Major Expansion of Post-18 Education and Training Announced

PRIME MINISTER, Boris Johnson has set out plans for expanding the post-18 training and skills system.

Adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification will be offered a free, fully-funded college course.

The offer will be available from April in England, and will be paid for through the National Skills Fund. A full list of available courses will be published shortly.

Lifetime Skills Guarantee

Under the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, higher education loans will be made more flexible, allowing adults and young people to space out their study across their lifetimes.

The funding is to increase take up of high-quality vocational courses in further education colleges and universities, and to support people to retrain for jobs of the future.

These reforms will be backed by investment in college buildings and facilities of £1.5 billion in capital funding.

The coronavirus pandemic and changing economy has led the Prime Minister to develop the long-term plan aiming to ensure that, as work changes, people can retrain, upskill and find new jobs.

Vocational Training

Apprenticeship opportunities will also be increased, with more funding for SMEs taking on apprentices, and greater flexibility in how their training is structured – especially in sectors such as construction and creative industries where there are more varied employment patterns.

In 2000, over 100,000 people were doing Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, but that has reduced to fewer than 35,000 currently. Those doing foundation degrees has declined from 81,000 to 30,000.

As a result, only 10% of adults hold a Higher Technical Qualification as their highest qualification, compared to 20% in Germany and 34% in Canada.

This is despite the fact that five years after completion, the average Higher Technical Apprentice earns more than the average graduate.

The new Lifetime Guarantee arrangements will provide finance for shorter term studies, rather than having to study in one three- or four-year block.

Digital Skills

The government is also committing £8 million for digital skills boot camps; expanding successful pilots in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and introducing programmes in four new locations.

From next year, boot camps will be extended to sectors like construction and engineering, to support the Industrial Strategy.

Skills Toolkit

Earlier this year the government launched its free online Skills Toolkit, helping people train in digital and numeracy skills. This is being expanded to include 62 additional courses.

Industry Response

Focus on building trades

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB)

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The Government intends for us to ‘build, build, build’ our way to economic recovery, but the construction industry is facing a skills shortage which is hampering our ability to do so. One in three builders can’t hire a bricklayer and one in four can’t hire general labourers. The Government is right to invest in further education, but it should focus on the building trades as a priority.”

“The Government’s pledge to review and reform apprenticeship training is very encouraging provided it can lead to more local builders training more apprentices. This should mean forging stronger links between SMEs and colleges so that they have access to the communication and support that they need. Extra funding for colleges needs to include ringfenced funds for them to employ industry liaison officers who could act as a conduit between the colleges, students and employers to help join up the dots.”

Surplus Levy

Steve Radley, CITB Policy Director

Steve Radley, CITB Policy Director, said: “More funding and training flexibility for employers through the lifetime Skills Guarantee announced by the Prime Minister today is a critical first step to support construction’s recovery.

“Changing apprenticeship funding rules to recognise prior learning and allow large employers to spend surplus Apprenticeship Levy funds in bulk will be vital to ensure the apprenticeship programme can more flexibly respond to industry’s skills needs. This is something that CITB and the CLC has engaged with Government in the Roadmap to Recovery plan, and I am delighted that the Government has listened.”

Measures Might be Too Late

Engineering and manufacturing sector specialists, Enginuity last month issued a joint call with the TUC, CSEU, Cogent, Make UK and others for the formation of a National Skills Task Force comprising of employers union and skills bodies.

Dr Jacqueline Hall, Head of Policy & Strategy, Enginuity

Head of Policy & Strategy Dr Jacqueline Hall said, “We welcome the fact that the Government recognises an imperative to act, but any response should be within a National Skills Taskforce and a strategic cross sector approach to skills and job opportunities, harnessing expertise in the spirit of collaboration and targeting to specific need”

“Waiting until April next year to introduce new measures may simply be too late – the sector is reeling now from the impact of Covid for example haemorrhaging – 14,000 in aviation alone – talent and skills which could be repurposed rather than lost to our nation’s recovery..

“Enginuity uses data science space to show that in order to upskill does not necessarily mean there is a need for a FULL qualification – even if transferring between sectors, because people have a range of transferrable skills and experiences.

“A targeted approach is a better, more efficient use of the public purse and means that new skills and training can be focussed directly to need. This also means a more agile response as furlough comes to a conclusion and in anticipation of the redundancies and employment uncertainty. This is critical to respond to Industry 4.0, and a green manufacturing recovery.”

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