From education to employment

A Skills and Employability Manifesto to Turbocharge the UK Economy 

Alex, discusses the critical role of the skills and employability sector in the UK economy. He advocates for increased funding and policy changes to support the sector, including apprenticeship reform, investment in green skills, additional learner support, and a comprehensive long-term strategy to drive economic growth.

The last few years have not been easy for our sector to say the least. A few examples: a chronic and severe cut to funding including AEB down 52% in the decade to 2020; the end of the European Social Fund which has left a huge hole in support for NEETs; changing directives in government meaning that the former focus on wider skills has moved to a focus on Maths, which might then change again soon; little to no increase in the funding we receive to deliver individual courses – such as Functional Skills staying at £724 per learner since 2014, despite more than 30% inflation since that time (and more than 20% inflation in the last 5 years alone), meaning many courses don’t cover even the salaries we need to pay to deliver them; over £2bn of underspend in the apprenticeship levy since 2017.  I could go on.

And yet our industry is pivotal to the UK economy.

We not only support people to get the skills they need to get their first steps on the employment ladder, we crucially give people the chance they need to succeed as well. We support millions to find a job when times are tough and provide new skills for a changing workforce and changing economic needs. For every £1 invested in skills, there is a more than £20 return to the country and a significant decrease in unemployment for those who benefit from the training.

I know – especially as someone who runs a company – that funds are not inexhaustible. However, with a new administration, there is now an opportunity to realign our skills and employability system so that it serves our country and its people better. 

I am setting out below, on behalf of Workpays and our wider ITP community, some of the measures that we believe would support our sector and enable us to help ever more people.


  1. Apprenticeships to be more inclusive: more support for the most disadvantaged to access apprenticeships, including scrapping the apprenticeship minimum wage and giving support for apprentices from disadvantaged backgrounds with bursaries and pre-apprenticeship courses.
  2. More flexibility on off-the-job training to ensure SME buy-in and change what is seen as a hidden cost of apprenticeships alongside other support for SMEs to widen participation in apprenticeships, including expansion of levy transfer to allow the use of unspent levy funds by industries to cover the 5% cost of apprenticeships for SMEs.
  3. Levy funds for other uses: ability to use of a certain proportion of levy funds for accredited non-apprenticeship training with ITPs, giving organizations the flexibility to have different types of learning that is suitable to their and their learners’ needs, particularly SMEs.


  1. Mandatory green module in every course to help the UK lead the way on sustainability and make sure every job is a green job.
  2. Investment in green-specific courses to ensure the UK is at the leading edge of the new economy, courses would include manufacturing, agriculture, and office-based jobs.
  3. Further funds for in-work upskilling: reviewing in-work skills gaps to ensure the UK workforce can be at the global forefront of innovation, including management training and expansion of Multiply.
  4. New funding designated for over 50s to reskill: a new AEB specifically aimed at over 50s in declining industries.
  5. Digital centres of excellence: creation of digital centres of excellence with a focus on ensuring everyone has basic digital skills and those who want them have the advanced skills they need to thrive.
  6. Renewed focus on NEETs through NEET-only bootcamps, schools taskforce working with young people and parents.
  7. Coherent career-focused pathways to support people into work and then onto progression.
  8. Course to represent the cost to deliver them: making sure fees to ITPs increase in line with inflation each year.

Support for learners:

  1. 15 hours of free childcare for anyone in training alongside people in work.
  2. Means-tested funding for food for those who use our services, similar to free school meals, to improve food security and ensuring no learner has to choose between education and their next meal.
  3. Return of the Educational Maintenance Allowance to support young people to continue training in the way that works for them.


  1. Inclusion of Economically Inactive: giving economically inactive people the opportunity to take advantage of the Restart scheme or any similar scheme to give them the chance to work and companies a far wider pool of employees.


  1. A long-term focused national skills and employability strategy including certainty of funding: the above will work by itself but it would turbocharge the UK economy and the chances of the people our industry supports if it was joined up by a long-term well-thought-out strategy that details the government’s plan for all employability and skills in our country, with local and national employability insights driving a skills plan.

I am proud that there is a lot that Workpays is doing to support our learners with the above but the country would benefit from more joined-up thinking. Drawing from the successful model Workpays has deployed over the tough last ten years, we believe we know what works. Workpays and I are fully aware of the economic constraints of the next administration, however some measure of these would be incredibly beneficial not just for those our industry helps, but the long-term economic health of this great country that goes to vote on 4th July.

By Alex Glasner, Managing Director, Workpays

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