Seema Malhotra at local college, West Thames College
Seema Malhotra at local college, West Thames College

Labour’s conference this week showed that we are not just offering an alternative to the Conservatives, we’re already planning for the better future our country deserves. Over the last eight months Labour Leader Keir Starmer has set out the five missions Labour will take from opposition into government, and at conference he made plain our determination that a complete revolution in how we deliver skills in this country will be at the heart of our whole approach.

Last year we set out that the next Labour government will bring leadership and ambition to our skills system by creating a new national body – Skills England – to drive the change we need. He explained how we will devolve and combine power and budgets for skills and adult education to combined authorities, ensuring the right decisions and the right priorities are taken by the right people in the right places. And he pledged the reform of the failed apprenticeships levy into a wider growth and skills levy that genuinely drives learning in every workplace, large and small.

While the Conservatives have been content to drift and fail, Labour hasn’t sat still. As Labour’s new shadow skills minister I’ve been keen to hit the ground running. This week we have set out the next steps towards building a skills system that works for everyone, delivering opportunities for individuals to upskill, companies to grow, communities to thrive and for Britain to succeed.

The network of Technical Excellence Colleges that we’ll develop will be key to that. Under Labour’s plans, education providers will work hand-in-hand with local businesses and employers to align skills and training provision with local need and real job opportunities. And they will drive deepening cooperation and collaboration between higher and further education across our country, building on the work many successful institutions already deliver and bringing those opportunities to every corner of our country.

We want to see local government and national government working as one, not at odds, to ensure local skills plans meet national strategic priorities to grow the economy and reskill people in the jobs of the future. We are determined that we will unlock opportunity for people right across our country.

The Britain Labour wants to build won’t just be rich in skilled jobs one distant day; it will require hundreds of thousands of them to get there. More skilled NHS staff. Higher standards of workers in adult social care and childcare. Construction skills to meet the demand for 1.5 million new homes and a new generation of new towns. And the engineering expertise to deliver the energy security and the net-zero future our world so urgently needs.

Labour is determined that in government we’ll not just bring a change of policy and a change of focus, but a whole new approach – governing for the long term, putting our country first, and seeing the difficulties we face as challenges to be tackled, not one to be exploited for political point-scoring. Our country has a proud history, and our young people deserve a bright future: a future that only Labour can deliver.

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