• Lifetime skills guarantee to give adults the chance to take free college courses valued by employers
  • New entitlement to flexible loans to allow courses to be taken in segments, boosting opportunities to retrain and enhancing the nation’s technical skills
  • PM acts to boost productivity and help country build back better from coronavirus

The Prime Minister has set out plans to transform the training and skills system, making it fit for the 21st century economy, and helping the country build back better from coronavirus.  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 2021 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.

The coronavirus pandemic and changing economy is why the Prime Minister is developing a long-term plan to ensure that, as work changes, people can retrain, upskill and find new well-paid jobs.  In a speech on Tuesday, the Prime Minister 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.

And this long-term plan learning from what has worked around the world will finally enable our amazing country to close the gap with other countries that in this one respect have had or thought they had the edge on us when it comes to skills and technical education. They thought they had the edge on us for 100 years.  Well we have the talent.  We have the potential.  All we need to do is give people the chance.

And yes, we face a once a century pandemic but now is the time to fix a problem that has plagued this country for decades.

Now is the time to end the pointless, snooty, and frankly vacuous distinction between the practical and the academic.”

The full speech can be read here: PM’s Speech on Skills 29 September 2020

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.  That is why the government is committed to making higher education more flexible to facilitate lifelong learning, and to make it easy for adults and young people to break up their study into segments, transfer credits between colleges and universities, and enable more part-time study.

To encourage more people to take technical courses at their local college, government will reform how people can use their learning allowance and student loan to train and retrain throughout their life.

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 63 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.