Tens of thousands of adults to gain new skills on 400 free courses next year, in the first major development in the Lifetime Skills Guarantee announced by the Prime Minister in September to transform the training and skills system.
Backed by £95 million from the National Skills Fund, the new courses will be available from April to all adults without a full Level 3 (A-level equivalent) qualification and will open doors to new and better jobs.
The fully-funded courses, including engineering, health, construction, accountancy and conservation, will be available to adults without a full qualification at Level 3 (A-level equivalent) from April 2021 to help them gain in-demand skills and open up further job opportunities.
Designed to help our country build back better after the pandemic, the qualifications in this offer have been carefully chosen to help adults improve their career prospects and meet the needs of the economy. They will be reviewed regularly so the courses offered can be updated as the economy changes.
The announcement marks an important step in the development of the government’s landmark Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which will transform the skills system to ensure more people, no matter their age or background, can get the skills they need to progress in employment.
The offer is backed by £95 million from the £2.5 billion National Skills Fund, which is financing programmes that both support the immediate economic recovery and help meet future skills needs.
This funding will not only enable thousands of adults to gain new qualifications and access better job opportunities; a proportion will also be used to support providers to scale up their provision to deliver the courses and meet the needs of learners.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“Despite all our efforts, coronavirus is damaging the economy and putting people out of work.
"But I am determined to help everyone who has lost their job to retrain, develop new skills and find new opportunities.
“The Lifetime Skills Guarantee will give thousands of adults across the country the chance to do exactly that – as we build back better after the pandemic.’
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
“As we recover from the pandemic, we are focussed on making sure that individuals and businesses can build back better than before.
“Throughout our lives we may all need to boost our skills, or gain new ones. These free qualifications will help open doors to better employment opportunities for thousands of adults and support businesses to access the workforce they need to grow.
“Our new Lifetime Skills Guarantee promises to help you get the skills you need at every stage of your life. I’d urge all those eligible to see what course they can take from spring next year and start thinking about their next steps.”
Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive, Make UK, the manufacturers organisation:
“Industry will be pleased to see manufacturing and engineering related level 3 qualifications as part of this new offer. Protecting existing vital skills and providing people with an opportunity to learn much needed new skills is crucial.
“It is also an important first step in supporting individuals on the pathway towards higher-level qualifications as we transition to a digital economy. These new opportunities will be critical in the months ahead for the manufacturing sector as we build a workforce fit for the future.”
Chief Executive of Association of Colleges, David Hughes said:
“I’m pleased to see progress in the roll-out of the new Level 3 entitlement as part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. The qualifications will help people to get the skills they need in the labour market emerging from the pandemic so it is great to see that essential services like child and social care have been included alongside engineering, agriculture, construction and many others. Colleges are eager to start work and begin planning ahead of delivery in the spring of 2021.
“This breadth of courses is vital in supporting rural and urban economies to build back better. The impact Covid-19 is having on people’s livelihoods requires urgent action so we look forward to working closely with the Department to support the delivery of this new offer.”
Responding to today’s announcements on Level 3 qualifications, Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning and Work Institute said:
"The Lifetime Skills Guarantee is welcome and it’s good to put some flesh on the bones. But the limited budget suggests the Government expects a limited take up. This is a good start, but we hope that it is a down-payment on a more ambitious approach to drive a levelling-up of skills after the pandemic
"Rather than a centrally-driven approach, we need to empower people and employers to choose the learning that works best for them. And alongside investment in level 3 skills, we'd be keen to see much greater support for learning at basic skills and level 2 to create a true ladder of opportunity.”
Jane Hickie, Managing Director, Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), said:
“The latest announcements are a positive step and will help training providers to plan their provision for next April. The inclusion of adult care on the qualifications list is welcome and vital in terms of attracting more home grown talent to the sector after Brexit. But we can’t fail to hide our disappointment that hospitality and retail have been left off when these sectors are being hit so hard by the effects of the pandemic.
“Time is short for making the required funding available to providers and colleges but we hope that the ESFA and the MCAs take care to allocate it to providers with a good track-record of delivery. In normal times, providers and colleges should be required to bid for this funding and the long-term solution lies in giving the individual learner the purchasing power for their level 3 entitlement via skills accounts. Alongside the ‘carefully chosen’ qualifications, responding directly to individual learner demand helps minimise the risk of public money being wasted.”
Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO at City & Guilds Group, comments:
“The Government’s commitment to offer adults without A-Levels funding for level 3 courses is a step in the right direction, but, given its aim is to boost skills in the post-Covid-19 economy – it is limited in scope and not nearly ambitious enough to move the dial on the UK’s lifelong learning lag.
“As a starter for ten, by limiting this offer only to those who haven’t got a level 3 qualification, the Government is effectively ignoring the vast swathes of people who are losing their jobs within industries that have been decimated by the pandemic. These individuals need help to retrain and reskill to find work elsewhere and the offer of funded training could provide a much-needed lifeline. The priority for adult retraining right now is to get people back into work quickly and it’s vital the funding goes towards courses that will genuinely lead to meaningful employment in industries where there are real job opportunities.
“And time could not be any more of the essence – so why wait until April? We know the end of March could mark yet another unemployment spike, so we need to fast track funding and open up opportunities in real-time. If we are to give the economy a fighting chance of recovery sooner rather than later, we need to act now.”
£43 million from National Skills Fund to expand pioneering ‘Skills Bootcamps’
The government’s plan to support people to upskill and retrain was also bolstered earlier this month by the announcement of £43 million from the National Skills Fund to expand the pioneering ‘Skills Bootcamps’ to other areas of England in 2021.
The Bootcamps - which were launched in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region this autumn, offer free, flexible courses of 12-16 weeks to give people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer.
Registrations have now opened for courses in the Leeds City Region, Heart of the South West, and Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire which will cover Digital Bootcamps teaching skills like software development, digital marketing, and data analytics but also technical skills training in such areas as welding, engineering, and construction.
Alongside the new Level 3 offer, the Lifetime Skill Guarantee will also include a Lifelong Loan Entitlement which will allow adults and young people to space out their study across their lifetimes and take high-quality courses in both further education colleges and universities.