Bill Rammell MP, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education was the guest on December’s E-Works debate.
Equal partnership leaders – Elizabeth Politzer of Equalitec, Robert Morrall of Cement and Andrew Slee of Threshholds - were in the studio to hear the discussion and then add their comments.
The minister set the skills scene by emphasising the decline in unskilled jobs 3.5 million to 600,000 in the next decade.
‘Unless we can equip people with the skills to cope with that process of change, then not only will those individuals and their families lose out in terms of greater poverty and social isolation, but bluntly, collectively we will fall behind the game in terms of international competition’, he said.
He called for higher and further education providers to be ‘going into the workplace and providing skills training that meets the circumstances of the workplace and the needs of those individuals’.
He also called for ‘the learner voice to be strongly represented within the system.’
Other key themes included the cost and accessibility of ESOL, concerns about the impact of rules excluding people from public funding for a second qualification at the same level, fashioning e-learning to make it attractive to small firms, new approaches to careers advice for adults, and the role of the voluntary sector in bringing people from excluded backgrounds into learning and work.
Bill Rammell denied that money had been taken out of ESOL –funding had been significantly increased - and he explained that the purpose of taking public funding away from providing second parallel qualifications was to focus the maximum resources on those at the bottom end of the learning scale.
In response to suggestions that the smallest employers need skills training via e-learning and in small, specific, bite-size chunks, he said, ‘We do need much greater coherence, and we do need that focussed on the smallest employers as well.’
Adult careers advice was a priority, and he asked for more details about e-portfolios developed one of his Equal partnership questioners.
On Equal partnerships’ concern for longer-term value and viability of their work, he said, ‘Once you’ve got the innovation going you need to have a better dialogue between the voluntary sector and the mainstream providers through the Learning and Skills Council to see how they can get that sustainable funding over the longer term.’
The whole debate is now available to be replayed by clicking here.