Queen’s Speech includes Bill on ‘lifetime skills guarantee’

The Queen’s Speech has outlined plans for the Government’s “lifetime skills guarantee” for England today.

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The Government has announced plans for a Bill which will detail its plans for a ‘lifetime skills guarantee’ for England in today’s Queen’s Speech, but HR experts say the move will be undermined without significant reform of the apprenticeship levy.

The ‘guarantee’, announced last year, includes ‘flexible’ loans for adults wanting to do higher-level education and training at university or college, “useable at any point in their lives”. This will be used to provide the equivalent of up to four years’ study and can be used for full-time or part-time courses.

Businesses and trainers will be encouraged to form partnerships to meet “local needs in sectors including construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing”.

It is also expected that the education secretary will also have “more powers” to deal with colleges that “fail to meet local needs”.

The Government will introduce the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, detailing the plans, next week.

The Social Market Foundation, a cross-party think tank, welcomed the news, but said it needed to be properly funded. It called on the Treasury to back up the plans with a multi-year funding settlement for the provision of adult education.  Experts warn that, without major investment and reform of the adult education system, the lifetime skills guarantee to reskill workers will not work, particularly given it comes after  years of cuts to adult education.

A Confederation of British Industry report last year estimated that nine in 10 UK workers will need to learn new skills or be retrained entirely over the next decade – not just because of Covid, but due to other trends, including automation.  In a report based on analysis by management consultancy McKinsey, the CBI said that more than 30m people would need to reskill by 2030, costing an additional £13bn a year.

Apprenticeship levy

Meanwhile, a report out today by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development says employers have missed out on nearly £2bn worth of apprenticeship levy funds over the last two years. Based on freedom of information requests, it found that the money was returned to the Treasury between May 2019 and March 2021 because employers were unable to spend it. Some experts blame Covid, but the CIPD says that the number of new apprenticeships have been falling since before the pandemic.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said the levy fund needed to be more flexible so employers can invest in other forms of training and development more suitable for existing and often older employees.

Steve Collinson, HR Director at Zurich UK, also called on the Government to review the apprenticeship levy. He said: “We urge the Government, as part of its skills revolution, to review the current apprenticeship levy and adjust it to a more flexible model at an increased pace. This is particularly important for industries, such as financial services, which will be impacted by technological advancements including the growth of automation and artificial intelligence. Zurich has already invested almost £1m to upskill its workforce and build a truly adaptable and agile team, helping our employees future-proof their careers.”

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