Major expansion of post-18 education and training to level up and prepare workers for post-COVID economy
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out plans to transform the training and skills system for people over the age of 18, and help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification will be offered a free, fully-funded college course – providing them with skills valued by employers, and the opportunity to study at a time and location that suits them.
This 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 set out shortly.
Higher education loans will also be made more flexible, allowing adults and young people to space out their study across their lifetimes, take more 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 continued investment in college buildings and facilities – including over £1.5bn in capital funding. More details will be set out in a further education white paper later this year.
Johnson said: “As the Chancellor has said, we cannot, alas, save every job. What we can do is give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs. So my message today is that at every stage of your life, this government will help you get the skills you need. We’re transforming the foundations of the skills system so that everyone has the chance to train and retrain.”
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 now. 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.
This new arrangement will provide finance for shorter term studies, rather than having to study in one three or four year block.
The government is also committing £8m 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, helping the country build back better and support our refreshed Industrial Strategy.
Earlier this year the government launched its free online Skills Toolkit, helping people train in digital and numeracy skills. This is being expanded today to include 62 additional courses.
£2.5bn is also being made available through the National Skills Fund to help get people working again after COVID, as well as giving those in work the chance to train for higher-skilled, better-paid jobs.
Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT, said: “BT welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to put skills at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery plan, and particularly the emphasis on digital skills. BT is already heavily invested in this area through Skills for Tomorrow which aims to empower 10 million people by giving them the skills they need to make the most of life in a digital world. Our Work Ready programme, and our support for the new Fast Futures digital courses for young adults, focus on the jobseeker groups that most need new skills. Ensuring that the nation’s workforce is ready for a digital future has never been more urgent – and partnership is key. That’s why BT is a founding partner of FutureDotNow, a coalition which aims to motivate people and businesses across the UK to address the growing skills gap and empower everyone to thrive in a digital UK.”
Doug Gurr, Amazon’s U.K. Country Manager, said: “We welcome this initiative to help the country recover from the impact of the pandemic by equipping people with the skills needed to find new jobs and retrain for new opportunities. At Amazon, we continue to provide opportunities for people of all ages to gain new skills with apprenticeships and university bursaries, free computer science and engineering resources through our Amazon Future Engineer and Maths4All programmes, and free training for small businesses through the Amazon Small Business Accelerator. Amazon also offers employees a programme called Career Choice that provides funding for skills development through nationally recognised courses of up to £8,000 over four years.”
Stephen van Rooyen, EVP & CEO, UK and Europe at Sky said: “Given the pace of change in business and in workplaces today, and the economic challenges of COVID, we welcome the Prime Minister’s announcements today to not just rebuild, but to turbo charge skills training in England. The new Skills and Productivity Board has a key role to play in developing our skills economy for current and future generations. It is a privilege to contribute, and I’m looking forward to working with the panel and the government to drive this important agenda. The Skills Productivity Board will provide important advice to government on how to tackle the nation’s skills challenges to help rebuild our economy post-COVID-19 and deliver the bold skills agenda outlined by the Prime Minister today. I look forward to working with government to level up opportunity across the country ensuring people have the skills they need to progress.”
Clare Barclay, CEO, Microsoft UK, said: “As a country we face multiple challenges, but we believe that learning unlocks opportunity. Today, more than ever, individuals, businesses and government must build the skills we need for tomorrow. Because if we fail to act now, the UK could easily be left behind in the global economy. There are no better investments in our future than the kinds of accessible, lifelong and flexible programmes that the Prime Minister has announced this morning.”
Charles Woodburn, Chief Executive, BAE Systems, said: “It’s more important than ever that government and industry work together to help young people and adults gain the skills needed to work in sectors which will support our nation’s economic recovery. As a major employer of graduates and apprentices, BAE Systems’ investment in skills provides an essential pipeline of talent that enables us to continue to deliver cutting-edge defence and security capabilities, essential to our national security.”
Nick Mackenzie, CEO Greene King, said: “We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of increased funding for skills and further education. As a business we are passionate about improving social mobility and developing the skills of the nation’s young people to ensure they are ready for work. That is why we invest heavily in apprenticeships, supporting over 12,500 since 2011.”
David Livingstone, CEO for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Citi, said: “With digitisation accelerating throughout the economy, the UK needs to continue to develop a highly skilled and innovative workforce. Banks can play a critical role, and Citi looks forward to expanding the reach of its current apprenticeship programmes, including our recently-launched Data Academy and efforts to encourage former employees back into the workforce. Citi stands ready to play its part in delivering on the UK Government’s ambition to increase employability and transform the country’s training and skills system.”
Steve Murrells, CEO of the Co-op, said: “The Co-op Group is pleased to work in partnership with the government to create opportunities for adults to gain the skills they need to move into sustainable employment. We are already an industry leader in providing apprenticeships and we are proud of the work our 1,200 current apprentices have done as key workers during the pandemic to support the nation.
“We believe that opportunities need to be created where they are most needed and offered to those who most need them. So we have already committed to ensure that groups that have previously been under-represented in our apprenticeship programme receive fair access in the future so we are seeking partnerships focussed on benefitting Black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates. We also know there is more to do to ensure opportunities to develop new skills are made available in the communities that most need them. That’s why we have committed to offer up to 150 kickstarter placements – combining skills and paid employment – in communities where we know the need is greatest.”
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “The measures proposed by the Prime Minister are an important step forward. They can help solve the most urgent skills challenge facing our generation. Retraining was already a vital priority for the UK. The significant unemployment coronavirus is leaving in its wake only accelerates the need for people to develop new skills and adapt to new ways of working. The lifetime skills guarantee and flexible loans to support bitesize learning are a strong start. But to really shift gears, this must be backed up by meaningful progress on evolving the Apprenticeship Levy into a flexible skills levy.”