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Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary

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@GavinWilliamson outlines new measures to help more people get the skills they need to get ahead which supports the Lifetime Skills Guarantee adult skills package as announced by the Prime Minister today (29 Sept):

Economic headwinds, technological change, redundancy, all of these can leave people wondering how they are going to get their next job, but few events have had quite such a profound impact as the Covid pandemic.

Many people’s livelihoods, the jobs they have or the ones they have been working towards, have all changed overnight as a result of the damage wreaked by the virus.

Our long-term recovery is going to depend on us helping those who need to retrain or develop new skills to do so, and quickly.

I have made it my personal mission to shift the outdated attitudes that too many people in this country subscribe to, that technical and further education is somehow worth less than getting a degree. We cannot afford this short-sighted prejudice. This country is bursting with talent but it does not always go hand-in-hand with opportunity.

The Chancellor has already taken steps to get more people back into work but we need to go further and step up our support for school leavers, particularly the forgotten 50% who do not go on to university,  who will be entering one of the toughest jobs markets for decades.

The Prime Minister will be setting out a broad vision of how we are going to make lifelong learning a reality.

Further Education is central to our mission of levelling up the country.

That’s why the Prime Minister announced the ‘Opportunity Guarantee’ this summer, giving every young person the chance of an apprenticeship or an in-work placement.

I have already spoken of my intention to put further education centre stage where it rightfully belongs. We are going to make sure there is greater flexibility in both the FE and HE system to support adults who need to retrain and upskill throughout their working lives.

To get Britain moving again, we will need a workforce that has the skills the country needs and our further education reforms, including Institutes of Technology, apprenticeships and T Levels will make sure young people acquire them.

In this country we suffer from high skills shortages in technical trades - we don’t have enough builders, plumbers or pipefitters. Just to put this into perspective, our productivity levels are only 4% higher than they were in 2008. To build back better from the pandemic we will need a lot more people with these vital skills.

Apprenticeships are a crucial part of our FE reforms and the Chancellor’s unprecedented plan for jobs will make sure that it’s not just young people but adults, too, who have the chance to start one. Where apprentices are made redundant as a result of the pandemic we are offering them unparalleled help to continue their training.

Employers, especially small ones, might be nervous about taking on and training an apprentice in this climate, so we will make sure there are plenty of incentives and help for them to do so.

We will also make training for apprenticeships in sectors like construction and creative industries more flexible and we’re going to make it easier for sectors in which short work placements are commonplace to run apprenticeships, like design, film and television.

Students should not have to commit to a three-year degree in order to secure a student loan.

We are therefore going to give people a lifetime skills guarantee, enabling them to study high quality courses across further and higher education at a level and time that best suits their needs. We will publish a consultation on this subject and bring forward the necessary legislation as soon as we can.

Universities already allow students to get credits towards a degree from qualifications they have taken elsewhere. We intend to make this a mainstream feature across FE and HE, and make all our new Higher Technical Qualifications easier to build on in this way.

Adults who do not have a full level 3 qualification – academic or vocational courses broadly equivalent to two A levels – will be able to go to their local FE college and take a free level 3 course.

These qualifications will give them the kind of skills they need to apply for a wider variety of better paid jobs.

Technology and digital skills are playing a greater part in all our lives, so we are providing £8m to expand digital bootcamps this year in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Lancashire, and Liverpool City Region. These will be led by local employers and will be followed by additional camps in Leeds, the South West, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire early next year.

All of these measures are going to help us build back better, and will be just part of our renewed commitment to FE that will be set out in a White Paper later this year.

There is no doubt that this the pandemic has put this country under enormous pressure. But I am confident that by supporting adults to reskill and retrain we are laying the foundation for our recovery. But more than that, we are going to come back stronger than we were before.

Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary

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