The Lifetime Skills Guarantee Scheme is a welcomed step in the right direction, but more is needed to help reduce unemployment in the short term, says the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB).
According to the Prime Minister's announcement, adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification will be offered a free, fully-funded college course – providing them with skills valued by employers, and the opportunity to study at a time and location that suits them.
This offer will be available from April in England, and will be paid for through the National Skills Fund. A full list of available courses will be set out shortly.
Higher education loans will also be made more flexible, allowing adults and young people to space out their study across their lifetimes, take more high-quality vocational courses in further education colleges and universities, and to support people to retrain for jobs of the future.
These reforms will be backed by continued investment in college buildings and facilities – including over £1.5 billion in capital funding.
Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of NCUB said: “The announcement is a step in the right direction for both employees and employers alike. New measures to transform the training and skills system and to prepare workers for a post-Covid economy are urgently needed, and we are pleased that the Prime Minister has acknowledged this in his speech today.”
Marshall continued: “Equally significant from the Prime Minister was the importance of giving further flexibility to learners. It was announced today that higher education loans will be made more flexible to allow adults to space out study across their lifetimes, allowing them to retrain for new careers as the economy changed. What’s more the courses offered will provide students with skills valued by employers. These are long overdue measures and may well be the lifeline that is needed.”
Marshall concluded: “However the scale of the problem we face means that it will not be fixed with this new measure alone, especially given that most of these new measures will come into play in April. For young people especially, this will be viewed as too little too late. Already the number of employees aged 16-24 in the UK on payrolls in August was down around 156,000 compared to March 2020. Without proper support in place immediately, we expect these figures to significantly worsen in a further six months’ time. Indeed, the Office for Budget Responsibility, have forecasted that in a worst-case scenario the unemployment rate could peak at 13.2%, in 2021 - with four million people out of work. We are calling on the Government to offer further support immediately – we simply cannot wait for unemployment to worsen before acknowledging it. We look forward to seeing the further education white paper later this year which we hope will build on today’s announcement.”