Future-Ready Skills Commission hails success with key recommendations becoming government policy

Government announces universal entitlement to A-Level equivalent based on local labour market needs, following publication of Future-Ready Skills Commission final report.

9 December 2020

The Future-Ready Skills Commission is today hailing a major policy victory as key recommendations of its final report are to be adopted by government.

The government has announced a universal entitlement to a first, fully-funded Level 3 qualification - or A-Level equivalent – in almost 400 courses to help adults gain in-demand skills.

Mayoral Combined Authorities will play a central role in identifying the skills needed in their local labour market and delivering courses and training to make this happen.

This was a central recommendation of the Future-Ready Skills Commission’s final report, published in September, which called for the government to expand the entitlement to a first full Level 2 and 3 qualifications to all ages, including local flexibility to determine provision.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the Future-Ready Skills Commission and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “I am relieved the Government has listened to the strong case the Future-Ready Skills Commission made for this change. We have long argued that regions are best placed to work with local employers to understand what skills are in demand in their jobs market both now and in the future, and then work with colleges, training providers and businesses to meet these needs. I will be pressing Government to make sure that this is the start, not the end of the investment in regional skills and jobs that we need to see.

“As the Combined Authority, we’re also investing over £13 million of funding from the devolution deal into a skills programme to support thousands of people right across the region into work. We have to invest in a people-powered recovery to get West Yorkshire through these difficult times.”

Currently, funding for a first Level 3 qualification is only available to those aged under 23. The government has announced that this entitlement is now extended to adults of all ages with be able to study to gain a first, fully-funded Level 3 in qualifications that are valued by employers.

Funding for the Level 3 adult offer will be delivered through the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in non-devolved areas, and delivered through Mayoral Combined Authorities and the Greater London Authority, which will also be able to submit additional courses to the list where they are able to provide evidence that they should be funded.

It follows the announcement in Autumn by the Prime Minister of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, to help people train and retrain at any stage in their lives with a flexible lifelong loan entitlement to four years of post-18 education.

This closely mirrors the Future-Ready Skills Commission’s recommendation to universal skills entitlements from school-leaving to retirement, with a right to minimum qualification levels, and funding to support people’s ambitions.

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 West Yorkshire Combined Authority have also agreed to implement key recommendations from the Future-Ready Skills Commission. The Commission’s findings will be 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.

At the latest meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the region’s leaders agreed to use £13.5 million of funding secured through the West Yorkshire devolution deal to help over 10,000 people in the region, who have been made redundant or are at risk of redundancy, to build new skills and access training or find work, over the next two years.