Baroness Berridge (Con)
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for tabling these amendments. We completely agree with him and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, that designated employer representative bodies should take into account evidence of future skills needs and national priorities as they develop their local skills improvement plan. Of course, much will be included in guidance, but each employer representative body will be expected to co-ordinate and collaborate with its neighbouring employer representative bodies in writing the local skills plan, and with others across England.
In relation to Amendment 15 and potential student needs, I draw noble Lords’ attention to Clause 1(6)(b), which many noble Lords mentioned. It states that a local skills improvement plan
“draws on the views of employers”.
I hope that that answers some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on what is expected of the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce in reaching out to the big employers that he mentioned. The clause also talks about
“skills, capabilities or expertise that are, or may in the future be, required”.
Although the approval process for the Secretary of State is about whether the relevant people have been consulted, as I outlined to noble Lords, the Bill states that the plan must look at the future. I obviously cannot comment on whether individual plans will pass or fail the Secretary of State’s test, but it is here in the Bill that a plan must look to the future. The future outlined is obviously the “potential students” that are mentioned in Amendment 15. They were the subject of much discussion on the first day of Committee. I remain of the view that, by being focused on the needs of employers, the LSIPs will also, by virtue of this, include the needs of potential students in relation to jobs in their areas. The vision that the noble Lord, Lord Watson, referred to is found within the White Paper that we launched earlier this year.
The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, I think, referred to other employment—it might relate to a skill that is needed for a neighbouring area. There is obviously the wider local needs duty under Clause 5. We are expecting that the trailblazer programmes will not only help to inform the guidance but help us to see how they engage with one another and the national skills priorities. The advice on national skills needs will clearly be part of the guidance. We have also previously discussed, both in this House and outside it, the role of the national Skills and Productivity Board, which will report later this year. This will enable each employer representative body to have access to its high-quality advice. The statutory guidance will highlight the types of evidence that they should have regard to.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, made reference to the flexibility that people need nowadays in terms of skilling and reskilling. Of course, that will be part of what we discuss later in Committee in relation to the lifelong loan entitlement. A lot of the additional support for young people that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, mentioned is provided through Jobcentre Plus. People can sometimes be a bit sniffy about that, but what the work coaches are doing to make young people aware of the opportunities such as Kickstart is amazing. We have also given additional funding for apprenticeship starts in that group in particular and there has been an expansion of the traineeships. However, the National Careers Service and the Careers & Enterprise Company obviously depend on the age of the person. We will also make those young people aware of that. The noble Lord, Lord Watson, mentioned the Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, which, again, will be one of the national strategies that a good local skills improvement plan will look to.
Amendment 85 looks to set up a national strategic skills panel, particularly in relation to our targets on net zero and biodiversity. As mentioned, we have been busy in the department—we have launched the Green Jobs Taskforce, which I hope gives some reassurance to the noble Baronesses, Lady Sheehan and Lady Bennett, that we are looking at those recommendations now. The recommendations in relation to the response to the need for net zero and biodiversity were not just for government but also for business and the skills sector, as we extensively debated on day 1 of Committee.
On the points made by many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, there is a balance between a framework within a piece of legislation and having so much detail within it that the accusation can then be made, potentially rightly, that Whitehall is trying to fix all. There is a framework to try to set up the appropriate situation so that providers work with the employer representative bodies and that each local area works with the others and the national picture. I do not think that we should be more prescriptive than that. There is strategic development funding to deal with the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on the capacity for these areas.
I hope that I have reassured noble Lords and that my noble friend Lord Lucas will feel comfortable to withdraw his amendment and not press the others when they are reached.