Labour wins: What the training industry can expect from the new government


Labour have won a landslide victory in the general election, and now all eyes are on their first moves in government.

Labour wins: What the training industry can expect from the new government

Labour’s Keir Starmer was appointed Prime Minister on Friday, after the party won hundreds of seats across the UK and ended the Conservatives’ 14-year rule. Crucially, the results gave them an overall parliamentary majority of 170 seats, which should make it easier to pass new laws.

While it’s likely that we’ll have to wait until the Autumn Budget for big-ticket announcements, Labour built their campaign on a platform of change and will still want to make an impact in their first 100 days. 

In his victory speech, Keir Starmer promised that “change begins now”, saying: 

“I don’t promise you it will be easy. Changing a country is not like flicking a switch. It’s hard work, patient work, determined work. We will have to get moving immediately.”

What can we expect from a Labour government?

In Labour’s manifesto, education makes one appearance on their “first steps for change”. The party has pledged to recruit 6,500 new teachers in key subjects, paid for by ending tax breaks for private schools.

This is alongside promises to:

  • Deliver economic stability

  • Cut NHS waiting times

  • Launch a new Border Security Command

  • Set up a publicly-owned clean power company

  • Crack down on antisocial behaviour

Longer term, Labour’s manifesto promises to tackle some of the problems created from “years of Conservative chaos and policy churn”. It points to a confusing skills system, plummeting apprenticeship numbers and widespread skills shortages, which it plans to address with a “comprehensive strategy for post‐16 education”.

This strategy includes:

Establishing Skills England

Skills England is a proposed national body that brings together businesses, training providers and unions with national and local government. It aims to address skills shortages and ensure training accurately reflects the overall needs of the labour market. 

This was raised on our apprenticeship wishlist, where one industry expert highlighted the need for a “cross-government set of ministers who understood what skills were needed in England”.

Skills England would operate separately from other executive bodies, such as the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, and the Education and Skills Funding Agency. An independent report shared with FE Week claimed that there was “limited evidence” that existing agencies “ever meet” to look at skills requirements from a nation-wide perspective.

Transforming further education colleges

Labour has pledged to turn further education colleges into “specialist Technical Excellence Colleges”. These colleges will work with businesses, trade unions and local governments to provide young people with better job opportunities and help to create the “highly trained workforce” needed by local economies.

Reforming the apprenticeships levy

The apprenticeship levy has been widely criticised since its inception, with apprenticeship starts falling by a third between 2015/16 and 2021/22. Labour’s manifesto described the levy as “broken”, with current rules “ignoring vital skills and training needed to access apprenticeships”.

Labour plans to create a more flexible Growth and Skills Levy, which would allow firms to use up to 50% of their levy contributions to fund non-apprenticeship training. To ensure that qualifications offer value for money, Skills England would consult on eligible courses to create a list of approved non-apprenticeship training.

Notable question marks 

There were also some notable absences in Labour’s manifesto. In response to the Conservatives’ planned abolition of technical qualifications (like BTECs), Labour said in June 2023 that they would “pause and review the diversity of options” first. However, there was no mention of this in the final manifesto.

There was also a lack of clarity over existing education policies. Last year, former Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans for the Advanced British Standard, a new qualification framework that would “bring together the best of A levels and T levels” for 16 to 18-year-olds.

Consultations on the new framework closed in March and a whitepaper on the findings is due to be published in summer 2024. It was due to be rolled out over the next decade, but we’ll need to wait and see whether it’s included in Starmer’s plans.

What's next for the new government and the apprenticeship sector?

It’s set to be a busy few months. These new policy changes will certainly present both exciting opportunities and new challenges for the sector, and we at Bud are here to navigate these changes alongside you.

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