EduSkills blog: Skills Commission Reception

It’s been a busy week for team EduSkills, as we hosted a Parliamentary reception for the Skills Commission on Wednesday to celebrate the Commission’s Spotlight series, with a keynote address from Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner MP.

For the last two years, the Spotlight series has been shining a light on overlooked groups within the skills system, with the latest report looking at apprenticeships and social mobility. As figures released this week showed another decline in  apprenticeship start figures,  we were joined by Parliamentarians, providers, employers and key sector stakeholders to discuss how more opportunities could be opened up for disadvantaged or overlooked groups through the skills system, including through apprenticeships. There is perhaps tentatively reason to be optimistic on this front, as Skills Minister Anne Milton said in an FE Week webinar this week that she expects figures to begin to ‘surge’ in September as employers adapt to the new system, ‘particularly in retail and hospitality sectors’.  

At our reception last Wednesday, we were pleased to be joined by Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education. A division bell as Angela first stood up to speak left us all in anticipation, but Angela was able to make a swift return after the vote to deliver her keynote address! In a heartfelt speech, Angela spoke candidly about her personal experiences of FE growing up, and the influence that the FE and skills system had on her life, describing how a cookery course completed by her mum prevented her from going in to care. Angela also spoke of the need for people in the room to ‘put their money where their mouth is and encourage their own children in to FE’, so that it is no longer seen as something for ‘other people’s children’. The speech also highlighted Labour’s plans for a National Education Service, which the All-Party Group for Skills and Employment are looking forward to discussing in more detail at our event next week with Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Skills, FE and HE Minister.

We were also joined during our panel discussion by Peter Mayhew-Smith, the CEO and Group Principal of the South Thames College Group who has chaired the Spotlight series, Labour MP and chair of the latest Spotlight report Lilian Greenwood MP and Conservative MP Gillian Keegan. Gillian described the Skills Commission’s Spotlight reports as ‘the story of her life’ as she built her career through an apprenticeship.

The two core sponsors of the Spotlight series went on to highlight key recommendations in our research. Christianne Cavaliere, Chief Executive of LCBT talked about her experiences as a provider supporting young people with varying levels of prior academic attainment, which the Commission explored in A Spotlight On…Young people with below average academic attainment. Dr Fiona Aldridge, Assistant Director of Research & Development at the Learning & Work Institute talked about the second report in the series, A Spotlight on...Lifelong Learning for and Ageing Workforce, highlighting the recommendation to include Mid-Life Career reviews as a routine part of the appraisal process, and to support SMEs with funding to provide this.

After a busy week, I’m now looking forward to getting started on the Commission’s fourth Spotlight inquiry. Lucy Allan MP, Preet Gill MP and Professor Sandra McNally of the Centre for Vocational Education Research, are all joining us to co-chair the fourth Spotlight report on gender and skills, in an important year as we celebrate the centenary of Women’s Suffrage. So far the Hadlow Group and Gatsby Foundation are sponsoring this work and we’re looking for a third partner. If you’d like to know more about this opportunity then please do get in touch (beth.wheaton [at] (beth[dot]wheaton[at]policyconnect[dot]org[dot]uk) - 020 7922 8003).

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