Robert Halfon named as new apprentices and skills minister
Robert Halfon has been named as the government's new apprentices and skills minister, the MP has confirmed.
Mr Halfon, MP for Harlow in Essex, will become Nick Boles’ successor. In his role, he will work alongside former sixth-form college student Justine Greening, who was named secretary of state for education last week.
Mr Halfon, a graduate of the University of Exeter, has extensive experience of the further education sector. In 2010 he became the first politician to hire an apprentice, and he helped to create the Parliamentary Academy - the first apprentice school for the Palace of Westminster.
The Parliamentary Academy asks MPs to pay their apprentices the national minimum wage, thus opening up the opportunity to 16-24-year-olds who cannot afford to work for free.
In 2011, Mr Halfon voted in favour of scrapping the education maintenance allowance. He also voted in favour of raising university tuition fees.
The appointment was welcomed by Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers. He said: "We're delighted that, with his credentials for championing apprenticeships, Robert Halfon has been given the skills brief. Downing Street said on Friday that growing apprenticeships would remain a priority under the new administration so we will be asking the new minister to stick to the current levy timetable and to publish the next set of guidance as soon as possible.
"This is because there is a lot of work for training providers to do in supporting employers in preparation for April 2017 for both levy and non levy payers. We must maintain the momentum to ensure that the 3 million target is hit and any dip is likely to damage the chances of building up apprenticeship numbers."
David Russell, chief executive of the Education and Training Foundation, said: "We warmly welcome Robert Halfon’s appointment and look forward to working with him on the crucial challenges facing the sector.
"Robert’s passion for apprenticeships is clear. The Sainsbury Review sets out a vision for technical education which starts from rigor and excellence. Skills gaps around maths and English remain significant, but the reform of functional skills is one part of a strategy to tackle this. Excellence in teaching and training, and the best working relationships between employers and educators, will help learners into work, to the benefit of productivity and society as a whole."
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