Anne Milton – 2018 Speech at the Association of Colleges Governance Summit

Below is the text of the speech made by Anne Milton, the Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, at the Association of Colleges Governance Summit on 14 March 2018.

Thank you. I’m very pleased to be here at such a significant time in the development of further education.

In 25 years at the NHS, having trained as a nurse before entering politics, I saw numerous examples of people who went above and beyond the call of duty. And I have to say that I have seen similar commitment from governors. Commitment, wanting not just to do a good job, but wanting to do a job for those people in your care.

You give up a great deal of your time. You take on a significant amount of responsibility. And you do it all as unpaid volunteers, for the benefit of your learners and your communities. You do it for the individual people within the care of your college. I can’t say it often enough, but I want to thank you for your dedication to public service. It’s very much valued.

Let me talk to you about the good and the not so good. I want to give you one example of bad governance, about a college and its board. Some of the people had been on its board for over 20 years. Board recruitment was informal, based on personal acquaintance. The Principal recruited the Chair. There was no strategic vision. The senior executive team hid any bad news from the governors. The board never challenged them. No one had financial expertise. There was no governance support, just somebody to take the minutes. Two years after the Principal’s appointment, the Ofsted rating was inadequate. The board appeared only to realise that there were big financial problems two months before the college ran out of money.

Happily, you’ll be relieved to know that isn’t a real college but I have heard stories like this that share some similarities. The story draws on real events that have actually happened. And for people like you who care passionately about FE and colleges, that should concern us all – it should trouble us. Trouble us because the governors of colleges like that can simply walk away, but each year hundreds of people will not have received the education and chances that they deserve.

And on a more cheerful note, a good story about a college with rigorous challenge. Scrutiny and support provided by a governing body that helps to drive excellent provision. Financial expertise used to good effect. People achieving their learning goals, successful careers forged, failure at school forgotten by a new and inspiring learning environment.

When I visited Nelson and Colne College recently, I was hugely impressed by the innovative approach of Lancashire Adult Learning.

Parents are enabled to support their children’s learning while developing their own skills. Learning English, learning grammar, understanding the world their children are living in and what school demands of them. Courses for local groups enrich skills in communities. People with learning disabilities are supported to develop skills for everyday living and employability. What a fantastic example of integrated, high-quality, community-based learning.

And behind all this have been the governors. Their strategic direction and support has transformed what was a failing local authority service into a very successful part of Nelson and Colne College. So it’s no surprise that Lancashire Adult Learning recently won the Adult and Community Learning TES Provider of the Year Award.

But this is not possible without real drive from the governors. I can wish for all I want as Skills Minister but without high quality, effective governance, my wishes won’t be able to come true. My education and career didn’t follow a traditional university route. I have four children and so this job as Skills Minister matters to me on a very personal level. I share your commitment to a public service because serving the public or creating new and innovative opportunities and creating success for people who didn’t think they would succeed.

It’s a time of great change for the country as we prepare to leave the EU. You will know first-hand that it’s also a time of change for colleges.

I appreciate that area reviews have been time-consuming and involved difficult decisions for college leaders and governors. But, as the recommendations from the reviews are implemented, the changes will help make sure that the sector is better placed to respond in the future.

The government wants this country to have a strong skills system that will help make a success of Brexit. But Brexit aside, we are finding exactly the same skills shortages as many countries face. We’ve introduced what could be seen as an ambitious programme of change. But we want vocational and technical education to be as highly regarded as academic education – if not higher. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be.

T levels will sit alongside apprenticeships as technical study programmes for entry into skilled employment. The apprenticeship reforms are giving people skills and knowledge. We’re providing close support to employers as they adjust to the challenges of the new world for apprenticeships. We’ve seen levy payers take bold steps in using apprenticeship funding to bring significant changes to their organisations. And I know that many colleges have made great strides in the way they have responded to apprenticeships, helping to make sure that we put quality at the heart of the programme.

I saw some fantastic apprenticeship provision at Loughborough College. Local schools have been so impressed with the sports coaching provided by Loughborough apprentices that two of the apprentices have been taken on as staff. You can’t get much better than that.

And alongside this we’re investing in new Institutes of Technology to deliver higher-level technical skills, building on high-quality provision where it already exists.

I know money is tight. Money is tight everywhere. In the FE sector it is particularly tight. I am amazed how well colleges respond. However my job will always be as a champion in government, lobbying for the important role of colleges to be reflected in the decisions that are taken. I want to ensure that FE providers have the right resources to deliver the reforms needed and the reforms that the Government wants to see. That is why I will be looking in detail at how far current funding and regulatory frameworks support the delivery of high quality provision and also crucially promote social mobility.

I will do everything I can from my position and I need you to do everything you can – governors as leaders. We need to work together; sharing expertise and for me to make sure that you have the support where you need it. I was encouraged by the recent increase in the number of general FE colleges which have achieved good or outstanding ratings in Ofsted inspections. It’s great to see that the improvement and excellence you are all working so hard to achieve is recognised.

To support your efforts, we’re already leading a number of initiatives.

We’re working closely with AoC on the Industry Experts Programme, to attract more industry specialists into FE teaching.

I think you’ve already heard from the FE Commissioner, Richard Atkins, about his expanded role to provide early advice to colleges in difficulty and help accelerate improvement across the sector. We’ve already funded development programmes for principals, finance directors, governance professionals and chairs of finance.

But we want to do more. We want to promote good practice in strengthening governance more effectively, with the right balance of challenge and support.

Last year, the Prime Minister said:

“The strength of civil society – which I believe we should treasure deeply – does not just depend on the… commitment of countless volunteers… As with other parts of our economy, it also depends on the practices that our charities adopt, and above all on the public trust they command.”

Charities occupy a special place in the fabric of society. The privileged status of charities carries with it a particular responsibility for trustees to demonstrate sound governance and to ensure public trust and confidence. The recent problems with Oxfam reinforce how important this is, particularly where large amounts of public money and the delivery of important public policy objectives are involved. They also show how important it is that charity boards are transparent and accountable, and that they protect their charity’s reputation.

We’ll introduce new guidance to ensure that there is clarity about the regulatory expectations of governors as charity trustees and you can expect tough challenge from ESFA if it finds poor governance.

One key source of guidance may be sitting quite close to you right no – your college clerk or governance manager. I want you to cherish them, respect them and look to them to help drive up the achievements of what you do. They aren’t just there to take the minutes. Like company secretaries, they’re critical to board performance and good governance practice. Do heed their advice and value their expertise. Are you investing in their development? Supporting them to get professional qualifications? Take advantage of opportunities such as the Governance Professionals Development Programme. If you have a strong and experienced clerk, why not encourage them to mentor or coach others?

We’ve funded the well-received Saïd Business School leadership programme at Oxford University for principals. We want to extend that investment to reflect the importance of non-executive leadership as well. With the Education and Training Foundation, we are working on a tiered programme of development for governors. This will provide comprehensive and tailored support from induction to advanced governance skills. We’ll start to rollout that programme later this year.

Many boards have found the support they have been able to access from National Leaders of Governance incredibly valuable. We want to build on this success by aligning the scheme more closely with the National Leaders of Further Education programme and other government-funded improvement support, including the Strategic College Improvement Fund. The funding and management for all National Leaders in further education will be brought together within the Department, allowing the Education and Training Foundation to focus on its core role of developing people rather than institutions.

Governance codes set the standards of good practice for you to meet and indeed exceed. Used well, codes can be a powerful tool for improvement and not just a box ticking exercise. Many boards have adopted the AoC’s own code of governance. But how do you assure yourselves, and those who have a stake in your work, that governance is strong? We want to work with you to identify and pilot the most effective approaches to self-assessment and external assurance of governance. And we’ll add the Charity Governance Code to the options under the college accounting rules.

As someone who had would could be described as a feminist awakening in later life, I was pleased to see that board diversity is included in today’s programme.

As we mark the anniversary of votes for women, it’s encouraging that the proportion of female governors is already well ahead of the target for women on company boards – although still less than 50%. But it’s disappointing that women only make up 30% of college chairs. So we still have work to do to close the gap. This is an area where I want to see continued leadership from the sector, focused on all under-represented groups.

Board diversity isn’t just about a better balance in the representation of people from different backgrounds. It is not about being politically correct – it’s about boards being informed, strengthened and enriched by the best possible mix of skills, experience and perspectives. We’ll continue to work with you, and with others such as local authorities, to support initiatives to attract a broad range of high-quality governors.

I’d like to conclude with another inspiring example. At the World Skills show last year in Abu Dhabi, I had the privilege of meeting some previous World Skills competitors, one of whom had been under significant pressure from his school to pursue a university education (he had very high GCSE achievement), but instead decided to make the choice to pursue further education in bricklaying. Having achieved a gold medal at World skills, he then joined a construction and development company and was managing multi-million pound projects by the time most students would be graduating. Suffice it to say, the Head teacher had the grace to apologise for his blinkered view, but what a fantastic example of how an FE college can lay the groundwork for a fabulous career!

I’m grateful to Atholl and the Governors’ Council for inviting me here today. Do not ever limit the ambitions of your college. Get onto the Board the inspiring leaders from local business, younger people, people who are building the futures of their own children so they can bring their expertise to build the futures of the children in the local community. Strong effective leadership and financial management builds strong, effective colleges so that everyone, whatever their background, wherever they come from, has a future they can be proud of.

Anne Milton – 2018 Statement on Presidents Club Charity

Below is the text of the statement made by Anne Milton, the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, in the House of Commons on 24 January 2018.

Mr Speaker, I am sure you have seen the papers this morning. It has been reported that last Thursday, the Presidents Club—this is the first time I have heard of the club—[Interruption.] I am just saying, I had not heard of it before. This club hosted a charity dinner to raise money for causes such as Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. I understand from reports that there are allegations of inappropriate and lewd behaviour at this event.

It is quite extraordinary to me that, in the 21st century, allegations of this kind are still emerging. Women have the right to feel safe wherever they work, and the type of behaviour alleged to have occurred is completely unacceptable. I have recently taken on ministerial responsibility for the board of the Department for Education and was previously Minister for Women. As hon. Members will know, David Meller has been a non-executive board member in the Department for Education and chair of the apprenticeship delivery board. The Government expect board members to adhere to the code of conduct for board members of public bodies, which clearly states that they should adhere to the seven principles of public life.

David Meller is stepping down as a non-executive board member for the Department for Education and as a member of the apprenticeship delivery board. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is absolutely clear that that is the right thing to do. In case right hon. and hon. Members or you, Mr Speaker, are in any doubt, the event was absolutely nothing to do with the Department for Education.

Anne Milton – 2018 Speech at Bett Show

Below is the text of the speech made by Anne Milton, the Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, at the Bett show in London on 24 January 2018.

Welcome. It is fantastic to join you all for this conference marking both the opening of Bett 2018, and the closing of the Education World Forum (EWF).

I’m sorry that our new Secretary of State couldn’t make it but some of you will hopefully have heard his speech at the EWF earlier this week on preparing students for success in our fast-changing world – for what has been called the fourth Industrial Revolution.

Our lives are becoming inextricably linked with technology. From the health and fitness trackers or smartwatches that many of you are probably wearing to some of the amazing innovations on display here today.

And yet – in 2017, Lloyds Bank reported that 11.5 million people in the UK lacked basic digital skills, and the Office for National Statistics estimated 9% of people had never used the internet.

Many of our best and brightest companies are telling us that they are struggling to recruit the specialist digital talent they need.

I want to focus on what we are doing at every stage in education to develop the digital skills we need to help us address these challenges.

Starting in schools. We recognise that EdTech can play a vital role – as a tool for teachers in our schools, colleges and Universities. And as a study in itself for students.

Technology should reduce teacher workload. It should be another way of making education more accessible and inclusive. It should allow educators and students’ access to share content through cloud based services.

The UK is at the forefront of Edtech – and many great British companies are represented here today. The UK is a global EdTech hub at the forefront of technological developments and discoveries; constantly developing innovative new learning methods and technology. Half of Europe’s fastest-growing education technology companies are based in the UK, and there are more than 1,000 EdTech ventures spread across the UK, with 200 in London alone.

At the same time technology can keep people awake at night! Many feel they lack the budget or the expertise to use it.

So what can government do?

Proper implementation is key; as with any intervention, the most successful changes are led locally with the sector to make sure you have the information and skills you need to make the right decisions for you and your institution. We want to support classrooms and institutions up and down the country to harness its potential effectively. But connection is critical so we announced in the autumn budget that children from 100 schools would be the first to benefit from the local full fibre programme, using poorly serviced schools as a marker for where to focus expansion of the national full-fibre network.

90% of new jobs require digital skills, so children need to grow up as more than just digital consumers but practitioners and creators.

Also, we announced in the Autumn Budget that we would invest £84 million of new funding over the next five years to improve the teaching of computing and drive up participation in computer science qualifications, particularly amongst girls.

This includes increasing the expertise of up to 8,000 existing computer science teachers and a new National Centre for Computing Education.

This additional investment builds on the curriculum reforms we have already made. This is a step-change from the previous approach, and includes challenging new content such as coding and algorithms, providing students with the basic building blocks they need to move on to successful further study or work.

We are currently implementing major systemic reforms in vocational education. Improving our digital skills sits at the heart of these reforms – already exciting plenty of interest and enthusiasm from students and employers alike.

For example, we have introduced new innovative digital degree apprenticeships which were designed by employers and universities working in partnership to create relevant, high quality curricula to provide the much needed skills that industry needs.

July 2017 saw the first degree apprentices’ graduate, with 11 gaining a BSc (honours) in Digital and Technology Solutions.

We also have in place a suite of new apprenticeship standards to address employers’ digital skill needs at intermediate and technician levels.

Our technical education reforms will see the creation of 15 prestigious technical routes that encompass all employment-based and college-based training.

New T level programmes will sit within these routes and will provide a genuine technical option, equal in esteem to A levels. They will give young people a path to skilled employment or higher level technical study.

There will be a specialist digital route, and in November we announced the membership of our industry panels who are already working to define the knowledge, skills and behaviours that individuals require for employment; we’ve lined up a strong mix of individuals from across the sector, with input from Fujitsu, IBM and Accenture. Government will also work with industry professionals to ensure relevant digital content is included in all routes.

Our commitment to reforming technical education is underlined through our investment in this area. In last year’s Spring Budget, we allocated an additional £500 million per year for T levels, which will help us to match the excellence of our world-leading higher education system.

But this is a fast moving sector so apprenticeships and T levels will need dynamic content that constantly keeps up with changes and innovation.

Whilst our global reputation for digital technology is richly deserved, we will work hard to keep up.

So we are determined that the new specialist institutions will play an essential role in training the digital leaders of tomorrow.

Ada is one. A new specialist further education college that works with industry to design and deliver an education that empowers all students, women, those from low-income backgrounds – to progress into highly skilled digital roles.

The college opened its 6th form in September 2016 and took its first apprentices in May 2017. Over its first five years Ada is aiming to train up to 5,000 students in higher level skills for a wide range of digital careers, such as software and database developers, user experience designers and tech entrepreneurs.

The target is that 50% of these students will be women and 50% will be from low-income households by 2021. In December, we launched a competition for areas across England to bid into a £170m fund to establish a network of 10 to 15 prestigious Institutes of Technology. They will be a new type of institution involving FE providers, HE providers and employers working together.

The Institute of Coding is an initiative to establish an institute to serve as a national focus for improving digital skills provision at levels 6 and 7. In the Autumn Statement 2015 the Government announced a new £20 million fund to improve higher level digital skills. The fund will establish joint collaborations between universities and businesses and focus on computer science and digital skills in related disciplines that employers need. The winners will be announced shortly.

But we need to make sure that the enthusiasm our students have for digital skills and learning is translated beyond the classroom and into the workplace.

We aim to tackle some of the misconceptions around jobs in the digital sector by improving the quality of careers advice our young people receive.

We published a new careers strategy in December 2017, which included proposals to increasing young people’s contact with employers, especially in relation to STEM subjects – allowing them to see how enjoyable and fulfilling these jobs can be first hand.

The careers strategy needs to be more than a document. We need to dramatically expand, the breadth and effectiveness of current careers provision in schools and colleges on all subjects but specifically STEM. We have produced a ‘what works’ and a toolkit for use in schools and colleges.

Digital exclusion is a huge challenge. Those 11.5 million people without basic digital skills need to get them. This is why I am delighted to confirm that we will introduce full funding for basic digital training for adults from 2020.

Adults will have the opportunity to undertake improved digital courses based on new national standards. This will set out the skills and capabilities people need to get on in life and work. We will consult on these new standards in the autumn.

Technology is also key to distant learning for those whose geographical location makes it difficult or for those for whom learning digitally is more intuitive.

In the Autumn Budget, we announced that will invest £30 million to test the use of AI and innovative EdTech in online digital skills courses so that adult learners can benefit from this emerging technology, wherever they are in the country.

This Government wants everyone to get the digital skills they need.

The country needs them to have those skills. Our economy depends on it. We can’t do this alone so your support, your input is vital.

The Digital Skills Partnership Board is a way of feeding that information to us. But DFE officials will be here at the conference all week.

We need to hear your ideas, answer your questions so we can make this happen.

Anne Milton – 2018 Speech at Sixth Form Colleges Association Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Anne Milton, the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, at the Sixth Form Colleges Association conference on 17 January 2018.

Thank you Bill for that very kind introduction, and for giving me the opportunity to speak here today. The work that you and your colleagues do to transform the lives of young people is so important for them and for the country. You change lives.

As I have said before, I am determined to see the sixth form sector get the recognition it deserves. Indeed it is well earned – the work you do transforms lives.

It probably should go without saying that I value the key role that Sixth Form Colleges and 16-19 academies have to play in post-16 education and I want to work with you to achieve so you can deliver outstanding outcomes for everyone. But I am saying it anyway! I think it is important to restate.

Our shared vision of a sixth form sector that includes great colleges and academies with excellent teachers, embedded in communities, can only be reached if we work together. I will always be your advocate in Government. That’s what Ministers are there for. I know you have brilliant support from your local MPs whatever political party they belong to. If you have that don’t underestimate it.

It is not just about great places to study, it’s also how you, as educators of sixth formers, respond to the social and economic challenges that we face as a country today: helping to tackle disadvantage, increasing social mobility and training our future leaders.

We have significant challenges and there is a focus on the introduction of T-levels and apprenticeships. But, that shouldn’t and doesn’t eclipse how crucial the curriculum you deliver to a significant number of our children is. We want all post-16 education to be prestigious and you are the key leaders in providing consistency and continuity up to and beyond the introduction of T-levels, encouraging pupils into the direction that is right for them and allowing them to be achieve their potential.

You know, and I know, how powerful the education and the college environment you provide is for social mobility. Social mobility is dependent on education. A few succeed without it – we all know of exceptions – but for the vast majority of us, social mobility doesn’t happen without education. You are there for young people who wish to pursue further education, particularly in academic subjects, and who are ready to study somewhere that is not school.

That is also at the heart of the Department’s work: extending opportunity, giving a real choice to young people and unlocking ambition for everyone.

Our recently published Social Mobility Action Plan – Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential – talked about a high quality post-16 education choice for all young people.

We have more people going to university than ever before, including more disadvantaged young people, but we need to expand access further to the best universities. We need rewarding careers and jobs that develop the potential of everyone.

In December, I was very pleased to launch the Government’s careers strategy. It sets out a long-term plan to build a world-class careers system that will help young people and adults choose the career that’s right for them. This was a long time waiting for an announcement. For me the front cover says it all. Skills is the largest word. The strategy aims for every school and college to have an excellent dedicated Careers Leader and you can play your part working alongside schools, FE colleges, universities and other local organisations.

For me, meeting the challenge of both making sure people are, and feel, they can change the direction of their lives – becoming socially mobile – is at the core of why I do this job. I will be your champion within government, ensuring your contribution and that drive for social mobility is understood.

You have a key role in helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds do well at university. And, by working together on this shared purpose, we are more likely to succeed. I try very hard never to use the word partnership, as it goes in the category of political clichés. But working together in a meaningful, constructive, dynamic and effective way matters. It can make a difference.

At the Association of Colleges Conference, I spoke about changing the way we work together. I want to continue that discussion with you, both directly and through the Sixth Form College Association about your particular challenges and discuss any upcoming opportunities and how we can work together differently.

There are three key areas that matter.

The first of those is support: from Government, for the sector. Money matters, I know, but there are also other issues that can make a difference.

Wherever we can, we want to harness capacity to improve from within the sector through collaboration, rather than relying on competition to achieve improvement.

That’s what we are doing through the new Strategic College Improvement Fund and with the new National Leaders for Further Education programme.

I am pleased that out of the six applications approved for the pilot phase of the Improvement Fund, two are from sixth form colleges. We have recently recruited the first of our new cohort of National Leaders and I am pleased that this includes Peter McGee from the outstanding St John Rigby Sixth Form College. He will work to help improvement in colleges. And for those of you that are academies, we have recently extended the Strategic Schools Improvement Fund so that it also covers all post-16 institutions.   I said we want to harness capacity from within the sector through collaboration, but where that capacity doesn’t exist we will invest with these funds in programmes such as the Strategic College Improvement Fund and the National Leaders of Further Education.

I know there is widespread concern about the level of funding for 16-19 year olds and in particular for those young people who will continue to follow academic programmes rather than taking new T-levels.

When we made the commitment in the 2015 Spending Review to protect the base rate of £4,000 per student per year until at least 2020, that did set spending plans for the next few years and we are still operating within that Spending Review plan. You would like more, I know. With more you can do more.

However, we have announced additional money as an incentive to grow participation in level 3 maths, with an extra £600 per year for those above the baseline. Again, there is potential here for sixth form colleges to benefit. Yes, we will always return to the question of funding in the longer term and will want to continue to talk to the sector about how to secure the high quality education all our young people need, but to do this in an sustainable and affordable way. Sixth form colleges undoubtedly have a key role in this.

It would be another cliché for me to say “we also want and need to play an active role in ensuring everyone in society reaches their fullest potential.”

But I think you will agree that none of us can develop the best response to many of the biggest challenges we face if any of us work in isolation. Only by working together, will we realise our shared ambition of world class sixth form provision for everybody. Richard Atkins’ work as FE Commissioner is an example of this.

You will know that I have recently extended his role to include sixth form colleges. As well as supporting sixth form colleges to overcome quality or finance issues, he will now step in to support colleges earlier to prevent quality or finance becoming issues in the first place. Richard has an outstanding record, raising standards and improving outcomes for learners, and his unique viewpoint has been of benefit to many colleges. As principal at Exeter College, Richard ensured the college delivered high quality A Level provision giving him insight into the challenges and benefits that come with that. For those of you that lead 16-19 academies, Regional Schools Commissioners play a similar role.

The area review programme has also helped colleges to think differently. For example, Priestley College in Warrington, Cheshire was a trailblazer, converting to academy status as part of the newly formed The Challenge Academy Trust. Formalising some of the partnerships that emerged as part of the borough wide work during the area review, the Trust brings together existing academies and maintained schools.

If we are to produce world-class provision, every educator in a region must work together for the good of their learners and local communities. Priestley College, at the centre of their learning community, is a shining example of this.

The third area I want to touch on is the role you have to play within the local communities you serve, going further in looking outwards to your local communities.

We should all strive to do more, to reach out to new ideas, to new relationships. We should not remain parochial, but always be looking for new ways to do things, such as innovative ways to make use of your collective resources for learners in your communities or being flexible and reaching out to other organisations and providers. Stale does not work. I am constantly looking for better ways of doing things. No wholesale change. But have we missed an opportunity? Could we extend the reach of good colleges? What about the children who find academic work a challenge? This is why I wanted to be an Education Minister – your Minister. Being open to new ways of thinking, being flexible around how we provide learning opportunities and having a learner centred focus will only improve what we are doing and what we are providing.

As members of an increasingly diverse organisation, you being here today, continuing long-standing collaboration and beginning new ones with each other, will ensure that high quality post-16 education choice for all young people becomes a reality.

As Ministers we are fortunate to have very helpful officials who draft us our speeches. And like many draft speeches, I read the conclusion ended with the words that “this is a hugely exciting and challenging time”. What does that mean? It is possibly political speak for the fact that the challenge is money.

But I guess it is exciting too. Exciting because with the government focus on social mobility clear, we have a choice to change people’s lives.

Without you – we cannot do this. Your hard work, your commitment and your belief in what you are doing will make that government focus on social mobility become a reality.

Anne Milton – 2017 Speech to Association of Colleges Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Anne Milton, the Minister of State at the Department for Education for Apprenticeships and Skills, to the Association of Colleges Conference on 14 November 2017.

Thank you to all of you for giving me the opportunity to speak here today.

My professional background before I entered politics was in the NHS: I trained as a nurse and worked in the NHS for 25 years. But I have to say that it is hard to think of a group of professionals delivering a more important public service than the people in this hall today. A profession caring for young people and old people – changing lives.

I would like to start by briefly sharing some of my memories from the WorldSkills competition which I attended a few weeks ago. I have to be honest, I was completely blown away by Team UK. They did fantastically well – competing on the world stage for skills and achieving great things. And I came away thinking that WorldSkills is probably one of our best kept secrets – and in all my time in politics there are few things that have impressed me so much, and on so many different levels.

One story – but I could mention many that I heard while I was there – was about Ashley who nearly didn’t become an apprentice. At school, his teachers encouraged him to go to university – apprenticeships were never mentioned as an option. Ashley was fortunate that his dad employed apprentices so he could see the benefits of training on the job. He secured an apprenticeship with Redrow, one of the largest house builders in the country. And Ashley went on. He was named the world’s best young bricklayer at WorldSkills Leipzig in 2013. He went on to complete a degree in Construction Project Management at the University of Salford. And he is now senior site manager at Redrow, managing his own team of apprentices – as well as continuing to volunteer, training members of Team UK in bricklaying.

It really matters to me that the young apprentices who did so well to get to Abu Dhabi are able to follow in Ashley’s footsteps, and become an inspiration to others.

Ashley’s story, and those of others like him, are why this job matters to me on a very personal level. They are why I am here today, why we are all here today. Our commitment to a public service that transforms the lives and life chances of young people and adult learners. Our commitment to the sector, and a desire for it to get the recognition it rightly deserves.

High quality, resilient and confident institutions with a clear mission and values, and outstanding leadership. Colleges embedded in our communities with excellent teachers that change the lives of others through learning, and give the country, business, industry and the public sector the skills that we need.

But our aim is not just about great colleges. It’s about how those colleges – your colleges – can respond to the most critical social and economic challenges that we face as a country today: tackling disadvantage, and making a success of whatever changes and challenges our country needs. I am going to mention Brexit. You know, and I know, how powerful further education can be as an engine of social mobility. That is also at the heart of the DfE’s mission: extending opportunity, and unlocking ambition for everyone.

For young people that have struggled at school, and who lacked access to the support and opportunities enjoyed by many of their peers. For those that want to take a high quality and challenging technical route. For those that want to get a degree in their local community. And for those whose path to learning has taken a different route, or who need to retrain to develop their careers.

You know and I know that the work you do meets the needs of all those people. And I know, and you know, that further education is central to the challenge of delivering a prosperous future for this country after Brexit. Ensuring that we have an adaptable workforce with the skills and opportunities to thrive. Supporting the growth of innovative, productive business. And making the most of local strengths in communities right across the UK.

The reform of technical education will be at the centre of our response to those challenges and we will be saying more about that later this month, including as part of the Government’s industrial strategy. Irrespective of Brexit, we also face a skills shortage. For the few of you who were there in Abu Dhabi, we are not alone – the world is suffering a skills shortage.

For me, meeting the challenge of both making sure people are, and feel, they can change the direction of their lives – becoming socially mobile – and tackling those skills shortages are at the core of what I want to help you with.

We all need to be focused on meeting those challenges – colleges, government, the wider FE sector, and indeed employers as well. You want to do that within your institutions, within your communities. I want to play my part within government, by acting as your champion. And I will always bang the FE sector drum. But having a shared purpose is not sufficient on its own. We will only succeed in meeting those challenges by working together.

At the Skills Summit later this month we will be focusing on developing our partnership with employers. Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about our partnership with you.

I know that words like “partnership” and “working together” come with historical baggage. There have been times in the past when our partnerships have been tested. I can understand that, given the changes that we have faced in recent years. And I can also see that the drive for freedom and autonomy has, on occasion, put too much distance between you and Government.

Looking to the future, we need to build on what works well at present. But as we face new challenges, the way in which we work together will also need to change.

I am not coming to you with a blueprint for how our partnership should work from now on. Instead, in a spirit of dialogue, I want to talk to you about what I think are the three emerging themes.

The first of those is support: from Government, for the sector.

We are, and will be, asking a lot of you over the next few years. It is only right to make sure that you get the support that you need.

Wherever we can, we want to deliver that support by harnessing the capacity within the sector. Improvement through collaboration, rather than competition alone. That’s what we are doing with the National Leaders programme, and through the new Strategic College Improvement Fund.

Where that capacity for support does not already exist within the sector, or needs to be strengthened, we will invest, strategically, in its development.

You want more money – everyone wants more money. And my job is to be your advocate within Government, making the case for why colleges matter. Money is coming in, but I recognise the challenges you face.

Second, I want Government to be playing an active role.

To be clear, I don’t think that Government always knows best, or can do this on its own. But just as an active role for Government is central to our approach on the industrial strategy, we need to adopt the same mind set when thinking about how we achieve the world class FE provision that we need. “By the sector, for the sector” is not, on its own, always the best response to many of the biggest challenges we face together.

As set out in the Government’s manifesto, we want to introduce a dedicated programme to help industry experts join the profession – building an ever closer link between business and education. Some colleges and employers are doing this already and it is good to hear about where that is working well. Because, when we come to develop the programme, we won’t be saying “we know how to get industry professionals into colleges, and this is what you must do”. We will be asking: “what can we do to help meet the very different needs of the sectors, employers and local economies that you work within?” And different areas have very different education and business communities – no one solution will work – you need to tell us what you want and what you need.

There are also some issues where Government has a unique set of levers and resources that can help find solutions to shared problems. We can see that in the positive changes coming out of the area review programme, and support for restructuring. It is why Richard Atkins, the FE Commissioner, is working with more colleges to ensure that the right support for improvement is in place. I meet frequently with Richard and indeed many local MPs, to make sure I keep closely in touch with what’s going on.

The third building block is looking at the whole system.

We need a better co-ordinated approach, both within Government, and between the Government and the sector. I am looking to the new College Improvement Board, chaired by the FE Commissioner, to help deliver that in strengthening quality, for example.

We need to ensure that targeted support for quality improvement works in tandem with wider support for FE teachers and leaders. We need to harness the insights from inspection by Ofsted to help identify improvement needs. We need to reform the accountability system to make it work better. And we need to ensure that our ambition is matched by providers who are financially resilient.

Partnership is a much over-used word. But, if meant, if felt by both sides, if it is meaningful, genuine and balanced, it does work. It is not always easy – partnership is never easy – and we sometimes fear that partnership will dilute our own unique contributions, or that one side will subsume the other. But when it does work it can be a phenomenal force for good.

This is a hugely exciting and challenging time for colleges and for FE, as it is for Government. You want more money and I will always lobby for that. But what I do know is that together, in that partnership, we have a shared ambition for all of our learners, for all of our communities and for our country.

When the Prime Minister appointed me to this post, I don’t think she was fully aware of my heartfelt beliefs about further education. (And just as an aside, I am also Minister for Women, and as a self-proclaimed born again feminist – and that’s what politics does for you – I’m delighted to have that as well.) But somebody – and this is very personal – who has always said that university is not the right thing for everyone – irrespective of high grades it is still not always the right choice. And someone who probably didn’t do as well as I should have done at school, who believes that everyone whatever their age deserves a choice, a second chance. Ladies and gentlemen, I got mine.

We together have a determination to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

Together – in partnership – I know that we can make this happen.

Anne Milton – 2017 Speech on Careers Advice

Below is the text of the speech made by Anne Milton, the Skills Minister, at the Careers Education and Guidance Summit in London on 7 November 2017.

I am delighted to be here today.

It is an opportunity for us to reflect upon the importance of people getting information, advice and guidance that helps them make decisions about their future learning, jobs and training and the role it plays in helping people of all ages to fulfil their potential.

Everyone in this room is committed to supporting young people and adults across the country to make the most of their talents and pursue a rewarding career. A talk from an inspiring employer that sparks new ideas, a work placement that opens new doors, personal guidance to explore options and develop a career plan. The work that you do is so important in helping people to succeed.

The importance of careers advice

Careers advice is the foundation upon which some of our biggest reforms will be built. New T levels will be a gold standard for technical and professional excellence. They are an amazing opportunity for young people to gain the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to enter skilled employment in a particular occupational area.

Our apprenticeship reforms are putting employers in control and enabling them to develop their workforces now and for the future. There have been 1.1 million apprenticeship starts since May 2015 and we aim to reach 3 million by 2020.

This skills revolution is dependent upon people having the best possible advice about the career path they should take. One that makes the most of their talents.

Careers guidance is central to social mobility. It is about making sure that people from communities in every part of the land can develop the knowledge and confidence they need to progress. And have a clear plan to help them get there.

Careers Strategy

I am tremendously grateful for the work that you do. That is why I want to give you a first insight into the Careers Strategy which we will be publishing shortly. I know many of you in this room have been waiting a long time for the Careers Strategy.

It will be an important document that will set out what Government will do to ensure that everybody has access to the right advice, at the right time. A clear and accessible document, setting out the part we will all play in achieving this vision.

I am going to talk to you today about the four themes that will shape our Careers Strategy and continue to guide our approach as government works closely with schools, colleges, employers and other organisations to transform the life chances of people across the country.

Gatsby and Careers Leaders

First, we need a high-quality careers programme in every school and college. There are some examples of excellent and inspiring provision, but we know that many schools and colleges require more support.

The Gatsby Charitable Foundation’s excellent report, Good Career Guidance was the result of an 18-month study looking at best practice in the UK and abroad.

It has resulted in eight Gatsby Benchmarks that define excellence. The benchmarks have had a really positive impact, as many of you have no doubt seen for yourselves.

Gatsby has been funding a pilot in the North East with 13 school and 3 colleges to look at the impact of putting the benchmarks into practice.

At the start of the pilot, no school or college fully achieved more than three of the benchmarks and half did not achieve any. Now, two years on, 88% of schools and colleges are achieving 6 to 8 of the benchmarks and three schools are achieving all eight. That is a great success story.

That is hundreds more young people benefitting from world class careers support to help them achieve their potential. I want many more people to benefit in this way. That is why the Gatsby Benchmarks will be the bedrock of our Careers Strategy. Setting the standard for every school and college to work towards and support announced through the Strategy will be geared towards helping every school and college to achieve the benchmarks.

To make the Gatsby benchmarks happen in all schools and colleges will require effective leadership. A number of organisations have been looking at models of career leadership. Teach First’s recent report provides an excellent analysis of the skills and attributes required for the role and the steps they suggest we take to embed Careers Leaders in schools and colleges. I have been considering these recommendations carefully for our Careers Strategy

Encounters with providers and employers

Second, employers are an integral part of our approach. As Britain prepares to leave the European Union it is crucial to meet the skills needs of our economy, to provide opportunities for people to learn about different jobs and careers and to develop the skills and behaviours needed to thrive in the workplace.

The Careers & Enterprise Company has made outstanding progress. There are now over 2000 Enterprise Advisers working with over half of the schools and colleges in England providing support to develop a careers programme. They use their networks to help pupils get more experiences of the world of work and provide insight into the key skills needed by local businesses.

The Careers & Enterprise Company has already invested £1million in the first 6 Opportunity Areas and we will be allocating a further £1million to support the second wave of Opportunity Areas. The investment will deliver activities such as career learning, enterprise activities or careers talks. Every secondary school and college in an Opportunity Area will have an Enterprise Adviser and every student aged 11-18 in these areas will have access to at least four inspiring encounters with the world of work. This will focus support in areas of the country where social mobility is lowest.

Tailored advice, to meet individual needs

Third, we want to make sure everyone can benefit from tailored support. Personal guidance from a qualified adviser can have a real impact. I know that the careers profession has experienced many shocks in recent years and that organisations such as Careers England and the Career Development Institute are working tirelessly to raise the profile and status of the profession.

I very much welcome the CDI’s register which we want schools, colleges and others to use to find a professional who can guide their pupils and students. The National Careers Service is also doing great work to help adults. Last year, more than 50% of adults seen by the National Careers Service moved onto an accredited training course or into employment.

We have already extended the National Careers Service contracts until September 2018 so this good work can continue. Last week, we announced a new Flexible Learning Fund to support projects that deliver learning in a way that is flexible and easy to access, especially for adults who are in work, or returning to work, and have low or intermediate level skills.

Data

Fourth, we want to make the most of the rich sources of information about jobs and careers that exist. We know that there is a vast array of information and data available which has extraordinary potential to help people make informed decisions on the education, training and employment options available to them.

Yet it is also true that these information sources can be difficult to navigate and those who could most benefit from them are sometimes unable to.

More people now use data about the destinations of students when considering their options for jobs and training. The government already publishes this data on students’ destinations, but we recognise that more needs to be done to make the data easier to interpret.

If we are to harness the potential of this data in a way that supports social mobility we need to ensure that everyone is able access and understand this information, including those who are not digitally confident.

These four priorities will form the bedrock of the Careers Strategy. I know you are eagerly anticipating it being published soon and I am absolutely committed to getting this right because it is so important for the future success of this country.

Thank you.