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Access to skills for all will be vital in unlocking a post-COVID recovery for the whole nation – the Government is right to focus on it

Cindy Rampersaud, Senior Vice President of BTEC & Apprenticeships
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The 2021 state opening of parliament marked the start of another parliamentary year, and the Queen’s Speech set out the Government’s priorities for the legislative year ahead. In the first Queen’s Speech since 2019, the overriding theme was levelling up and recovering from the pandemic, with a plan for skills and post-16 education across the country at the heart of that. 

The measures set out a blueprint for “a post-16 and adult education and training system that is fit for the future.” The Lifetime Skills Guarantee, first outlined back in September 2020, is designed to help people get the skills they need to train, or retrain, to secure jobs that fit the needs of the local economy. 

We know access to learning and skills is a powerful enabler for economic growth, and the growth of individuals and communities and societal change, and so welcome this focus on adult education and training. Such provision is vital in enabling individuals to access and progress in learning, whether upskilling or reskilling, throughout their lifetime. This will help prepare all to meet the new and growing skills needs of the future – whether that be in health science, health care, environmental and renewables, or Agri-Tech. In order to get this right, there needs to be continued flexibility and a broad range of options to support access to learning and reskilling. 

It is also crucial that the Lifetime Skills Guarantee is designed, and can evolve, to reach those who need it most. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of learning and skills and the Bill recognises how vital learning is to the UK’s economic recovery. The education, learning and skills sector not only has a major role to play in this, but also in addressing the widening inequalities gap since the onset of the pandemic. 

Pearson is leading two pieces work related to this agenda: an expert Forum investigating the role of education, learning and skills in tackling widening inequalities gap caused by Covid-19; and a programme of research and roundtables considering the post-16 education reforms, from the national and local point of view (reporting in July). We look forward to sharing our experience in support of learners and UK plc, and working with all stakeholders to ensure the whole system works for everybody. 

Cindy Rampersaud, Senior Vice President of BTEC & Apprenticeships

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