Chris Banks, chairman of the Learning and Skills Council, argues the changes made by the new Primie Minister do not alter its remit or challenges
NOW THAT the dust has settled after the frenzied activity surrounding the changes in Government, I believe that it is time to stop the speculation about what this means for the LSC and for the wider education system and focus on the job we have been given: to transform the skills of the nation.
While we know that arrangements for young people will be different, we are committed to handing over the funding to local authorities with no disruption. We are also committed to building on the progress made, which over the past few years has been significant, allowing record numbers of employers and individuals to take part in learning.
Together, the LSC and the FE system have taken steps towards building a UK workforce equipped with world class skills. There is a record number of young people in learning (1.5 million) and they are achieving more qualifications than ever. Success rates for young people in FE have increased to 75 per cent in 2007 and the number of young people achieving level 2 qualifications has increased to 71.4 per cent.
We have exceeded the target of 75,500 young people starting apprenticeships in 2007 and the completion rate has increased to 59 per cent this year from 24 per cent in 2001. The target for the number of adults improving their basic skills has already been exceeded for 2007, with 1.75 million improving their literacy and numeracy skills, and the number of adults with level 3 qualifications has risen to 46.8 per cent.
We are also meeting the needs of more employers. Train to Gain was launched less than a year ago and has helped more than 44,000 employers meet their training needs.
As the global economy becomes increasingly competitive, employers face many challenges to meet market demand and stay ahead.
The LSC and the FE system are at the heart of the programme of action to help employers deliver the skills the country needs for economic success. We must build on progress and continue to lead the transformation of the FE system, creating a world-class system that is responsive, provides choice and is recognised for excellence.
In the year ahead, we will expand our Train to Gain service and our apprenticeship programme. We will increase the number of National Skills Academies. We will implement the skills pledge, encouraging employers to commit to supporting their employees through training.
This commitment covers almost two million employees. Recent research commissioned by the LSC shows that more people understand how important the FE system is in supporting economic prosperity and business competitiveness; and also in underpinning community cohesion and social inclusion.
As we might expect, those who have direct experience of FE andor their local LSC are more likely to be positive about it.
These are exciting times. Now is the time to lift our heads high, and rise to the challenges ahead.
The LSC and the FE system are pivotal to this Government's economic and social agenda with our remit to deliver a transformational programme, which will ensure this country has the skills to match the best in the world. We are determined to make it happen.