The announcement from government that the post-18 education and training system would be transformed to prepare for a post-covid economy has been warmly welcomed. It’s an impressive ambition and the first time a Prime Minister has fully endorsed a practical, hands-on approach to learning.
In the unprecedented move, this puts a significantly higher value on vocational learning and attempts to bring parity to the education system in a tangible way.
Importantly, the approach provides a strong signal that learning and development is the way to progress.
However, for the Lifetime Skills Guarantee to be successful, three key factors are needed:
1. Employer endorsement
Individuals will make a life choice to take advantage of the training on offer, whether for reskilling or because they want an endorsement for the skills gained through their employment. However, it will only have credibility if employers place a value on it.
Ultimately, if employers begin to use the initiative as a badge – highlighting to employees that they embrace learning and development and provide flexibility to enable their people to take advantage of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee – it will raise their appeal as a quality employer that invests in their employees. If it is valued in this way, its culture changing.
For many businesses who are unable to deliver learning and development in the way they once could, it also presents an opportunity to partner with a local college to support the skills development of their people as an effective alternative to having the internal infrastructure.
2. Alignment with occupational standards
For employers to endorse the Lifetime Skills Guarantee and encourage their people to further develop, they need confidence that the courses on offer provide value and deliver relevant skills.
To achieve this and to support employers in structuring progression with consistency and relevance across their business, industry and other sectors, the Lifetime Skills Guarantee has got to be followed with a re-emergence of national occupational standards (NOS).
These standards need to be employer-led in the same way apprenticeship standards are in order to offer employers clarity on the underpinning knowledge gained through the college courses. This approach would provide a clearer understanding to employers of the content, output and capabilities from each course and would ensure that the learning has a continuum into the workplace.
The NOS for hospitality are due to be revised in 2021, and retail in 2022 so this timing lends itself well to aligning them with the vocational education offering.
3. Effective partnerships between employers and educators
The Lifetime Skills Guarantee opens the door for a stronger connection between employers and education. Passionate and progressive employers will see this as an opportunity to work with their local college to endorse their courses.
However, it is also an opportunity for employers to recognise the value of the local college in a different way. Where learning and development functions of a business have been interrupted, it’s a chance to look at how the college supports employers and to build a strong partnership with mutual benefit. This isn’t solely to support current employees.
The local college is a pipeline for future talent that businesses have the opportunity to influence and nurture. Employers have got to be part of that infrastructure, otherwise the eco-system is not complete.
The Lifetime Skills Guarantee presents a fantastic opportunity for adults to develop their skills and improve their future prospects but there is an even greater opportunity of success if employers drive it.
Sandra Kelly, UK Director, People 1st International