Skills Group visits House of Lords to talk Brexit

Skills Group was invited to the House of Lords last week to discuss issues facing the further education sector during Brexit negotiations.

The meeting was of the newly formed Chartered Institute of Further Education (CIFE), which received its Royal Charter in 2015.

Independent training provider Skills Group was invited to join the CIFE earlier this year, and is one of three training providers in the country and the only representative from Devon and Cornwall to become a member.

Mark Boulting, managing director of Skills Group, was among those attending the meeting at the House of Lords last week.

Topics up for discussion included issues facing further education sector, in particular apprenticeships, in light of Brexit negotiations.

Mr Boulting said: “The unique position of further education, especially in terms of links with employers as a driver of productivity and economic growth is often underestimated by government.

“Sandwiched between Schools and University, Further Education is somewhat of a ‘Cinderella sector’ but anyone who’s career started with a vocational course, particularly an apprenticeship, will realise the transformational nature of the sector.”

Skills Group was invited to join the institute as a result of it’s position as one the highest quality providers in further education in the country.

It now intends to use its position to fight for equality of treatment on behalf of apprentices and employers in the South West, said Mr Boulting.

He added: “During the meeting we made the point that the skills agenda must not be hijacked by multi-nationals from the Home Counties. The Westcountry is dominated by SMEs, and Plymouth in particular has some of the best quality and most committed apprentice employers in the country. Government must start to recognise the transformational impact of this activity – government must also value, and fund accordingly!

“Successive governments have traditionally forgotten this sector because it has little political voice. Sixteen to 18-year-olds cannot vote and SMEs have a weak political lobby so as a result, the sector is often ignored or overlooked. As a leader in the sector, Skills Group believes it is our duty to fight for our student’s rights.

“Government may not value vocational education, but it really does matter to the 16 year old let down by school for whom it represents a second chance, and for the small employer trying to establish themselves, employ people and grow. They deserve a voice nationally and that is what we are fighting to achieve by raising their profile within the department and government generally.”

Skills Group is now working with the Institute to put together case studies and research to present to ministers as part of this drive to improve the perceived place of vocational education nationally. Anyone who would like to contribute is invited to contact Mark at info@skillsgroupuk.com.

I always struggled in school as I wasn’t very academic, so knew learning on the job would be a better option for me. I would find it difficult to get up for 9am but now I wake up and look forward to my day. I wanted to try a hair apprenticeship as I’ve always been interested in hairdressing, and by the end of the first week, I already loved it!

Jaimee Benson, Level 2 Hairdressing

I have developed a range of new skills through work including the technical, industry skills required for the job, to personal development such as ensuring I am always on time. The biggest change since leaving school is adjusting to the independence you gain from earning a salary. My advice to anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship would be find what you like doing, and go for it!

Will Birch, Level 2 Bricklaying

Since starting the apprenticeship, I’ve become far more confident. In a classroom, you only interact with your classmates, but through working you develop your people skills as you interact with customers on a daily basis. At school, you are closely monitored and parented, however I am now more independent and feel grown up

Sam Collard, Level 2 Light Vehicle and Maintenance Repair

The most important thing I’ve learnt since leaving school is that there are other routes to success than just academia. I failed my GCSEs, as I never suited the school environment. Now though, I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship as I’ve discovered I learn more through hands-on practice.

Ben Freeman, Level 2 Carpentry

I would just like to thank you and your team for all the amazing work they do, you have provided me with the most invaluable experience which has helped to pave the way of my future. The work you do for young people is incredible!

Luke Kowalski, Teaching Assistant and former apprentice at Sir Robert Gefferys School