City Lit Blog

An industrial strategy: Place skill development and lifelong learning at its heart

Story added 25th Jan 2017


Yesterday, the Prime Minister launched her Government's eagerly-anticipated Industrial Strategy

Delivered as a discussion paper for in-depth consultation, the strategy is designed to deliver on her vision of inclusive growth by aligning central infrastructure investment with local economic improvement.

It includes plans for investment in sector-specific research and skills development, and has been heralded as a new Government focus on support for business, with opportunities both domestic and international. 

In proposing to build a modern industrial strategy, the Government’s approach covers a 10-point plan, involving:

-          Investing in science, research and innovation

-          Developing skills

-          Upgrading infrastructure

-          Supporting business to start and grow

-          Improving government procurement

-          Encouraging trade and inward investment

-          Delivering affordable energy and clean growth

-          Cultivating world-leading sectors

-          Driving growth across the whole country

-          Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places

For us, it is great to see specific focus on Skills and Education within the strategy, although there is perhaps more that could be done to stress the value of adult education on much of what the Government are looking to achieve. 

Whilst it should be applauded that the Prime Minister has laid claim that this strategy “will help our young people to develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future”, importantly the strategy also looks to explore new approaches to encouraging lifelong learning, which could include assessing changes to the costs people face, improving outreach and providing better information.  So, we, along with the rest of adult education sector, should now look to ensure the Government pay attention to the importance of our work in the development of skills policy agenda. 

Within the strategy, there is also considerable mention to technology and the creative industries, with a call for an independent review into UK creative industries to assess how industries such as video-games and music can further benefit the UK economy through future technology, increasing the talent pipeline and maximising intellectual property rights.  The Government are keen to create a proper system of technical education, involving the creation of a small number of high quality new routes, and attracting more industry specialists to work in the sector.

For our sector, the Government have made it clear that they want to:

-          Support Further Education colleges to be centres of excellence (in teaching maths and English);

-          look at ways of giving technical education learners clear information, including the possibility of including a way of searching and applying for courses similar to the UCAS process; 

-          explore ways to encourage the uptake of STEM subjects to help meet unmet demand and build on the growth of recent years;

-          work towards a joint-up, authoritative view of the sector specific skills gaps the UK faces now and in the future;

-          address differences in skills levels between different areas to help drive economic growth and opportunity throughout the country;

-          look to promote opportunities for students to transfer between courses and institutions; and

-          work with local areas to explore new approaches to closing the skills gap such as improving pre-school education, new graduate programmes and encouraging the take up of apprenticeships. 

With considerable focus on themes important to our work – poor basic skills, the need for retraining and lifelong learning – the launch of this strategy, considered alongside the recent adjournment debate in the House of Commons, and subsequent open letterfrom 61 MPs to Rt. Hon. Robert Halfon MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, shows a potential growth in the political will and understanding of the importance of our sector. I am keen to sustain and continue this interest. 

Therefore consultation opportunities offered like this, should be seen as vital in ensuring our sector is heard and represented in any future policy implementation – and that our work in supporting adults to develop new skills, build their confidence or simply extend their learning are taken seriously.

Any consultations responses should be submitted no later than 17 April 2017.

 Phil Chamberlain, Executive Director External Engagement


Phil Chamberlain LR