Government skills funding must ‘prioritise building trades’

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Lifetime Skills Guarantee scheme,

The Prime Minister has set out plans for a ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’ scheme to transform the training and skills system, aiming to help the country ‘build back better’ from coronavirus

The new scheme aims for adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification to 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.

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.

The government is committing £8m for digital skills boot camps. From next year, boot camps will be extended to the construction and engineering sector.

The government said apprenticeship opportunities will also be increased, with more funding for SMEs taking on apprentices – especially in the construction sector.

In a speech yesterday (29 September), Boris Johnson said: “As the chancellor has said, we cannot, alas, save every job. What we can do is give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs.

“So my message today is that at every stage of your life, this government will help you get the skills you need.

“We’re transforming the foundations of the skills system so that everyone has the chance to train and retrain.”

‘Kick-start a new approach to skills’

David Thomson, head of external affairs at Association for Project Management (APM) said: “We welcome the government’s ambition in its plans to transform the training and skills system and prepare workers for a post-Covid economy.

“As the chartered body for the project profession, we believe project management provides excellent life-skills, is valued by employers, and call for project management to be included within the scheme, with our online project fundamentals qualification an example of the sort of practical course that might help.

“The economic disruption created by the coronavirus pandemic creates a moment of opportunity to kick-start a new approach to skills, including project management as a life-skill for all professionals returning to education or training.”

Ian Anfield, managing director of Hudson Contract, said: “We welcome the move to give free college courses to help adults gain skills. It is the kind of radical intervention we will need to rebuild the economy after the Covid-19 crisis.

“However, to turn college qualifications into genuine trade skills the government will need the help of small specialist employers.

“In most construction occupations it takes five years of training and on the job learning before someone should be let loose on their own.

“Government needs to figure out how to get the thousands of SME specialist contractors on-board with this, they could use the trade federations to help and or repurpose the CITB.

“They have to stay away from mass grant farming schemes run by the large firms who churn learners out once the funding dries up, usually leaving them with no work and not enough experience to find work.”

Critical step to support construction’s recovery

Steve Radley, CITB policy director, said: “More funding and training flexibility for employers through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee announced by the Prime Minister today is a critical first step to support construction’s recovery.

“Changing apprenticeship funding rules to recognise prior learning and allow large employers to spend surplus Apprenticeship Levy funds in bulk will be vital to ensure the apprenticeship programme can more flexibly respond to industry’s skills needs.

“This is something that CITB and the CLC have engaged with government in the Roadmap to Recovery plan, and I am delighted that the government has listened.

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