Government launches pioneering reforms to boost skills and jobs

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Reforms to which it hopes will transform post-16 education and training, boost skills and get more people into work, have been published today by the government.

The Skills for Jobs White Paper sets out a blueprint for a post-16 education system which the government hopes will ensure everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee will adults the opportunity to retrain in later life, helping them to gain in-demand skills and open up further job opportunities. This includes the chance for adults without a full level 3 qualification (A-level equivalent) to gain one from April 2021 for free in a range of sectors including engineering, health and accountancy. Meanwhile, Skills Bootcamps – free, flexible courses of just 12-16 weeks – are giving adults the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer. A Lifelong Loan Entitlement will also make it easier for adults and young people to study more flexibly, which can be used over their lifetime and for modules of a course.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the plans. Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said:

“It’s clear that the future workforce is going to need constant training and upskilling to meet new challenges and, again, we at the Chamber hear direct from businesses on what they and their staff need to have the skills required for the current and future economy.

“Working with our colleagues in education, we are committed to furthering the work around business engagement and aligning the needs of business with the supply of skills.”

The measures announced today will put an end to the illusion that a degree is the only route to success and a good job, and that further and technical education is the second-class option. Instead, they will supercharge further and technical education, realigning the whole system around the needs of employers, so that people are trained for the skills gaps that exist now, and in the future, in sectors the economy needs, including construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing.

Stephen Phipson, CEO of the manufacturing organisation Make UK, said: “For too long our education system has not kept pace with the changes we’ve seen in the manufacturing sector as a result of digitalisation, technological advances and a changing model of work. Today’s package is an ambitious, yet measured step in putting employers back at the heart of the technical education system, realigning it to meet the growing skills gaps we face in today’s labour market.

“Manufacturers will be pleased to see the vocational and technical education system geared towards providing the critical skills the manufacturing sector needs now. But more importantly, a recognition that as we look to rebuilding our economy, meeting the skills needs of UK manufacturers tomorrow will be vital to boost productivity and power economic growth.”

Measures include:

  • Business groups, including Chambers of Commerce, working alongside colleges to develop tailored skills plans to meet local training needs; supported by a £65 million Strategic Development Fund to put the plans into action and establish new College Business Centres to drive innovation and enhanced collaboration with employers.
  • Giving employers a central role in designing almost all technical courses by 2030, to ensure that the education and training people receive is directly linked to the skills needed for real jobs.
  • Boosting the quality and uptake of Higher Technical Qualifications – that provide the skills that many employers say they need and that can lead to higher wages – by introducing newly approved qualifications from September 2022 supported by a government-backed brand and quality mark.
  • Changing the law so that from 2025 people can access flexible student finance so they can train and retrain throughout their lives, supported by funding in 21/22 to test ways to boost access to more modular and flexible learning.
  • Launching a nationwide recruitment campaign to get more talented individuals to teach in further education and investing in high quality professional development including a new Workforce Industry Exchange Programme.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our reforms to post-16 education will focus on the skills people and business need for our economy to grow. As we recover from the pandemic, our Lifetime Skills Guarantee will ensure everyone has the confidence and opportunity to gain the skills they need to progress at any stage of their lives.

Chief Executive of Association of Colleges, David Hughes said: “This is an ambitious package of measures which can deliver a significant shift in how we support the lifelong education and skills needs of more than half the population and ensure that employers have the skilled people they need. With funding over the coming years to match the welcome policy shifts, this should rebalance the education and skills system to make it work for everyone.”

Liv Garfield, Chief Executive of Coventry-based Severn Trent, said: “Supporting skills and job creation has never been more important which is why I welcome these new measures that will bring closer collaboration between employers, education professionals and skills providers.

“It’s critical we all work together to offer a variety of different skills and employment opportunities that are accessible to everyone within the communities in which we live and work. At Severn Trent we’re proud to offer opportunities and learning for people at every stage of their careers.”