A dual mandate for adult vocational education

London Councils' response to a recent government consultation on adult skills

In March 2015, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills issued a consultation paper on the future of the FE sector. ‘A dual mandate for adult vocational education’ defined two main functions for the FE sector as: 

  1. Providing vocational education for the workplace with a focus on higher level professional and technical skills
  2. Providing second chances for those who have not succeeded in the school system

The paper argued that there has been a conflation of purpose in recent years; too many providers have attempted to deliver both aspects of the mandate, resulting in an erosion of the first part and a failure to deliver the skills that the modern economy needs. The paper made the case for separating the two aspects of the mandate more clearly, outlining a vision for:

  1. Greater specialisation among providers to support the first part of the mandate, including a series of employer-led National Colleges to spearhead the delivery of higher-level technical and professional skills in priority sectors. FE institutions would be empowered to develop and accredit qualifications and curricula with employer involvement, and would be expected to deliver more work-based learning and develop stronger links with universities.
  2. A range of reforms to support the second part of the mandate, including more partnership working, more integration between the Adult Skills and Community Learning budgets, more commissioning on the basis of performance against a range of outcomes, greater flexibility to move away from qualifications, and greater local leadership and accountability across localities.

The consultation reflected some of the issues that London Councils has been lobbying central government about in relation to adult skills.

London Councils has been working closely with the GLA and other partners to make the case to central government for greater influence on skills in order to improve outcomes for London residents and businesses. This work has formed part of wider work on devolution and public service reform.

In March 2015, the government committed to the devolution of certain powers over skills to London to allow the Mayor ‘to tailor decisions over skills provision to London’s needs’. We are now looking to secure further commitments and ensure a role for local government - at a local and sub-regional level - in a reshaped skills system for London. 

The consultation provided an opportunity to reiterate some of these arguments. You can download our response on the right hand side of this page.