Pioneering reforms to boost skills and jobs
By Sarah Wood
Landmark reforms that will transform post-16 education and training, boost skills and get more people into work, have been published by the government.
The 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.
The measures will put an end to the illusion that a degree is the only route to success and a good job. 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.
• Business groups, including Chambers of Commerce, working alongside colleges to develop tailored skills plans to meet local training needs.
• 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.
• Changing the law so that from 2025 people can access flexible student finance so they can train and retrain throughout their lives.
• Launching a nationwide recruitment campaign to get more talented individuals to teach in further education.
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.
Boris Johnson, prime minister, 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 will deliver high quality technical education across the country - and help people retrain and secure better paid jobs."
Gavin Williamson, education secretary, 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."
Adam Marshall, BCC director general, 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."
David Hughes, chief executive of Association of Colleges, 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.
"Higher education will continue to play a vital role in the education system, but recent figures show only 66 per cent 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 four per cent of young people achieve a qualification at higher technical level by the age of 25 compared to the 33 per cent who get a degree or above. Evidence also shows these qualifications can lead to jobs with higher wages."
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