‘Re-skilling has to be top priority’ for Government training plan

The Government’s Skills for Jobs White Paper sets out blueprint to help youngsters into work but everyone has a role to play, say further education experts

Upskilling and re-skilling must be the “top priority” to boost the UK’s Covid-19 jobs recovery, according to further education experts as the Government laid out training plans to boost the post-Covid economy.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson unveiled the Skills for Jobs White Paper on Thursday promising to “ensure everyone has the confidence and opportunity to gain the skills they need to progress at any stage of their lives”.

Harminder Matharu, director of government partnerships at online training provider FutureLearn, told The Big Issue that the time is now to join forces to help people into work.

“Up-skilling and re-skilling has to be the top priority for the country now, due to the pandemic,” said Matharu. 

“It’s up to everyone to pull together to make this happen. It always has been – the Government, educational institutions, employers, everyone has a role to play in helping people get the skills they need. For the most part, the path of education is no longer linear and people will increasingly need to re-train and upskill in their lifetimes so we welcome this white paper and particularly the flexible student finance aspect. 

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“Of course, we’ve seen more and more education move online as a result of the pandemic. This coupled with the fact that face-to-face training and education just isn’t feasible to get the sheer numbers of people upskilled that we need so I hope that there are scalable, online solutions being considered.”

The Government’s plan for skills and training arrives as The Big Issue lays out its own response to the Covid-19 jobs crisis, which has seen 819,000 employees fall off company payrolls since February 2020 at Office for National Statistics’ last count.

FutureLearn and jobs board Adzuna helped The Big Issue create the Ride Out Recession Alliance Jobs and Training programme, which includes a toolkit to help people back into work and a jobs site featuring hundreds of thousands of jobs.

For the most part, the path of education is no longer linear

The Government’s new blueprint sets out reforms to transform education and training beyond the ages of 16, bringing together business groups and colleges to develop tailored skills plans backed by a £65 million Strategic Development Fund.

Ministers also promise more paths to a career beyond a degree, including giving employers a central role in designing technical courses by 2030 and boosting the quality of qualifications with a new government-backed brand and quality mark from September 2022. 

Those steps go alongside a renewed push to recruit further education teachers and a student finance shake-up that means more people can access support throughout their lives.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the announcement of these measures alongside the Lifetime Skills Guarantee will offer tens of thousands of adults the chance to retrain in later life.

“Our Lifetime Skills Guarantee means that everyone will be given the chance to get the skills they need, right from the very start of their career,” said Johnson.

“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.

“That way when we have beaten Covid-19 we can put rocket boosters under our recovery and Build Back Better.”

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Williamson added: “These reforms are at the heart of our plans to build back better.”

However, Eleanor Harrison, CEO of youth charity Impetus, insists the new white paper fails to put the educational needs of youngsters first at a time when they have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Harrison said: “The Government must avoid a twin-track recovery for young people, with some benefiting from the White Paper’s investment in employer-led routes and others left even further behind.”

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