Secretary of State for Skills responds to Institute position paper

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Our position paper on the serious skills shortage in our sector has received another response from the UK Government.

Alex Burghart MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Skills, from the Department for Education has replied in writing to the Institute’s Executive Director, Shireen Chambers MBE FICFor, detailing the department’s ongoing efforts and investment in green jobs to support the net zero target.

Although we are grateful for a response, the Minister’s response fails to address the specific problems related to forestry that we raised in the paper, and instead focusses on generic green careers. We will be contacting the department to request a meeting so that we can further explain the critical issues and push for action.

Please see his full response below.


03 November 2021

Dear Ms Chambers,

Thank you for your email of 7 October, addressed to the Minister of State for Higher and Further education, enclosing the Institute of Chartered Foresters’ October position paper. I am replying as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Skills.

As you rightly make clear in your paper, trees are fundamental to our efforts to combat climate change. I am very grateful to the Institute of Chartered Foresters for its position paper and can assure you that it has been shared widely throughout this department. I would like to take this opportunity to outline our efforts already underway in this area.

As the UK leads the world in tackling climate change, the government is committed to investing in our most valuable asset: our workforce. We must ensure that people have the skills to deliver the low-carbon transition and thrive in the high-value jobs this will create. We must bring people along with us on this transition, open up opportunities, and ensure that we do not leave places and workers behind as we meet net zero.

In November 2020 we launched the Green Jobs Taskforce, working in partnership with business, skills providers, and unions to ensure that we have the skilled workforce to deliver net zero and our Ten Point Plan. The Taskforce, which has now concluded, published its independent report on 14 July 2021, providing recommendations to government, industry and the skills sector.

The evidence collected by the Taskforce, and its recommendations, were considered by the government as part of the ambitious Net Zero Strategy, which was published recently and can be read on the GOV.UK website at: tinyurl.com/YEYB4ZZ8.

Alongside the Taskforce report’s publication, we set out a package of initiatives which are helping to support green skills, including in the forestry sector. These include:

Green apprenticeships:
There is a wide range of green apprenticeships already up and running in the forestry and environment sectors, including Forest Operative and Arborist at Level 2, Agriculture/Horticulture Professional Advisor at Level 6, and Ecologist at Level 7. These have been endorsed by the Green Apprenticeships Advisory Panel (GAAP), which is working with employers across England to enhance the current apprenticeships on offer and create new opportunities to adapt to the growing green economy.

Green Skills Bootcamps:
The government is expanding its Skills Bootcamps to other areas of the country. Skills Bootcamps deliver free, flexible training courses of up to 16 weeks for adults so they can develop in-demand skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer. This includes offering technical training in sustainable agriculture.

Green T Levels and A levels:
We are introducing T Levels as a new high quality technical option for young people after GCSEs. The rollout of T Levels is phased over a few years, to ensure high quality provision from the start. You may be interested to know that the T Level in Agriculture, Land Management and Production will be introduced in September 2023 and will include a specialism in tree and woodland management and maintenance. The outline content of this T Level can be found on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education website here.

In 2017, we also introduced a new environmental science A level. This will enable pupils to study topics that will support their understanding of climate change and how it can be tackled.

Free green courses:
As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, the Free Courses for Jobs offer gives an estimated 11 million adults in England who are 24 and over, and do not yet have A levels or equivalent qualifications, the opportunity to take their first level 3 qualification for free. Numerous qualifications included in the Free Courses for Jobs offer can support learners into green jobs. These include horticulture, arboriculture and forestry (for example, Level 3 Advanced Technical Extended Diploma in Forestry and Arboriculture), and also engineering, electrical installation, and environmental conservation.

We are keeping the list of qualifications and the sector subject areas in scope under review to ensure that they adapt to the changing needs of the economy. All qualifications added to the list met the criteria published on GOV.UK. Qualifications not included in this offer will still be eligible for Advanced Learner Loans.

A green National Curriculum:
It is vital that young people are taught about climate change and sustainability issues, which is why these are covered in the Science and Geography National Curricula at key stages 1-4 and 1-3 respectively. The National Curriculum is mandatory in all state-maintained schools, whilst academies are required to follow a broad and balanced curriculum as exemplified by the National Curriculum.

A green Department for Education:
We are under no illusions that climate change poses huge challenges to this department and to the education system. Our sustainability and climate change strategy, which is due to be announced at COP26, will provide more detail on how the department plans to address the challenges posed by climate change between now and 2030.

I hope you find my reply helpful, and I would like to thank you for writing on this important matter.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Burghart MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Skills

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