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Pioneering Government Reforms to boost ‘Skills and Jobs’

The UK Government has, today (21 January 2021), released its Skills for Jobs white paper that aims to revolutionise post-16 education and reshape the training landscape.

The new blueprint places employers at the heart of the system, helping to develop tailored plans that will meet local skills needs and co-designing high quality technical education.

The published reforms further cement the new Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee commitment to enable everyone to get the skills they need, when they need them, and secure jobs with higher wages that support the economy.

It will offer tens of thousands of adults the opportunity to retrain in later life, helping them to gain in-demand skills and open 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 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 2021/2022 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.

The 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.”

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,” he added.

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 nations 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 policy paper, the Government has published its interim response to the review of Post-18 Education and Funding [LINK]. The interim response details immediate plans to rebalance technical and academic education and future reforms with the higher education Teaching Grant. The 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 21st 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.

To review the Government’s ‘Skills for jobs: lifelong learning for opportunity and growth’ white paper.

View white paper