From education to employment

Labour’s 2024 General Election Manifesto | What Does it Mean for FE & Skills? | Sector Reaction

Labour's 2024 General Election Manifesto

Labour’s FE Promises:

  • High-quality apprenticeships and specialist technical colleges
  • A modern curriculum so young people are ready for work and life

Reforming Further and Higher Education

Here are the key Labour promises for skills, training, and education:

  • Bring forward a comprehensive strategy for post‐16 education
  • Guarantee training, an apprenticeship, or help to find work for all 18- to 21-year-olds
  • Establish Skills England to coordinate business, training providers, unions, and government to ensure a highly trained workforce
  • Devolve adult skills funding to Combined Authorities for greater local control
  • Transform Further Education colleges into specialist Technical Excellence Colleges
  • Reform the Conservatives’ Apprenticeships Levy into a flexible Growth and Skills Levy
  • Continue to support the aspiration of every qualified person who wants to go to university
  • Improve access to universities and raise teaching standards
  • Create a secure future for higher education and the opportunities it creates across the UK
  • Establish a youth guarantee of access to training, an apprenticeship, or support to find work for all 18- to 21-year-olds
  • Guarantee two weeks’ worth of work experience for every young person
  • Improve careers advice in schools and colleges

The Labour Party manifesto for Further Education and Higher Education says:

After years of Conservative chaos and policy churn, the skills system in England is confusing for young people, adults, and employers. Apprenticeship numbers have plummeted. Skills shortages are widespread. Young people have been left without the opportunities they need. The result is an economy without the necessary skills, nor any plan for the skills needs of the future. Labour will address this by bringing forward a comprehensive strategy for post‐16 education. And we will guarantee training, an apprenticeship, or help to find work for all 18- to 21-year-olds.

Post‐16 education strategy and Skills England

We will establish Skills England to bring together business, training providers and unions with national and local government to ensure we have the highly trained workforce needed to deliver Labour’s Industrial Strategy. Skills England will formally work with the Migration Advisory Committee to make sure training in England accounts for the overall needs of the labour market. And we are committed to devolving adult skills funding to Combined Authorities, empowering local leaders to have greater control of skills development in their areas, alongside a greater role in supporting people into work. Skills England will co-ordinate between local areas to ensure everyone can access all the opportunities available.

Labour will transform Further Education colleges into specialist Technical Excellence Colleges

Labour will transform Further Education colleges into specialist Technical Excellence Colleges. These colleges will work with businesses, trade unions, and local government to provide young people with better job opportunities and the highly trained workforce that local economies need.


Labour will also reform the Conservatives’ broken Apprenticeships Levy. The current rigid rules ignore vital skills and training needed to access apprenticeships. Labour will create a flexible Growth and Skills Levy, with Skills England consulting on eligible courses to ensure qualifications offer value for money.

Labour will continue to support the aspiration of every person who meets the requirements and wants to go to university.

Labour’s post-16 skills strategy

We recognise that UK higher education creates opportunity, is a world-leading sector in our economy, and supports local communities. To better integrate further and higher education, and ensure high-quality teaching, Labour’s post-16 skills strategy will set out the role for different providers, and how students can move between institutions, as well as strengthening regulation. We will act to improve access to universities and raise teaching standards.

The current higher education funding settlement does not work for the taxpayer, universities, staff, or students. Labour will act to create a secure future for higher education and the opportunities it creates across the UK. We will work with universities to deliver for students and our economy.

One in eight young people are NEET

Too many people are out of work or not earning enough. One in eight young people are not in education, employment, or training (NEET), with those lacking good qualifications and with poor mental health facing particular disadvantages. Drawing together existing funding and entitlements, Labour will establish a youth guarantee of access to training, an apprenticeship, or support to find work for all 18- to 21-year-olds, to bring down the number of young people who are not learning or earning. We will also guarantee two weeks’ worth of work experience for every young person, and improve careers advice in schools and colleges.

Driving innovation & AI

Delivering growth and raising productivity depend on fresh thinking and new ideas. Britain has many cutting-edge businesses, but innovation needs to be converted into commercial success in every corner of our country. Labour will make Britain the best place to start and grow a business.

We will ensure our industrial strategy supports the development of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector, removes planning barriers to new datacentres. And we will create a National Data Library to bring together existing research programmes and help deliver data-driven public services, whilst maintaining strong safeguards and ensuring all of the public benefit.

Labour will scrap short funding cycles for key R&D institutions in favour of ten-year budgets that allow meaningful partnerships with industry to keep the UK at the forefront of global innovation. We will work with universities to support spinouts; and work with industry to ensure start-ups have the access to finance they need to grow. We will also simplify the procurement process to support innovation and reduce micromanagement with a mission-driven approach.

Sector Reaction

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges, said:

“The Labour party has clearly been listening on post-16 education and skills and recognises the vital role that colleges plat in their local communities and in national economic growth. It’s also significant to see the thinking on how colleges and universities need to work together, playing to their respective core missions and strengths. I look forward to working with colleagues on that tertiary education vision should Labour win power.

“I particularly welcome the commitments on a reform of the apprenticeship levy, and the introduction of Skills England as a skills oversight body linking industrial strategy, migration and key national growth sectors like net zero, health and construction. We have a paper due to be published tomorrow which clearly shows there is a broad consensus across the sector for a body like this, and sets out a blueprint for how it could work in practice.

“I am also pleased that they have recognised the vital role colleges play as anchor institutions in their communities, leading on skills training, with the proposal on technical excellence colleges.

“We know that the FE sector has been starved of resources over the last 14 years, and we want to see the next government seriously commit to investing in FE, its students and its workforce. At the moment, college lecturers are paid on average £9,000 less than those teaching in secondary schools. This is unacceptable, and if Labour does form the next government, I look forward to working with them to eradicate this gap, and reverse the chronic underfunding suffered by the sector.”

Carys Roberts, executive director at IPPR, said: 

“If the Labour party wins the next election, it will be on a mandate for tangible change in people’s lives. Fulfilling that mandate will require quickly grappling with some enormous challenges, from tackling NHS waiting lists to rebuilding an economy that benefits people across the country while taking us faster and more fairly towards net zero. 

“It’s encouraging that the party has adopted many of the ideas put forward by IPPR, including proposals to develop a green industrial strategy, to deliver more NHS appointments in evenings and at weekends, to make key improvements to how childcare is delivered, and to give towns and cities across England greater power to make local decisions for local people. 

“If Labour forms the next government, IPPR stands ready to offer further practical proposals to help deliver the missions the party has set itself, and to overcome the deep policy challenges the country faces.”

Nick Harrison, Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust, said:

“The Labour Party’s ambition to transform opportunity and improve social mobility sets the right direction for the next parliament. For too long, young people’s life chances have been driven by their background. The next government must break this link to transform opportunities and unlock the potential our labour market badly needs. 

 “There are some sensible policies set out, such as recruiting more teachers, universal breakfast clubs and setting up new nurseries in schools. It’s also encouraging that much of Labour’s growth narrative focuses on skills and jobs for the future and creating opportunity across the regions. And it’s good to see that barriers in access to work are recognised through policies such as better careers advice and work experience for young people. 

 “But achieving these aims will take much more than this. It’s concerning that there are no concrete plans set out to address the glaring inequalities in access to early years education for the poorest children, close the school attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, or ease the huge challenges students face in making ends meet while studying. Should Labour win the election, they will need to fill in these gaps as soon as possible.”

Pepe Di’Iasio, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“There are a lot of welcome policies contained within this manifesto. Tackling child poverty must be a priority for any incoming government and it’s important that Labour has recognised this. Free breakfast clubs in every primary school, alongside a renewed focus on early-years education, are important steps towards tackling the disadvantage gap.

“Reforming Ofsted by scrapping single-phrase judgements and moving to a report card system is especially encouraging as Labour has responded to the profession’s concerns with a sensible plan that will make inspection work better for school and college leaders and parents alike.

“The plan to recruit 6,500 more teachers is an important recognition of the major staff shortages faced by schools and colleges, but we need to see more detail on how this is going to be achieved. Labour must be willing to address longstanding concerns around pay and conditions for this policy to be a success.

“The policy of charging VAT on private schools is something Labour needs to consider very carefully to fully understand all the possible implications. In any case, this is not going to be enough on its own to solve the funding crisis in the education system and there remains a big question over how Labour is going to address this.

“Labour’s manifesto is centered around economic growth, but this can only be achieved with appropriate investment at every level of education to ensure that young people are given the knowledge and skills they need to thrive when moving into the workplace. Ensuring schools and colleges having sufficient funding to continue delivering a high standard of education must be an integral part of any new government’s economic plan.”

On opportunities and skills, Dani Payne, Senior Researcher at SMF, said:

“Labour’s skills and training manifesto pledges can be characterised as cautious ambition, light on detail and void of any new big-ticket items. It is promising to see greater political attention given to Further Education, apprenticeships and adult retraining, but whilst the destination is clear – to have a world-class skills system – Labour seem intent on keeping the map to themselves. For a party so significantly ahead in the polls, the lack of policy commitments to really get excited about is disappointing. But if that means the plans still aren’t set, they should consider opening up student maintenance funding to further education pupils, as part of their integration of further and higher education.

“The university sector will be more concerned about what the manifesto doesn’t say than what it does: nothing on how Labour would solve funding issues, and a surprising absence on maintenance grants for students, which would have fit perfectly with their opportunity mission. But reading between the lines there are some areas to welcome, on regulation and teaching standards, which could represent a more sensible approach to quality assurance.”

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union said:

“Teachers are looking to the next Government to have vision and a commitment to deliver change that will secure the right of children and young people to a broad and balanced education that has the ability to change lives for good.

“It is also vital that the next Government recognises the centrality of the school and college workforce and trade unions in helping to secure the best opportunities and outcomes for children, young people and families.

“The Labour Party manifesto recognises the pressing need to tackle the crisis in our schools and colleges, by committing to recruiting 6,500 more teachers. However this ambition is to be delivered, this manifesto commitment must go hand in hand with tackling the causes of the teacher retention crisis and ensuring that teachers are not leaving the profession as a result of excessive workload demands, declining real-terms pay and damaging inspection and accountability pressures.

“For too long our schools and colleges have been left to pick up the pieces of the damage caused by 14 years of cuts to the support services that should be there to support children, young people and families. We welcome that these pressures would be addressed as a priority by a future Labour government.

“The workforce in our schools, colleges and public services are part of the solution to fixing the problems created by the current Government and delivering a new deal for children and young people.

“It is vital that the many commitments in Labour’s Manifesto are backed by a guarantee to engage constructively with the profession to deliver on our national ambition for children and young people.”

Reacting to the manifesto, Professor Becky Francis CBE, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “It is exciting to see policies around disadvantage, evidenced-based education and a focus early years taking such a central role in this manifesto. We know that poverty and education inequality are so closely intertwined, so it is welcome to see a focus on addressing child poverty alongside wider education commitments. This is critical to ensuring young people experiencing socio-economic disadvantage are able to fulfil their potential.

“Labour are also right to have focused on supporting and developing our teachers and leaders. Ultimately, the evidence is clear that high quality teaching is most powerful thing schools can do to ensure disadvantaged young people achieve their potential, so it is great to see such a strong focus on support and training, underpinned by evidence.

“Whichever party wins the election, they will inherit the widest attainment gap since 2012, so a concerted focus on supporting socio-economically disadvantaged pupils to achieve and thrive must be a key priority for the next government.”

Ben Rowland, AELP Chief Executive Officer, said:

“Achieving the key priorities that Labour has set out in its manifesto – growing the economy, fixing the NHS and enabling opportunity for all – requires a skills system fit for the future. The manifesto sets out tantalising glimpses of a serious plan to fill the country’s skills gaps, echoing the thrust of our Skills Means Growth vision for a sustainable skills system. Their promise of a comprehensive post-16 education strategy matches AELP’s long-held call for a national strategy for a national skills system that supports economic growth in every region of the country.

“We are also pleased that it has explicitly linked the work of the Migration Advisory Committee to the new Skills England body – a crucial consideration in creating a skills system that is fit for all its purposes.

“We also support Labour’s desire to guarantee training, an apprenticeship or help to work in order to bring down the disgracefully high number of young people not in education, employment or training. However, achieving this is going to require unprecedented flexibility and agility from the training provider community: given the pre-eminence of independent training providers (ITPs) when it comes to flexibility and agility, it is essential that the Labour Party enable this part of the sector to play its part.

“Similarly, employers, large and small up and down the country, choose independent training providers more often than they choose universities and FE Colleges – so we cautiously welcome Technical Excellence Colleges, but only if all types of providers can become one. Otherwise, a Labour Government risks standing accused of growing the State for its own sake rather than achieving its manifesto-articulated intent to be a “Strategic State”.

“On apprenticeships, previous proposals that specified flex for 50% of the levy do not appear in Labour’s manifesto plans for a new Skills and Growth Levy. We are pleased about this because it means the Government has avoided the (damaging) irony of limiting its own policy flexibility in relation to levy flexibility. We look forward, should they form the next Government, to continuing our productive dialogue with the Labour team and with a growing number of industry and sector bodies about how the right package of flexibilities could deliver a step change in apprenticeship attractiveness and effectiveness.

“AELP is looking forward to working closely with whoever forms the government after 4 July – and urges all political parties to continue to promote skills as a vital component of economic growth.”

Dani Payne, Senior Researcher at SMF, said:

“Labour’s skills and training manifesto pledges can be characterised as cautious ambition, light on detail and void of any new big-ticket items. It is promising to see greater political attention given to Further Education, apprenticeships and adult retraining, but whilst the destination is clear – to have a world-class skills system – Labour seem intent on keeping the map to themselves. For a party so significantly ahead in the polls, the lack of policy commitments to really get excited about is disappointing. But if that means the plans still aren’t set, they should consider opening up student maintenance funding to further education pupils, as part of their integration of further and higher education.

The university sector will be more concerned about what the manifesto doesn’t say than what it does: nothing on how Labour would solve funding issues, and a surprising absence on maintenance grants for students, which would have fit perfectly with their opportunity mission. But reading between the lines there are some areas to welcome, on regulation and teaching standards, which could represent a more sensible approach to quality assurance.”

Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), said:

“The Labour Party Manifesto sets out a positive vision for unlocking and realising the strength of the UK research and innovation base. We warmly welcome the security of 10-year budgets for research and innovation to create greater certainty in the system and encourage private investment. We are pleased to see the critical role of universities, alongside employers, recognised in the design and delivery of Local Growth Plans.”

Marshall continued:

“We also applaud Labour’s promise to deliver a comprehensive strategy for post-16 education and reform the immigration and skills system, to ensure Britain is developing home-grown skills to meet the needs of business and the economy. The latest results of the Employer Skills Survey show a significant increase in skills gaps and vacancies have been persistently high at around 1 million. Decisive and strong policy change is vital to rectify our growing skills crisis.”

Marshall concluded:

“More generally however, we implore the next Government, whichever party, to have greater ambition for UK business. The Industrial Strategy should not just be about how we harness the latest technologies but should position the UK at the forefront of reaping the economic and social benefits for the UK from developing and designing the groundbreaking innovations of the future.”

Jacob Diggle, UK Youth chief impact officer, said:

“We are pleased Labour has recognised the importance of youth work and has made commitments to expand access to this life-changing support. Labour’s promise to extend the right to vote to all 16 and 17 year olds is a welcome sign of trust and respect for young people.

“Labour has pledged almost £300 million a year to deliver Young Futures Hubs, increase youth workers in A&Es and Pupil Referral Units, and provide early support for mental health in schools. Youth workers will also play a vital role in implementing Labour’s guarantee of meaningful work experience, access to training, apprenticeships, and other employment support.

“With more than a billion pounds a year cut from youth services in recent years, this is welcome recognition and promise of investment. However, there is a long road to travel. UK Youth looks forward to working with whoever forms the next government to unlock the power of youth work for all.”

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI CEO, said: 

“Growth in the next Parliament will come squarely off the back of the private sector. To get the economy firing on all cylinders, the next Government must have a credible plan for boosting productivity that recognises business as the engine for delivering economic change.   

“Delivering sustainable growth is the shared mission that unites business and politicians. Commitments to implementing an Industrial Strategy, a business tax roadmap, and improvements to speed up the planning system can all provide the certainty needed to unlock investment. Reassurances that Labour will not increase corporation tax and will look at wholesale reform of the business rates system are especially welcome. 

“Going further on devolution can also unlock the power of the UK’s regions. English mayors bring a strategic regional view to important issues like transport, housing and infrastructure, ensuring their regions are attractive places for inward investment, both domestically and internationally.   

“With other countries accelerating their efforts in the race for green growth, the UK must set out its intentions for how we can outsmart, not outspend our competitors. Delivering more ambitious decarbonisation targets will require a genuine partnership with industry and an urgency to building grid infrastructure.

“Key to delivering the green transition will be setting out the right enabling frameworks for investment. Ensuring that the publicly-owned energy company crowds in – rather than crowds out – private investment will be critical. Whilst collaboration with industry will be key to ensure that changes made to North Sea investment allowances don’t jeopardise energy security and disincentivise investment in green technologies. 

“With a clear link between good employee relations and higher productivity, businesses recognise the importance of matching flexibility in the labour market with fairness. Turning these proposals into legislation would require continued collaboration with business to understand the fine detail on how their implementation can avoid unintended consequences.” 

Sarah Mukherjee, CEO at IEMA, said:

“The Labour Party manifesto references clean energy jobs around fifteen times, which is welcome, but there is only one mention of skills directly related to the green economy.

“There is a green skills gap looming because green jobs in the UK are growing twice as fast as the growth in green talent.

“If they win the election, we would urge the Labour Party to develop a Green Jobs Plan that accelerates the uptake of green skills, to ensure we have a workforce that can deliver the green economy of the future.

“If unaddressed, the green skills shortage will compromise efforts to achieve legally-binding carbon and environmental targets. Taking action now will also mean that workers currently employed in the fossil fuels sector can transition into clean energy roles.”

Chloe Field, NUS Vice President (Higher Education) said:

“Student foodbank usage has doubled in the past two years. The average student has 50p per week to live off after rent and bills. A graduate on the average salary effectively pays 40% income tax when their student loan is accounted for. The student crisis is severe and needs tackling immediately to protect the country’s future.

Students and young people are mobilised to vote in record numbers in this election, and still hold the balance of power in over 60 seats. We are bitterly disappointed not to see a concrete offer on student maintenance. We needed to see an actual vision and plan for student maintenance than an extension of the status quo – that the poorest students graduate with the highest debt.

We’ve done the analysis, and we know that it’s possible to bring back maintenance grants at no cost to the Treasury. So, at this point it’s more a question of whether millions of student voters are a priority for the Labour Party.

Labour must make it a priority to radically address the urgent situation that students find themselves in.”

Nichola Hay MBE, Director of Apprenticeship Strategy and Policy at BPP said:

The Labour Party’s plans for apprenticeships and training have focused rightfully on the provision of high-quality apprenticeships and a skills ecosystem fit for the current and future needs of the economy.

“It’s promising to see Labour confirm that businesses, training providers, unions with national and local government will all be at the heart of skills policy development and we welcome a commitment to introducing flexibility within a new look Levy to benefit everyone that engages with it.

“The Labour Party must, however, focus on the provision of skills and training to people of all ages and all skills levels. This includes more opportunities for those aged 18-21 years old in order to address the rising number of young people not in education, employment or training.

“We must encourage more employer opportunities for young people and provide robust employment entry pathways into these jobs and in turn onto apprenticeships.

The announcement of “Skills England” should be supplemented with a National Skills Strategy, aligned with a National Industrial Strategy to ensure the UK economy has the skills fit for a dynamic economy.”

Kate Shoesmith, REC Deputy Chief Executive, said:

“Sustained economic growth is absolutely the answer to a better deal for workers, employers and improved public services – and it comes from unlocking the potential in our dynamic labour market. As we argued in our own REC manifesto, an industrial strategy that gets the people and skills policies right will make all the difference. Businesses need certainty to plan investment, so it is good to see the commitment to a single Budget per year and a business taxes roadmap. We’ll need the same level of insight and realism on how to address public sector funding challenges going forward.”

Kate Shoesmith said:

“While there are signs in Labour’s manifesto that they increasingly understand how flexibility in the labour market is both pro-business and pro-worker, we need to see much greater levels of clarification and a real partnership approach with business from whoever forms the next government. Tackling economic inactivity by investing in supporting people into work is important. We welcome more opportunities for young people to train flexibly and hope a flexible skills levy provides the training funding that can also be accessed by temporary workers. Recruiters will be keen to work with Skills England to offer insight into local jobs markets and employer needs. Plans to bring Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service together could help tackle skills shortages – but only if they are funded sufficiently and can draw upon the information and insights our members have at their fingertips.

“We back the need to modernise employment laws and give workers clarity on their rights – just as we set out in our ‘labour laws fit for the future’ recommendations. Our recruiters and employers already adhere to a myriad of regulations. Enforcing these regulations is what roots out the bad practice and gives competitive edge to the good and great UK businesses out there – which is why we have long supported the creation of a Single Enforcement Body. But again, it needs to be resourced effectively, it needs to be responsible for the whole labour supply chain – including umbrellas, and it needs to really understand today’s flexible labour market and how people choose to work.

“Today’s labour market is very different to previous decades. If we want to improve the NHS, cut waiting lists and get more people into work, we need to think about recruitment and retention strategies that meet people where they are. So many public services just would not function without access to freelancers, interims, contractors, agency workers and those with project-based skills. Today’s labour market is also a global one, and if we want the UK to remain competitive, we need to think about the signals we send to talent around the world. A joined-up approach to skills and immigration policy is what is called for – otherwise we risk a £39bn cost per year from not tackling ongoing labour and skills shortages.”

Clare Howard OBE, Chief executive of Natspec, said:

“We welcome the recognition in the Labour manifesto of the role of FE colleges in supporting national growth and meeting the country’s skills needs. We are also pleased to see some practical steps to closing the disability employment gap. Less than 5 per cent of people with a learning disability are currently in employment and these pledges will go some way towards improving this shocking statistic. We look forward to working with Labour, should they come into power, to consider how specialist FE colleges can be further enabled to help more young disabled people enter the workforce and meet some of the skills gaps, particularly in identified growth areas.
“However, Labour’s manifesto has little to say on special educational needs and disability (SEND), which is surprising given the broken SEND system it would inherit. Their commitments to improve the inclusivity of mainstream settings and to ensure a fairer admissions system, while welcome, are currently very high level and are concerned only with schools. We’re pleased to see a pledge to ensure special schools can meet the needs of children with the most complex needs but we also need reassurance that the 8,000 16 – 25 year olds in specialist FE colleges are on Labour’s radar. Specialist FE has long been overlooked in policy terms and seriously under-resourced. If a Labour government is going to break down barriers to opportunities for all children and young people, then it is going to need to work with the specialist FE sector. It is a partnership that we’d be more than happy to enter.”

Christine Farquharson, Associate Director at IFS, said: 

“The Labour manifesto identifies a whole series of challenges on education: burnt-out teachers, skyrocketing school absences, deficiencies in the special needs system, challenges with childcare availability, widespread skill shortages and a higher education system in crisis. But the resources offered up to deal with these issues were mostly small, and targeted at specific new proposals. Key details on core spending were missing. 

The biggest commitment was to recruit an additional 6,500 secondary school teachers, but this is only about half of the 13,000 shortfall in recruitment last year. £315 million for school breakfast clubs will expand existing provision to all primary schools, and make funding permanent. The £175 million for mental health support in schools will boost spending on young people’s mental health by 15%.

There were no commitments on core school and college funding, nor on higher education funding. This offers even less certainty than the Conservative or Liberal Democrat manifestos (which promised to at least protect per-pupil spending in real terms). 

We don’t know anything about how a Labour government would change the higher education funding system, even though Labour state that this system doesn’t currently work for taxpayers, students or universities.” 

Click here to read the full Manifesto

Image: “Keir Starmer.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 June 2024,

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