Somewhat in the shadow of the Building Safety Bill, new laws were also passed on Thursday through the Skills and Post-16 Education Act that will help transform the skills and training landscape and level up opportunities across the country.

The Skills and Post-16 Education Act is to level up and drive economic growth across England, making Green skills and careers advice in schools a priority.  The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) have been tasked to create a unified skills system which is simpler to understand and employers and learners can really trust.

While much attention has been paid to level 3 qualifications and careers advice, the act gives the secretary of state a host of new powers over the FE and skills sector.  For example, the secretary of state now has legal powers to designate and remove designation of employer representative bodies (ERBs) responsible for developing local skills improvement plans (LSIPs).  They also have powers to introduce “statutory guidance” to tell ERBs who they should consult with and what should go in to their LSIPs.

The lifelong loan entitlement now also has some statutory underpinning.  The flagship policy to provide loans with four years of post-18 education for modular and full qualifications at levels 4 to 6 is set to come on stream in 2025 and is currently out for public consultation.

Another of the secretary of state’s new powers is to introduce an official list of approved post-16 training providers along with new conditions for registration and restricting access to funding to providers on that list.

The act introduces new duties on college governing bodies to review and publish how their education and training offer is meeting local skills needs.  The secretary of state gains new powers to use the intervention system where providers are failing in this duty.

The Institute for IfATE gets powers to approve and withdraw approval for technical qualifications under the act.

Skills to support the growing green economy will be prioritised to create a workforce for jobs now and in the future, and schools will be required to make sure all children get to meet people that provide technical education routes such as apprenticeships, T Levels or Traineeships, opening their eyes to a wide range of careers.

The legislation will help economic recovery and growth by making it easier for people to train to get the skills they need to secure well-paid jobs in industries with skills gaps, such as construction, health and social care, engineering, digital, clean energy and manufacturing.  It will also give more people the opportunity to get jobs in their local areas, by requiring employers and colleges to work together to identify the skills needed within communities.

The Act underpins the government’s transformation of post-16 education and skills as set out in the Skills for Jobs White Paper and will help level up and drive growth across the whole country.  Minister for Skills Alex Burghart said, “The Skills and Post-16 Education Act will transform the skills, training and post-16 education landscape and level up opportunities across the country.  This legislation will make sure everyone can gain the skills they need to progress into a rewarding job, and businesses have access to a pipeline of talented, qualified employees for their workforces, boosting productivity.”

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of IfATE, which leads with implementing the government’s employer-led technical education reforms, said,

“Following passage of this landmark legislation, we can look forward to creating a unified skills system which is simpler to understand and employers and learners can really trust. IfATE has empowered employers to drive up the quality of apprenticeships and roll out exciting new T Levels. The time is now right to extend the employer-led reforms across technical education.”

Key measures introduced by the Act include:

  • supporting the creation of a unified skills system that builds from quality gains achieved with Apprenticeships and T Levels by ensuring all technical qualifications match up to employers’ high standards;
  • embedding employers in the heart of the skills system by placing a legal requirement on colleges and other providers to work with employers to develop skills plans, so that the training on offer meets the needs of local areas, and people no longer have to leave their hometowns to find great jobs;
  • making sure all pupils meet providers of technical education so that they understand the wide range of career routes and training available to them, such as Apprenticeships, T Levels or Traineeships, not just the traditional academic options;
  • prioritising green skills so the training on offer across the country meets the needs of the growing green economy and helps gets more people into jobs;
  • supporting the transformation of the current student loans system so from 2025 learners an access a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, useable at any point in their lives;
  • introducing new powers to intervene when colleges are failing to deliver good outcomes for the communities they serve; and
  • making it a criminal offence to provide, arrange or advertise essay mill services for financial gain to students taking a post-16 qualification at institutions in England including colleges, universities and sixth forms.

Employers in eight trailblazer areas across the country have already been working with local training providers to create skills plans that align to what local communities need.  These plans are now being rolled out across the country, opening up more opportunities for people to gain the skills they and businesses need to succeed.  The new measures build on the work already under way to boost skills and get more people into better jobs, including working with employers to create more Apprenticeship opportunities, establishing a network of Institutes of Technology and rolling out new T Levels.

George Swann FIS Skills and Training Lead said,

“FIS is listed on the directory od professional and employer lead bodies with IfATE to monitor the quality of apprenticeship End Point Assessment for the sector.  This puts FIS employers front of house for the initiatives published through the Royal Assent of the Skills and Post-16 Education Act.  We will continue to work with IfATE and provide information advice and guidance to FIS members on all things skills”