By Claire West

Skills Minister John Hayes has today invited employers, individuals, colleges and training organisations to share their ideas on how they would like skills policy to be set out in the future.

The consultation document Skills for Sustainable Growth outlines BIS’s vision for skills and what are expected to be the key elements of a strategy for delivering it.

This is complemented by the consultation FE and Skills Funding System and Methodology for Further Education colleges and training organisations, following an independent review by Chris Banks, CBE.

The documents invite views on:

• How private investment in skills can be optimised in accordance with benefits and to allow public money to be used most effectively where it is most needed;

• Where more limited public investment should be focused and the skills system can be made simpler and more effective;

• How support for individuals and employers can be improved to develop skills and learning and meet the needs of the economy;

• How businesses can be encouraged to engage in supporting local community learning;

• Holding colleges and other training organisations to account for their performance in responding to learners and employers needs and to prioritising training that adds real economic value.

John Hayes, minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, said:

"“Skills are vital for our economy but they also help to build stronger communities and empower individuals. Only by seeing learning as a single whole, not a series of separate compartments, can we ensure that it takes its place at heart of both business strategy and community life.

"Delivering future priorities will involve making difficult choices about the use of public funds. I believe that we can deliver more and save money. But we will only achieve cost effectiveness by challenging the orthodox assumptions about what skills are for, how they are funded and what role Government should play.

"I am determined to ensure our decisions are the result of proper consultation so that policy reflects real priorities. I therefore welcome responses to the questions in this paper.

"By acknowledging the value of learning we can begin the task of re-evaluating our priorities, rediscovering craft, redefining community learning, rejuvenating apprenticeships, rebalancing the economy and building a big society."

On Tuesday, the Department launched a paper, A Strategy for Sustainable Growth, which argues that while we face a period of tough savings in public spending, we are determined to create an environment that enables businesses to operate with confidence and helping to secure the economy for the future.

Skills for Sustainable Growth will inform a strategy on skills which will be published in the autumn after the Spending Review. The strategy will outline the Government’s principles for the skills system and a framework for policy for the next five years.

The consultation will acknowledge that Further Education and Skills is integral to supporting the economy but that action to reduce the deficit will mean public investment being used more effectively. It will also ask for comments on how to best deliver the key elements of the strategy in the context of less public money overall.

The consultation FE and Skills Funding System and Methodology examines ways in which the funding to support the development of skills can best be allocated and used, and includes in its reach funding policy and budgetary arrangements for colleges and training organisations, the funding formula, allocations, procurement and contracting and performance management.