The Prime Minister announces a major expansion of post-18 education

The Government announced a ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’ today, alongside flexible loans as the country seeks to build back from the impact of Covid-19 and boost productivity.

The Prime Minster 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 is that at every stage of your life, this government will help you get the skills you need.” You can read the full update at Gov.UK.

Everyone over the age of 18 without an A-Level or any other level 3 qualification will be able to enroll on a free, fully-funded college course to increase their skills and line them up with employers requirements in a changing labour market. Courses and maintenance loans will be available from April with further details to be released on the course available; both loans are courses will be flexible to allow for course to be taken in segments.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee will be funded by the National Skills Fund.

What has changed?

  • High education loans will be more flexible to allow adults to study across their lifetime, rather than in 1, 3 or 4 year blocks.
  • An increased focus on more high-quality vocational courses in further education colleges and universities and the ability to transfer credits between colleges and universities, and enable more part-time study.
  • Increased investment in college buildings and facilities – including over £1.5 billion in capital funding.
  • Apprenticeship opportunities will also be increased, with more funding for Small and Medium Enterprises taking on apprentices, and greater flexibility in how their training is structured.
  • £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, helping the country build back better and support our refreshed Industrial Strategy.
  • The free online Skills Toolkit, helping people train in digital and numeracy skills, is being expanded to include 62 additional courses
  • £2.5 billion 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.

Our Commentary

Covid-19 has become both a health and economic crisis, impacting the labour market and education sector simultaneously. Even before the pandemic the nature of jobs was changing; new technology in areas such as artificial intelligence and biotechnologies are creating new industries, changing existing ones and transforming the way things are made. We have seen in our own research in the Youth Voice Census, alongside that from the Institute for Employment Studies and Edge foundation, that there is a skills gap and aspirations gap in the UK.

We welcome these announcements to boost the skills of all adults and re-shape the local labour markets around the new demands of modern technology on the workplace. We entered a recession over lockdown and although there has been a bounce back, the recovery will be prolonged and we know that the affect of this on young people is often scarring. In the last recession following the 2008 crash a lot of young people tend to invest in their education and skills whilst they wait for the country to bounce back and jobs to be created.

Research conducted within the Youth Employment Group tells us that the Government need to be producing 1000 opportunities a day if we are to return to the pre-pandemic levels of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET).

It is particularly important that the courses people take are targeting the skills employers are calling for; the labour market in the UK has embraced technology and Covid-19 has only accelerated its role in the workplace. It is vital people are learning and taking courses in the right areas to prepare them and genuinely improve their employment prospects.

For more information, please email info@youthemployment.org.uk or call 01536 513388.

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