The Mayor of London has said that he wants employers to be involved in the design of post-16 courses.
Speaking to Tes at an event celebrating the 100th anniversary of adult education institution City Lit, Sadiq Khan said that too many people start jobs ill-equipped for work.
“I meet employers every day who say, 'We’ve got graduates applying for jobs, and people applying for jobs with qualifications, but they’re not ready to work.' If we had employers involved in the syllabus, involved in doing the courses, it would mean when people finish their courses, they’d be a match fit,” he said.
Background: £630m in adult education funds handed to mayors
Mr Khan’s comments came after he urged the government to devolve more skills and further education funding to City Hall and the boroughs of the capital, as it has done with the adult education budget.
In August, more than £300million was devolved to the capital for adult education. In a letter to ministers from himself and London councils today, Mr Khan asks for funding for both post-16 education and non-levy apprenticeship funds to also be devolved. This, they say, would enable London to deliver programmes in a more streamlined, impactful way.
“If the argument for leaving the EU was taking back control, that doesn’t mean that that control should be in control of the hands of civil servants in Whitehall, it means ordinary people having control of their destiny, and I think local councils, city hall and leaders of FE institutions are in a far better place to work with employers about what our city needs,” he said.
Sadiq Khan highlights 'big challenges'
Mr Khan highlighted the "big challenges" of Brexit, technological advances, AI and competition with other cities, and said that the best way to face those challenges was to ensure Londoners had the skills needed for the jobs of the future. He said that the Greater London Authority and the London boroughs should not be afraid of those challenges – but needed the power and resources to address them.
The mayor said that, if the move were successful, the devolved funding would be used to build better integration with employers so that from a young age, people are taught the skills they need to be the best fit for jobs.
“We want to be in charge of traineeships and apprenticeships. There’s a lot of money that employers contribute towards the levy that then leaves London at a time when we need Londoners to have the skills,” he said. Mr Khan also said that careers advice was a key focus, to make sure that young people were aware of the many different career paths they could follow.
“Often, as we saw during the summer with the A-level results and GCSE results, schools aren’t always the best people to give young people the advice or the assistance they need for the jobs of tomorrow.
“But if there was more integration across London, for example: the Mayor's Construction Academy. We’ve set up across London various hubs which means housebuilders can work with the hubs and the academy to make sure young people have the skills that construction needs.
“That’s just construction, what about tech? What about hospitality? What about the hotel business? There are other sectors in London where employers are frustrated by people not having the skills. There are young people who are frustrated because they don’t have access to the training, and I think we can satisfy both of those by this increased devolution."
If further funding was devolved for post-16 education, it could cover T levels and BTECs – a current area of education policy that is causing anxiety across colleges, with the future of post-16 provision at level 3 and below, particularly applied general qualifications, under threat.
Mr Khan said that he hoped that BTECs wouldn’t be cast aside in favour of T levels.
“A young person going down the BTEC route shouldn’t feel that he or she is less able, or has less of a good future, than someone going down the T-level route, or the academic route. That’s why better careers advice matters. There are employers now who could offer you apprenticeship to become an accountant, or a solicitor. How many people have the careers advice to realise that?” he asked.
The impact of Brexit
In his speech at the event, City Lit principal Mark Malcomson said its international staff and students were anxious about their future in the UK amid the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit.
In response, Mr Khan said: “Walking around City Lit and meeting students and lecturers, many are worried and concerned about their future. We’re 44 days to go now until possibly the PM will make us leave the EU without any deal whatsoever.
“I speak on a daily basis to Londoners who contribute on a daily basis to our city and who are anxious and concerned and frightened about their future. I think it’s really encouraging that you’ve got a principal of City Lit who, like many other employers, understand the contribution out of EU citizens.
"I just wish the government understood that and took steps to address the concerns that are being articulated to us every day."