Main parties endorse NIACE manifesto

19th June 2014

Politicians from the three main Westminster parties have endorsed NIACE’s vision of how a skills-led recovery will ensure prosperity for all. Responding to the NIACE Manifesto – Skills for Prosperity: Building Sustainable Recovery for All – at a special conference in Westminster today, Minister for Skills and Enterprise, Matthew Hancock, said:

“NIACE are tireless advocates for adult learning. With the launch of your manifesto, I’m delighted that you’re continuing to drive this vital agenda forward. There’s much in the document that we in Government agree on, and we’re currently in the pilot stages of several of the priorities you’ve set out.”

In response to the NIACE call for a new localism, the Minister emphasised developments in strengthening the links between LEP Strategic Economic Plans and the activity of learning providers. He also remarked – in the response to the call for personal skills accounts linked to regular career reviews – that decentralising skills funding is a key priority and highlighted that skills accounts will be built into the design of Apprenticeship programmes.

Also speaking at today’s conference and endorsing NIACE’s Manifesto were Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills, Liam Byrne and Baroness Brinton from the Liberal Democrats.

Liam Byrne presented ‘five big reform objectives’: 

  1. Give all people a real choice of routes to higher level skills
  2. An ‘earn while you learn’ revolution
  3. Close the skills gap, regionally and nationally
  4. Make HE more affordable, flexible, sustainable and accessible – for all types of learner
  5. Support the provision of basic skills 2.0 (digital)

Baroness Brinton wants the Liberal Democrat Manifesto to commit to Lifelong Learning Accounts, invested in by individuals, employers and the state. She also agreed that a major independent inquiry is essential for a skills-led recovery.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“It’s been a great morning. All speakers have engaged in the debate we launched when we put our manifesto out. There is clearly a consensus that we need a skills led recovery and that there needs to be changes to the current system and pattern of funding to achieve that. Our job at NIACE is to drive debate across politicians, employers, public and voluntary sectors so that we can agree the changes which will deliver a truly lifelong learning society and deliver prosperity for all.”

Graham Hasting-Evans, Managing Director of NOCN, said:

“The current skills system is inefficient, ineffective, bureaucratic and un-responsive.  A fundamental change to the system is urgently required. If we don’t then we will continue to have high unemployment, high inequality and an economy that’s less and less effective. I fully support NIACE’s six priorities for action in their manifesto and believe that these will provide the foundation for sustainable growth ensuring prosperity for all.”

The politicians were responding to NIACE’s Manifesto which has outlined the following six priorities for action:

  1. Secure Personal Skills Accounts for all adults, along with structured career reviews, providing adults with the power to take control of their own skills, putting personalisation and individual choice at the heart of the re-engineered skills system.
  2. A “new localism” for learning and skills, delivered through devolution, a strengthened individual-employer-Government partnership, and a new Whitehall Department responsible for business, education, skills and work, tackling the Whitehall silos between DfE, BIS and the DWP.
  3. An independent review of the UK’s long-term skills needs and funding issues, equivalent in status to the national reviews of pensions (Turner) and social care (Dilnot).
  4. More emphasis on informal, non-formal, as well as formal learning to enable people to gain economically and socially useful skills.
  5. Basic skills to continue to be fully funded for all adults, with a new emphasis on supporting those with skills at lower levels to engage in informal learning.
  6. A new Apprentice Charter setting out how every Apprenticeship will provide an expansive education and foundation for a successful career.?