Further education must be central to the government’s plans for a prosperous post-Brexit Britain, according to senior figures within the sector.
Responding to Prime Minister Theresa May's announcement today that a general election will be held on 8 June, Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said political parties would be “judged” by their manifesto commitments to FE, and that he would seek to ensure that the sector was central in the election debate.
Mr Evans said: “This general election will be about the society and economy we want to build and the Brexit that takes us there. These are big questions that require a big debate.
“Strong further education and employment services must be central to a fair and prosperous Brexit Britain. This means focusing on world-class technical education, high-quality apprenticeships and better support to help people find work. It also means providing better support for ordinary working families as growth in living standards grinds to a halt again.
“At the Learning and Work Institute, we will judge political parties by their plans, and seek to ensure that this agenda is central to the debate ahead. This includes securing continued social investment post-Brexit. In the meantime, it is business as usual for everyone working hard to deliver services on the ground and make a success of reforms to apprenticeships and other services.”
'Pause new subcontracting rules'
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said that, in light of the forthcoming general election, a pause to the introduction of new subcontracting rules would not require a change in government policy, and that now is not the time to "destabilise the provider supply base".
Mr Dawe said: “We believe that a pause in introducing the new subcontracting rules alongside the pause in the non-levy apprenticeship procurement does not involve a change in government policy and the Education and Skills Funding Agency can implement this by informing providers during the purdah period. Now is not the time to destabilise the provider supply base and good existing relationships between employers and providers. We also need confirmation as soon as possible for the providers on the register that the co-investment rules will apply from 1 May."
Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges, warned that the election could cause "some delay in decision-making"."Our priority in the next few weeks will be to resolve areas of uncertainty around apprenticeships and college restructuring. It is also unfortunate that the planned date (8 June) takes place in one of the busiest GCSE and A-level weeks, which may create some logistical problems in some constituencies," he added. "The last time an election happened in June was in 2001.
“We will work with the future government, whatever form it takes, to promote, represent and support colleges’ best interests.”