The AELP launched a very ambitious four-day online program for its national conference last week, sponsored by Learning Curve Group and NOCN, and from comments so far it looks like it’s been going very well. .
All of our speakers without exception made really important contributions and I have greatly appreciated the contribution of all of our sponsors, speakers, panelists, workshop presenters and session facilitators.
President of the AELP Martin Dunford
In his opening speech, AELP President Martin Dunford spoke about the Skills Bill and noted that the government’s goals have not changed much over the past 20 years.
Social inclusion has always been in the mix in one way or another, but now is the time for this government to take it seriously.
He pointed out, which was echoed by others during the week, that ITPs are at the forefront of all programs (not just apprenticeships) that advance social mobility. Our vice-president Nicki Hay later referred to the ITPs as “infantry”, which seemed very apt.
Minister of Skills Gillian Keegan
Skills Minister Gillian Keegan in her speech rightly paid tribute to the hard work of providers during the pandemic, and also supported our view that the tax should not be used for anything other than the learning. It was also heartening to hear Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, express his clear support for the idea of subsidizing apprentice wages, which Shadow Minister Toby Perkins had also supported the day before, and who, although sure, has been a strong AELP position for some. time.
Perhaps less impressive, Minister Keegan would not accept the widely held view that the White Paper paid too little attention to learning at lower levels, preferring instead to wait for the outcome of the Level 3 consultation and inferior. It was also interesting that she didn’t say much about the Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs), and it revealed that when asked a simple question twice about whether the funding would go through the LSIPs, she would not give a clear answer. We hope that his ministerial colleague of the Lords will be more open during the debates on the Skills Bill.
During my panel discussion with Sally Dicketts and Sue Pember, Sue (as a former senior government official) observed that she had seen a few planning initiatives in her time – none had really worked and she didn’t was not really convinced that PSLs would be any different. .
If only the LSIPs were only advisory bodies on local skill needs, as the AELP fears that the central government will start funneling large sums of money through them despite the government’s commitment in the white paper. to simplify the myriad of adult fundraising jars.
On the Skills Bill as a whole, the AELP briefed its peers ahead of the second reading debate in the Lords on the 15th.
Our main concerns are:
- The proposed local skills improvement plans
- The “list of approved service providers” and
- The lack of measures to enforce the Baker clause.
Question on the legal obligation to have professional liability insurance
Regarding the list, some asked why the AELP questioned the legal requirement to have professional liability insurance. The point is that overall, many of the listing clauses just seem to pile the cost on top of the cost of delivering the ITP without any consultation or justification as to why they are needed – and even if they are. are, why it needs primary legislation to do so instead of a simple ESFA regulation.
Professional liability insurance is one example, and possible fees to get listed (not required from colleges or certain other types of providers) are another. The whole topic of the list just seems like a poorly thought-out solution looking for other issues that need to be addressed.
Ofsted’s concern that too many providers still do not offer high-quality learning
Despite widespread recognition of the hard work of providers during the pandemic, it would be wrong not to acknowledge Ofsted’s concern expressed at the conference that too many providers are still not offering high quality learning.
The reasons for this are recognized and have been well explored before, but it still needs to be addressed and AELP will continue to play its full role in disseminating best practices among members.
A couple of things were clearly on the minds of AELP members throughout the event:
1. The tension between Kickstart and stages needs to be resolved urgently
First, Jobcentre Plus advisors focus on Kickstart referrals and internship starts suffer. Despite all the noise around employer commitments, there have only been just over 20,000 starts of the program since its launch last September – politically, this is not a good idea for DWP, so naturally, JCP is under some pressure here.
This is not an excuse of course and it is yet another symptom of a lack of common reflection between the departments. While this much appreciated extra money for internships that has been made available is not to be wasted, this tension between programs needs to be addressed urgently.
2. The Bootcamp goal posts have been moved
Second, the Bootcamp offer winners are very unhappy with the terms and conditions now imposed on them prior to signing the contract. Sentiments among the chosen providers are high regarding the recruitment of potential learners and the DfE’s plan for its researchers to randomly reject half of all eligible bootcamp applicants in a randomized controlled trial.
To us, it looks like the goalposts have been moved since the announcement of the procurement outcome.
Even with a full exit from the lockdown again delayed, the AELP national conference was a timely opportunity to discuss how the sector can best support an economic recovery and to debate the content of the skills bill.
The AELP and its members are going to be busier than ever over the next few months!
Jane Hickie is Executive Director of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers
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