From education to employment

Labour proposes skills tests for JSA claimants

Job seeker’s allowance claimants would be forced to sit a test to assess their need for a basic skills course in English, maths or IT under Labour, according to shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves.

Miss Reeves said the scheme would require benefits claimants to be assessed within weeks of their claim being activated, with colleges being the best place to provide the courses.

However, the Association of Colleges (AoC) warned that such a scheme would need to be backed up with suitable funding.

Michele Sutton, AoC president, said: “The work colleges already do with the unemployed is succeeding, but they are working with more people than they are funded for. If Labour wants colleges to work with more benefit claimants, they will need to ensure sufficient funding is available to make it a reality.”

Concerns over how the programme would be funded during budget constraints in the further education sector were echoed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “It is good to hear that the Labour Party is making a commitment to provide jobseekers with training in English, maths and IT. However, where will the funding come from to deliver the training and to develop and run the tests to ascertain who needs training? And where will the training take place following the recent cuts in funding for further education colleges which may mean that, by the time this policy is implemented, there aren’t enough college places or FE colleges to provide the training?

“It is also hard to see where the additional jobs will come from for the nearly one million young people who are out of work. Without good, long-terms jobs to go into young people could end up in a merry-go-round of training and short duration minimum wage jobs.

“We would like to see a greater commitment from companies to training their staff at the beginning and throughout their career.”

Natalie Thornil


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