Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO) (SPEB19)

Skills & Post-16 Education Bill

Public Bill Committee evidence submission

1. Introduction

YPO is a procurement organisation that was established over four decades ago by local government authorities to help combine their procurement demands and achieve efficiency savings. We supply products and services to a wide range of customers, including schools, local authorities, charities, emergency services, public sector and other businesses such as nurseries and care homes. We’re 100% publicly owned, by 13 key member local authorities in Yorkshire and North West England, which means the profits we make are returned to our public sector customers. We are the largest public sector buying organisation in the UK and now have an annual turnover in excess of £840 million, with a range including approximately 30,000 products and 100 public sector framework contracts.

2. Executive Summary

We are pleased to submit evidence to the Committee on this piece of legislation and our view is that it will bring about positive change.

At YPO, we have created an Apprenticeships Framework that provides organisations with the ability to procure all apprenticeship standards, end point assessment and associated training. It gives contracting authorities access to both regional and national providers. On establishing the Framework we were one of the few organisations which responded to the challenges public sector organisations were facing when procuring apprenticeships. We continuously support customers by advising on how apprenticeships can fit into their recruitment strategy and help fill those roles which have traditionally been difficult to fill.

Our written evidence submission will mainly focus on areas where we believe that the Bill can be strengthened for post-16 education providers, an area which we feel we have expertise and can add insight. Therefore, we have focused on Part 1, Chapter 1 of the Bill.

The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill and the introduction of the Local Skills Improvement Plan will enable local authorities to be stronger and more effective when analysing job vacancies, skills in demand and skills shortages.

By using labour market information, local authorities can help other organisations inform their recruitment strategies and again, the Bill will help strengthen this.

Success for this Bill will be the collaboration of stakeholders, local buy-in and clarity over outcomes. mayoral combined authorities (MCAs) can bring stakeholders together, shape and incentivise an inclusive practice and way forward. MCAs are well positioned to facilitate further conversations on reskilling schemes and graduate retention programmes.

At YPO, we have a role to play, and we would be seeking to become a partner and work with stakeholders to ensure that apprenticeships are highlighted as a skills pathway.

3. Part 1: Chapter 1, Local Skills Improvement Plans

Throughout the Bill there are multiple definitions of "relevant providers" which can lead to significant confusion, this should be clarified on the face of the Bill. Also, the Bill should set out clearly what the expectations are for multiple "relevant providers" working with the employer representative body.

As highlighted in Chapter 1, Clause 2, the Bill seeks to provide responsibility to Employer Representative Bodies (ERBs), whereby the Secretary of State may designate an eligible body as the ERA for an area in England if the Secretary of State is satisfied that it meets the criteria as set out in the clauses. We believe the Bill needs to set out clearly what organisations are likely to be designated as ERBs if they are to coordinate provision, as these bodies are due to have the most responsibility under this Bill

The "material" definition set out in 1.2 seems vague throughout the Bill and lacks guidance. For instance, the phrasing of "if it could reasonably be regarded as material or potentially material to the skills, capabilities or expertise" does not provide clear insight into how it would be possible to determine this. The Bill needs to strengthen how a specified areas is expected to determine what skills, capabilities or expertise will be required in the future. We would like to see the material training outlined in the local skills improvement plan. Our view is that it would make more sense for this to be the point of referral, not a reasonableness test, which ultimately gives scope for wide interpretation and possible movement from the local skills plan.

Furthermore, at several points the Bill makes reference to a "specific area", for example throughout the provisions for local skills employment plans. However, the definition of "specified area" needs to be set out more clearly within the Bill.

Regarding the approved local skills improvement plans, section 4(b) sets out that the relevant provider must have regard to the plan so far as is relevant to any decision that they make in relation to the English-funded post-16 technical education or training that may be required in the area. However, it is not detailed how this will be monitored and we question whether it will be feasible for relevant providers to keep track of this. We would like to see the mechanism for monitoring this and the burden of responsibility clearly defined within the Bill.

December 2021


Prepared 8th December 2021