationship with him and we look forward to working closely with Nick Boles and introducing him to the excellent work of FE colleges as he takes up his new role.”
A spokesman for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said: “It’s welcome news that the Prime Minister has decided to retain the joint BIS/DfE portfolio and AELP welcomes Nick Boles to the skills post.
“Matthew Hancock did a great job in protecting the apprenticeships budget and we congratulate him on his promotion. “
The University and College Union (UCU)welcomed the new further education minister and said it was looking forward to discussing the important issues that face him in his new roles.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Public spending cuts have had a profound impact on post-16 education and all parties now need to set out their stall for further and higher education. The introduction of new ministers is an opportunity for government to refocus its education priorities in the run up to the election.”
Tom Stannard, deputy chief executive of adult education body NIACE, said Mr Hancock would be a "tough act to follow" but it looked forward to working with Mr Boles at a "critical time" for the economy and society."
"We must ensure we have a skills system fit for the 21st Century which will lead to prosperity for all," he said.
"We are pleased that he will retain briefs in both the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education. This will lead to closer working relationships between the two departments, something we have called for in our manifesto."