The Shadow Skills Minister Gordon Marsden MP and London’s Labour MPs have given strong backing to the proposals in the ‘Delivering Skills for London’ report published by the Learning Revolution Trust, the Local London partnership of 8 East London Borough Councils and the London First employers’ organisation in the summer.
The Shadow Minister hosted a parliamentary briefing to discuss the findings of the report on 30th October in the House of Commons. In addition to MPs the briefing was attended by senior representatives of local authorities at member and officer levels, major employers from key economic sectors and college principals. Other speakers included Angus Knowles – Cutler, Vice Chair and London Managing Partner of Deloitte and Vice Chair of LEAP, Cllr Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham Council and Skills lead for Local London, and Martin Cumella, Chair of the Learning Revolution Trust.
Introducing the event, Mr Marsden stated that ‘ There is a particular challenge in London for skills, as it does not have the same historical background for apprenticeships. Apprenticeship starts in London have traditionally been very low, which means a lower starting base but also enables us to shape the direction of travel more easily. Alongside that we face the approaching challenge of automation. Some estimates say that up to 3 million jobs could be lost within a generation, and if we don’t have the skills system that can respond to a transforming economy, there will be millions of people who won’t be able to move on to new jobs as they see old industries vanish as a result of automation. He also focussed on the implications of Brexit ‘ Add to that the greatest public policy challenge for generations, an exit from the EU that increasingly looks as if it will need us to rely more on British workers than we have done for decades, and it becomes absolutely clear that a skills system fit for the future should be one of the highest priorities for politicians across the country’.
There was widespread agreement at the briefing that employers were facing growing skills gaps and shortages whilst many residents in East London were dependent on increasingly insecure employment and lacked the skills and qualifications to compete for many of the jobs being created. A failure to protect further education funding during recent years of austerity had made things worse and the OECD was now predicting that the UK would fall from 24th to 28th out of 33 OECD countries for the provision of intermediate skills by 2020.
There was also strong backing for the local model and ‘bottom up’ approach to skills strategy development proposed in the report, with local councils, employers and colleges working together to develop the ‘lifelong learning escalator’ needed to enable individuals to reskill in a changing economic landscape and there were calls for the proposed devolution of skills funding from Central Government to regional level to be extended. The report has also argued for a more flexible and responsive system based on a culture of collaboration between key stakeholders, and the development of inclusive progression pathways to help people facing barriers to learning such as low qualifications, ESOL training needs and the need to earn and learn with the support that they need to move forward from where they are to where they need to be.
Cllr Darren Rodwell for Local London said that the partners behind the report were committed to taking its recommendations forward and a lot of progress had already been made including setting up a sub regional Skills and Employment Board in January 2018 and working with employers and training providers to establish a model for getting the most out of the Apprenticeship Levy by March 2018.
The Shadow Minister summarised by arguing that that the Local London approach could provide a practical model in which local leaders can cut through bureaucratic challenges and move towards an offer which enables progression for individuals in a dynamic economic context. He concluded that
‘ I was delighted to host a briefing in Parliament on this excellent report. It was helpful to bring MPs and sector leaders together to discuss how we push forward with Delivering Skills for London. I am very hopeful that this report is a great platform to drive the skills agenda and look at ways in which we can continue devolving skills budgets, which the Labour Party has consistently pressed for.’
The Learning Revolution Trust is a charity that aims to remove the financial barriers to education faced by many people in East London.
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