This month we’ve been hearing a lot about skills devolution.

First, we got clarity from the Greater London Authority (GLA) about their Adult Education Budget (AEB) plans from 2019/20. ‘Skills for Londoners, A skills and Adult Education Strategy for London’ sets out 3 main priorities that the Mayor’s office has identified for their approximately £311 million AEB they’re set to be allocated.

  • Priority 1: Empower all Londoners to access the education and skills to participate in society and progress in education and work.

To achieve this, they have set out the following objectives;

Objective 1: Reduce barriers to participation in lifelong learning and progression in work, through the creation of an all-age careers offer.

Objective 2: Increase targeted support to the most disadvantaged groups, so they are better equipped to access education and work.

Objective 3: Increase the number and diversity of adult learners in London gaining the skills they need to participate in society and progress into further/higher-level learning, work or an apprenticeship.

This will also include London lobbying to ensure they get a ‘fair funding settlement in the UK Shared Prosperity Fund’, to backfill EU sourced funding streams as we leave the European Union.

  • Priority 2: Meet the needs of London’s economy and employers, now and in the future.

Objective 4: Promote productivity by supporting employers to develop and make the best use of the skills of their current and future workforce.

Objective 5: Work with employers to ensure the devolved AEB and wider technical and vocational education system delivers for the London economy.

Objective 6: Increase employer engagement to improve the relevance and quality of training in some of London’s key sectors and occupations.

This priority, among other things, would entail London lobbying government to devolve the apprenticeship Levy, to create ‘a skills levy for London’.

  • Priority 3: Deliver a strategic city-wide technical skills and adult education offer.

Objective 7: Help improve access to information to support learners and employers to make informed decisions and to enable a more strategic approach to commissioning skills provision.

Objective 8: Improve progression pathways into intermediate and higher-level skill.

Objective 9: Raise the quality of facilities, teaching and leadership in London’s further and adult education sector, promote its specialisms and ensure its sustainability.

This also includes better use of data through the London Skills and Employment Knowledge Hub, raising awareness of other funding sources such as advanced learner loans and align with the establishment of Instituters of Technology.

Second was an interesting presentation at the recent Institute for Public Policy Research North Brexit Summit.

At the summit, Mayor Steve Rotherham, metro major of Liverpool city region set out his vision for technical education for his Mayoral Combined Authority.

He set out a vision piloting a ‘households into work’ programme, working with long term unemployed households to retrain people into the work place. He talked of a ‘Skills Revolution’, having engaged with 2,000 businesses to look at their recruitment needs and skills gap needs, and using both the AEB and apprenticeship levy to plug these skills gaps.

This being said, he stated the need to reform the apprenticeship levy, his conversations with employers highlighting that the complexity of the levy is putting businesses off investing in apprenticeships, in his experience employers are writing it off as a tax loss. His office is lobbying government to spend levy underspend on apprenticeships. His office are also keen to utilise the Shared Prosperity Fund, to backfill EU funding in his region.

This is very interesting for those of us in the technical education community. From these 2 examples of skills devolution we can draw some common themes into how AEB devolution will work in the future, and how we can all support this from our various organisations and institutions. .

  • Both localities are looking to get their share of the slice of the (as yet undisclosed) Shared Prosperity Fund, due to replace European Union Funding post 2020. We are assured by the treasury there will be a consultation in ‘late’ 2018 to which will set out some detail.
  • Both areas are looking at increasing levels of employment, and upskilling those already in work to higher levels. Employability is key.
  • Both are not keen on the current apprenticeship levy model. London is lobbying for changes to the levy system, the Mayor of Liverpool has stated his intention to change it too – we may end up with a model of apprenticeship levy and funding that that varies from region to region.

Ove the next few months, we’ll hear from more Combined Mayoral Authorities and regions on their plans for technical education and the AEB. I’d wager the common themes highlighted above will appear across localities as issues they’re keen to address.