David Robinson, Director for Post-16 Education and Skills at the Education Policy Institute, said: “It is welcome to see that the Labour Party have chosen to make improving the UK’s skills system a policy priority ahead of the next general election. Greater flexibility in how businesses and organisations choose to spend their apprenticeship levy could have the potential to provide a much-needed boost to training across the country, but there are risks that this flexibility would fund training that would have taken place anyway, whilst depressing the number of apprenticeships. Given that around £1 billion a year of levy payments are going unspent, maximising the effectiveness of this fund should be a priority. Careful design will be important to ensure any changes achieve the desired goals.
“Labour’s ambition for a renewed focus on skills policy through the creation of Skills England should also be welcomed, although we await precise details on how this might operate and impact current structures, such as Local Skills Improvement Plans. A skills system that listens to localities, catering for workforce needs in specific regions, is important due to the diversity of circumstances across the country. As we think of how to best utilise the skills system to combat serious challenges such as climate change, however, an element of centralised oversight could support these efforts, providing policy that’s designed with the bigger picture in mind.”