Michelle Donelan has been promoted to minister of state at the Department for Education in the prime minister's reshuffle, making her a likely contender to fill the post of apprenticeships and skills minister. The DfE has told Tes that remits will not be confirmed until all appointments are made.
Ms Donelan had been supporting education secretary Gavin Williamson on the FE brief after no dedicated apprenticeships and skills minister was appointed last summer.
The announcement that education secretary Gavin Williamson would personally hold responsibility for the further education brief was met with mixed reactions in July last year.
At the time, prime minister Boris Johnson said that the decision was to ensure priority was given to further education.
Background: Gavin Williamson appointed education secretary
Quick read: Michelle Donelan to cover minister's FE role
The University and College Union (UCU)'s then-acting general secretary Paul Cottrell told Tes that the move suggested the sector was not held in high regard by the government.
Many feel the time is now right to rectify this. On Monday, during a debate on the apprenticeship levy, Gloucester MP Richard Graham called for the prime minister to fill the vacancy soon. His comments were echoed by shadow FE and skills minister Emma Hardy who said the government "should could show their commitment to FE and skills by appointing a separate FE and skills minister".
Number 10 this afternoon confirmed that Mr Williamson will be staying on as secretary of state for education. David Hughes, Association of Colleges' chief executive congratulated Mr Williamson and said he looked forward to continuing their work together.
Congratulations to @GavinWilliamson Pleased to see you able to to carry on supporting colleges, post16 and skills. Look forward to carrying on working with you #LoveOurColleges https://t.co/ARjS40HnVP— David Hughes (@AoCDavidH) February 13, 2020
Mark Dawe, chief executive of Association of Employment and Learning Providers said that it was a "very sensible decision".
He said: "AELP looks forward to continuing discussions with Mr Williamson on how his passion for skills will help them play a fundamental role in transforming the economy and driving social mobility. We hope that the secretary of state will impress upon the new chancellor the need for greater investment in apprenticeships, particularly a separate fund for non-levy payers of £1.5bn, as it will be SMEs who will be pivotal in local economic growth in the red wall areas of the country.
"Parliament has seen no less than four debates take place this week where apprenticeships have featured prominently and there is obviously a great appetite at Westminster for something to be done about the shortage of non-levy funding, level 2 apprenticeships and apprenticeship opportunities for 16 to 18 year olds.”
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: "During his short time in the role, [Mr Williamson] has already managed to secure more investment for sixth-form education than all of his predecessors combined since 2010. He has also engaged very constructively with us and our members, and as a former sixth form college student, has first-hand experience of the sector.
"We look forward to continuing this positive relationship, particularly with a budget, the conclusion of the level 3 qualification review, and a spending review all due to take place in the year ahead."