Lifelong learning will be critical to how the UK adapts to change, says Shadow Education minister

Posted On: 
25th September 2018

Lifelong learning will become a critical factor in how the UK adapts to future change, a Shadow Education minister has said at an Apprenticeships Forum reception at the Labour party conference.

Gordon Marsden MP speaking at the Apprenticeship Forum Reception at the Labour party conference

Speaking to attendees at the Apprenticeships Forum, Shadow Education minister Gordon Marsden spoke out about the importance of expanding apprenticeship and lifelong learning schemes in order to best equip the UK for tackling future challenges after Brexit.

Mr Marsden told the reception, supported by The Institution of Engineering and Technology, Ratheon, Sir Robert McAlpine and WorldSkills UK, that his party had committed to a Lifelong Learning Commission as part of a wider move towards a national education service.

“We have announced that our lifelong learning commission, which we first mooted when we had this debate on the Higher Education Bill, has now been formally signed off”, he said.

“I look forward to engaging with many people in the industry around some of the key issues in terms of apprenticeships in that area. Because lifelong learning is not simply an issue for older people in their 40s and 50s. Lifelong learning is now going to be part and parcel of the way in which we have to do things over the next 10-15 years, because of the nature of change and the rapidity.”

He continued: “And whatever happens with Brexit or anything else, those issues of how we get more apprentices into the system, how we adapt to change, how we adapt between generic skills, which are becoming more and more important… in the process of apprenticeships, and the very specific bespoke skills that are going to be needed in certain areas.

 “We’ve got the defence industry here, we’ve got engineering, we’ve got technology, these are all areas where people who have very good generic skills will also need to get up to speed with some very quick bespoke skills. And not just in those areas, but in other areas as well.”

Mr Marsden took the opportunity to hit out at the Government for their slow response to changes in the sector, urging them to take notice of the voice of organisations involved in the delivery of apprenticeship programmes.

He said: “The devil is in the detail, and I know the sponsors here tonight, and many of you in the room have been engaging with the Government in terms of some of the major issues, in terms of the apprenticeships levy, obviously the issues around T-levels beginning to come through, and there is also of course the targets and the changes from primaries to standards.”

He added: “There has been a considerable sense of frustration at the lack of speed with which some of these things had been taken forward.”

But the senior Labour figure paid tribute to the sector for driving forward fresh initiatives to increase the diversity of people taking up apprenticeships.

“At the end of the day, it is you guys out there who are taking the chances on these young people and older people as well and I want to applaud you for doing that”, he said.

 “I want to say also that we need to broaden, and it’s good to see some big initiatives in that area, we need to broaden the range by gender and by category of those apprenticeships, and we also need to celebrate ourselves on the world stage.”

He concluded: “The key thing at this moment in time is that we all: business, educators, trainers, FE colleges, we all get behind a big expansion in apprenticeships, which not just gives input, but output and outcome to those young people and older people who can benefit.