Future-Ready Skills Commission comments on publication of government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper

“There has never been a more important time to invest in skills,” says Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Future-Ready Skills Commission

21 January 2021

Commenting on the launch of the Skills for Jobs White Paper, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Future-Ready Skills Commission, and Leader of Bradford Council, said

“There has never been a more important time in my lifetime to invest in people’s skills. The Future-Ready Skills Commission made the case for a life-long skills entitlement, with employers and regional bodies setting the agenda based on the needs of their labour markets, and a funding system that lets people achieve their potential at any stage in life.

“The Government seems to have listened to the Commission and taken on board some of our recommendations in the Skills for Jobs White Paper, but it’s not clear yet how far it will go in terms of building the devolved approach set out in the Commission’s blueprint.

“Designing a skills system fit for the needs of people and the economy now and in the future requires a fundamental shift in powers, focus and responsibilities to regions. We believe regions are best placed to work with employers and their representative bodies to understand the skills in demand in their jobs market. We have the relationships and the experience to collaborate with colleges, training providers and businesses to meet these needs.

“By working together, employers, training providers and regional bodies like Mayoral Combined Authorities and LEPs can ensure people have the right skills, which will be vital as we work to overcome the effects of the pandemic and build a strong local economy that works for everyone.

“In West Yorkshire, we have a successful track record of partnering with colleges and further education institutions through delivery agreements to align the needs of our learners with those of local businesses. It is an approach that has paid dividends and we are ready to act as a national pilot so it can be adopted more widely.”

The Future-Ready Skills Commission is an independent, national commission supported by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and made up of experts and leading thinkers from business, education, local government and think tanks.

Over the past two years, it has conducted an in-depth examination of the UK skills system, from post-16 education through to adult skills and career development, drawing upon national and international examples of best practice to design a skills system for the 21st century.

Its final report, A Blueprint for a Future-Ready Skills System, was published in September and contains nine policy recommendations designed to build an adult skills and training system better able to meet the needs of local economies, and future challenges and opportunities in the workplace.

The Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and Combined Authority have also agreed to implement key recommendations from the Future-Ready Skills Commission. The Commission’s findings will used to inform the creation of the region’s new Employment and Skills Plan for 2021-25, as well as addressing digital skills needs in West Yorkshire.

As the Combined Authority takes responsibility for West Yorkshire’s Adult Education Budget (AEB) from August 2021, it will expand the successful use of delivery agreements with FE colleges as recommended by the Commission, to make the skills system more responsive to local needs.

The Commission’s findings have also been incorporated in the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Plan to identify the priorities for employment and skills in the short, medium and long term.