Landmark reforms that will transform post-16 education and training, boost skills and get more people into work, have been published 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 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 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.
- 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.
In addition, the White Paper identifies 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.
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.
In terms of stakeholder reaction:
British Chambers of Commerce 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 pandemic, it is essential to ensure that the right skills and training provision is in place to support growth."
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief Policy Director stated: “The 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.”
Peter Cheese, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, declared that giving employers more say was a “significant step forwards” in closing skills gaps.
“This is a key part of the solution to tackling the UK’s skills development and productivity deficit and equipping people for changes to the world of work driven by increased use of AI and automation.”
Mike Cherry, Chair, Federation of Small Businesses believes that “central to (the White Paper) is making sure that small businesses are afforded the financial support and guidance necessary to help with training the workforce as well as those who are unemployed.”
Charles Woodburn, Chief Executive, BAE Systems added: “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.”