Pioneering reforms to boost skills and jobs

Landmark reforms that will transform post-16 education and training, boost skills and get more people into work, have been published today (21 January) by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

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 that 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 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 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 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.

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.

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.

The drive to place employers at the heart of the skills system comes as the Prime Minister launches a new Build Back Better Business Council. The new group will see business leaders work directly with government to fuel the Covid-19 economic recovery.

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 today 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.

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.

These reforms are at the heart of our plans to build back better, ensuring all technical education and training is based on what employers want and need, whilst providing individuals with the training they need to get a well-paid and secure job, no matter where they live, and in the sectors that are critical to our future economic success.

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 is 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.

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.

I’m delighted that this puts skills at the heart of the pandemic build back, and recognises the vital role that colleges and further education will play in levelling up for people and places whilst tackling longstanding concerns about stagnating productivity. Colleges have shown throughout the pandemic an unerring focus on the students, employers and communities they serve – this package shows that the government trusts them to deliver an ambitious and much-needed boost to skills which are vital for our changing economy and labour markets.

Higher education will continue to play a vital role in the education system, but recent figures show only 66% of working-age graduates are in high skilled employment. Furthermore, many of the skills that employers are demanding require intermediate or Higher Technical Qualifications – but only 4% of young people achieve a qualification at higher technical level by the age of 25 compared to the 33% who get a degree or above. Evidence also shows these qualifications can lead to jobs with higher wages.

The measures outlined today form part of the government’s Plan for Jobs which is protecting, supporting and creating jobs across the country and will help everyone to benefit from the opportunities available to them.

They will build on the significant action already underway to transform the post-16 landscape, as we level up and boost the nation’s skills through the new Lifetime Skills Guarantee. This includes rolling out pioneering new T Level qualifications, establishing a network of Institutes of Technology and continuing to work with businesses to improve the quality of apprenticeships and traineeships so employers and individuals can access the skills they need to succeed.

The measures outlined today form part of the government’s Plan for Jobs which is protecting, supporting and creating jobs across the country and will help everyone to benefit from the opportunities available to them.

They will build on the significant action already underway to transform the post-16 landscape, as we level up and boost the nation’s skills through the new Lifetime Skills Guarantee. This includes rolling out pioneering new T Level qualifications, establishing a network of Institutes of Technology and continuing to work with businesses to improve the quality of apprenticeships and traineeships so employers and individuals can access the skills they need to succeed.

To coincide with the publication of the White Paper, the government has published its interim response to the review of Post-18 Education and Funding. The interim response details immediate plans to rebalance technical and academic education and future reforms with the higher education Teaching Grant. The final conclusion to the Post-18 review will be set out at the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

The government is also launching its consultation on post-qualification admissions, which could see students receive and accept university offers after they have achieved their A level grades. The consultation aims to ensure a fairer higher education admissions system that provides a twenty-first century offer for all students.

The Independent Review of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework, led by Dame Shirley Pearce, has also been published today alongside the government’s response which sets out an ambition to raise quality in higher education.

So that learners have access to high quality buildings and facilities as well as world class education and training the government is investing £1.5 billion in further education colleges. Following an initial £200 million investment in September 2020, so colleges could undertake immediate remedial work, the next phase of the FE Capital Transformation Fund has been launched today. Further education colleges across the country are invited to bid for funding to upgrade buildings and campuses.

Charles Woodburn, Chief Executive, BAE Systems

BAE Systems recognises the vital role that the FE system plays to meet the skills needs of employers. We recently made a commitment to recruit a record number of up to 850 new apprentices this year, over 75% of whom will be working in the North of England. This will help us to meet our future skills requirements and we also continue to invest in the upskilling of our existing workforce, typically spending over £100m each year in the UK on education and skills.

We very much support the aims of the Government’s White Paper and its commitment to place employers at the heart of the reformed system, at both national and local levels. Our team has worked closely with DfE on the development of the new apprenticeship standards and already enjoys strong relationships with local FE providers in the delivery of our training. We look forward to continuing our partnership at national and local levels with the DfE and FE providers to help meet our and the country’s future skills needs.

John Boumphrey, UK Country Manager, Amazon, said:

We welcome the steps the government is taking to boost further education skills development. We share their bold ambition and are committed to play our part in transforming the further education landscape across all regions of the UK. We continue to create new jobs across the country and offer opportunities to help our people develop new skills, including Career Choice, which provides funding of up to £8,000 for employees to pursue qualifications and training in those high-demand fields, even if that results in a career outside of Amazon. We also provide opportunities for people of all ages with apprenticeships and university bursaries, as well as computer science and engineering resources through our Amazon Future Engineer programme. We look forward to working with government, industry partners and communities across the UK as we continue to support the further education and skills agenda.

Liv Garfield, Severn Trent Chief Executive, 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.

Simon Murphy, CEO at Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) said:

Battersea Power Station welcomes the Government’s ambition to transform post-16 education and training. By allowing employers to play a more prominent role in designing technical courses, the UK’s workforce will be better equipped to fill the vacancies available.

As a project which has successfully created 700 construction jobs and apprenticeships for members of the local community so far, and will create over 20,000 new jobs by the time the development is complete, we believe today’s announcement will allow us to ensure more people have the skills and training needed to succeed at Battersea Power Station.

Steve Murrells, Chief Executive of the Co-op, said:

We welcome the reforms to post-16 education. As a champion of social mobility, the Co-op wants to see that all young people have a fair and equal chance, irrespective of where they live or their background, to develop vocational skills and enable them to unlock and reach their potential in later life.

The challenges facing the economic recovery are huge, however a truly collaborative approach between businesses that can make a difference to young people’s education and skills, local education providers and the government is the way forward to help rebuild and grow the economy.

As an industry leader in providing apprenticeships to 1,200 colleagues across the Co-op Group, we’ve seen the energy, enthusiasm and new ways of thinking that apprentices bring to the Co-op and their contributions help us achieve a better way of doing business.

Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director, 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 ten 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 Budget.

We look forward to engaging with Government on any future consultation around the Augar review to ensure our world-class universities can continue to support the jobs, skills and innovation key for firms to thrive.

Nick Mackenzie, CEO at Greene King, said:

For the last decade, we have invested heavily in our apprenticeship programme so, regardless of their skills, our team members can train and learn while they build a successful career with us. We also use our programme to help plug the skills gaps in our industry so we recognise there is a need to rebalance technical and academic education. Therefore, we welcome the news that employers will be at the heart of the new system and look forward to being part of the process as we look to support the government’s aim to transform post-16 education and training.

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, said:

We welcome these proposed reforms to post-16 education and training. We’re pleased in particular to see a real focus on boosting digital skills given the rapidly changing needs employers have in a competitive world.

BT is one of the UK’s largest private sector employers and has recruited more than 1,600 apprentices and graduates over the past 24 months. As part of our BT Skills for Tomorrow programme, which aims to help improve digital skills for 10 million people across the UK by 2025, we invest in initiatives to support young jobseekers including our Work Ready training scheme, part of the broader Movement to Work, and we support the new Fast Futures 12 week course to help young people develop practical business skills.

Leo Quinn, CEO of Balfour Beatty and founder of The 5% Club, a movement of employers committed to using earn and learn to build and develop the UK’s workforce, while tackling youth unemployment, said:

The 5% Club and its members welcome this ambitious package of reforms, which will ensure that in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the UK is laser-focused on delivering the training and skills needed to drive future growth, innovation and shared prosperity.

These measures will come as a major boost to businesses across the whole country, and to the many people needing to reskill in order to re-enter employment. In the construction and infrastructure industry it is vital to help us Build Back Better and turbocharge the economy across the whole of the UK.

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