The government has embarked on reforms to change post-16 education and training, boost skills and get more people into work, particularly in technical trades such as engineering.
The government’s Skills for Jobs white paper “enshrines the Prime Minister’s new Lifetime Skills Guarantee”, setting out a blueprint for a post-16 education system to ensure that 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 offer tens of thousands of 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 for free from April 2021 in a range of sectors including engineering, health and accountancy.
Meanwhile, skills boot camps – free, flexible courses of 12-16 weeks – would be rolled out to give 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 government said the measures would “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 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".
Measures laid out in the white paper 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 – to 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 to 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”.
- Overhauling the funding and accountability rules, so funding is better targeted at supporting high-quality education and training that meets the needs of employers and introducing new powers to intervene when colleges are failing to deliver good outcomes for the communities they serve.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "Our Lifetime Skills Guarantee means that everyone will be given the chance to get the skills they need, right from the very start of their career.
"In the years ahead, the reforms we have announced will deliver high-quality technical education across the country – and help people retrain and secure better-paid jobs. That way when we have beaten Covid-19 we can put rocket boosters under our recovery and Build Back Better."
BCC director-general Adam Marshall said: "We welcome these ambitious plans to put the skills needs of businesses at the heart of the further education system. As local business leaders look to rebuild their firms and communities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential to ensure that the right skills and training provision are in place to support growth.
“Chambers of Commerce can play a leading role in developing local skills plans that reflect the needs of employers in their areas, working closely with colleges, councils and other partners.
“Together, we can increase the focus on skills for the workplace – the digital, technical and broader skills that help businesses grow, succeed and create good jobs.
“We look forward to working with the Department for Education, training providers, businesses and other stakeholders across the FE sector to further develop these proposals, making sure more people can train and retrain for new and emerging jobs in their local communities.
Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the CBI, said: "The Skills for Jobs white paper affirms the importance of collaboration between businesses and colleges for improving people’s career prospects.
"Many businesses and education providers work closely together already and putting employers at the heart of new qualifications right across England will build on the success of these local partnerships. It will ensure courses remain in lockstep with industry needs and give learners confidence they are gaining skills that lead to jobs.
"New technologies mean that nine in 10 employees will need to learn new skills by 2030. Government commitment to delivering the flexible loan entitlement and boosting access to modular learning is hugely welcome and will support more adults into training. This should be backed up by turning the apprenticeship levy into a flexible skills levy at [the] Budget."
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