Last reviewed 8 October 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out plans which he said will transform the training and skills system, making it fit for the 21st century economy and helping the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification will be offered a free, fully-funded college course, providing them, the Prime Minister said, 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.

Mr Johnson explained that the coronavirus pandemic and changing economy is why he is developing a long-term plan to ensure that, as work changes, people can retrain, upskill and find new well-paid jobs.

“As the Chancellor has said, we cannot, alas, save every job,” the Prime Minister went on. “ 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.”

Apprenticeship opportunities will also be increased, with more funding for SMEs taking on apprentices, and greater flexibility in how their training is structured — especially in sectors such as construction and creative industries where there are more varied employment patterns.

The Government is also committing £8 million for digital skills boot camps; expanding successful pilots in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and introducing programmes in four new locations.

From next year, boot camps will be extended to sectors like construction and engineering, helping the country build back better and support our refreshed Industrial Strategy.

Skills and Productivity Board

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that Stephen van Rooyen will be the new chair of the Skills and Productivity Board (SPB).

The SPB will provide expert advice on how to make sure the courses and qualifications on offer to students across the country are high-quality, and aligned to the skills that employers need for the future and that will help grow the economy after the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Williamson said: “Stephen has a wealth of experience across the technology, engineering and communications sectors and will be able to share his vital insight and leadership with the panel. He is also a keen and proud champion of apprentices, having taken Sky’s apprenticeship programme from strength to strength.”

Comment by Croner Associate Director Paul Holcroft

The coronavirus storm will eventually clear and employers will be hoping that they can return to hiring at increased capacity.

This initiative will surely help. Employers feeling multiple levels of pressure — from the uncertainties of both Brexit and coronavirus — will be reassured to know that people in England will be given the skills and knowledge necessary to potentially gain employment in hard-to-fill roles.