The UK government has published its Skills for Jobs white paper, which sets out its vision for education and training post-16 and is designed to ensure that people of any age are able to develop the skills they need to progress in the workplace.
This is part of the government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which has been set up to help adults retrain in later life, allowing them to develop the skills that are in demand in different industries and thereby open up employment opportunities.
Among the measures announced in the white paper is the provision of free A-level equivalent qualifications in certain sectors. These will be offered to adults who don’t already have a qualification at this level. Engineering, health and accountancy are just some of the sectors that will benefit.
One of the significant changes announced under this white paper is the role that employers will play in developing future technical qualifications. By 2030, the government wants employers to have “a central role in designing almost all technical courses”. This is to ensure that the skills people gain are the ones required in a specific industry.
The government also plans to change the law so that, from 2025, people can access flexible student finance options to allow them to train and retrain throughout their lives.
Commenting on the launch of the new white paper, Boris Johnson, prime minister, stated: “In the years ahead, the reforms we have announced today will deliver high-quality technical education across the country – and help people retrain and secure better paid jobs.”
British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director general Adam Marshall was among those who welcomed the plans. He said: “As local business leaders look to rebuild their firms and communities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it is essential to ensure that the right skills and training provision is in place to support growth.”
Several leading figures within industry also expressed support for the plans, and noted that this will also help them to run apprenticeship schemes that will give people the skills they need for the future workplace.
CEO at Battersea Power Station Development Company Simon Murphy said that giving employers greater input into the design of courses will ensure that people can develop the skills that are actually in demand in the workplace.
He noted that the business has already created 700 new jobs and apprenticeships, with this figure set to rise to over 20,000 by the time the development is complete.
“We believe today’s announcement will allow us to ensure more people have the skills and training needed to succeed at Battersea Power Station,” Mr Murphy stated.
Nick Mackenzie, CEO at Greene King, Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-op, John Boumphrey, UK country manager at Amazon, and Charles Woodburn, chief executive at BAE Systems, also expressed their support for the new approach and said that they believe this will strengthen people’s skills.
These employers all offer apprenticeship schemes already and, as Mr Mackenzie explained, there is often a need for apprenticeship schemes to “help plug the skills gaps”. He added that there is “a need to rebalance technical and academic education”.
At the end of last year, the Social Market Foundation think tank stressed the need to invest heavily in adult education in the UK and called on the government to invest £1.3 billion per year in adult education.
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