Gordon has used Labour’s Party Conference in Liverpool to call on Theresa May’s new Government to radically rethink their approach to lifetime learning, ensuring people in Blackpool have the skills and support to equip them for the modern jobs market.
Speaking at a Conference fringe event in Liverpool hosted by the Open University and Social Market Foundation (pictured), he said the Tories urgently needed to make lifelong learning a priority. “This is not just an economic priority for towns like Blackpool. It’s also a question of enabling people’s life chances, a moral challenge for people to have the chance to fulfil their potential.
Gordon, who is currently challenging the Government for Labour as their new Higher Education and Research Bill is being scrutinised in Parliament, said there was “minimal” reference to lifelong learning at the moment in the Bill. He warned the UK and local learners would fall further behind other countries if this wasn’t addressed.
He said: “As a former Open University tutor myself I know first-hand how crucial lifelong learning and part-time learning is to changing people lives for the better. If this new Tory Government is serious about social mobility, they need to reverse the 58% decline there has been in such activity over the past four years. I and my Labour colleagues have already made practical proposals for the Bill to give greater priority to lifelong learning. But the Government is resisting these and instead still has plans to make £360 million worth of cuts to the adult skills budget.
“We cannot afford to fall behind on this. It is disadvantaged people in places like Blackpool, who have had their grants scrapped and are now being offered expensive loans, whose opportunities and life chances will suffer.
“Whilst it is right to focus on increasing apprenticeships, especially in getting more of these into Blackpool with small businesses, Labour believes we also need to fund other forms of retraining and skills, especially for older workers.”
Gordon, also heard from a range of University, college and Businesses representatives at a fringe breakfast meeting about their fears that Government is failing post-Brexit guarantee to guarantee their funding, which could be lost for retraining and skills from the EU.
“I am concerned about their lack of confidence in the Government and its very vague promises as to how millions of pounds which currently come to places like Blackpool under the European Social Fund will be safeguarded. Losing this and the knock on effects to cutting edge research, which brings in millions of pounds for the North West, would have a detrimental effect on jobs and new businesses across Lancashire.
“I will continue to demand that Government ministers need to address these bread and butter issues urgently, rather than playing a pass the parcel process over Brexit.”