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Upskilling and Changing Career Paths

Volume 711: debated on Monday 21 March 2022

We have introduced Department for Work and Pensions Train and Progress to address our claimants’ skills needs. Working across Government, we have been able to extend the length of time during which universal credit claimants can undertake full-time training, including skills boot camps in England, to up to 16 weeks. I am also pleased about the role that kickstart has played in helping more than 152,000 young people to gain vital new skills and work experience to help them in their future careers.

Ensuring that people have relevant skills is essential to helping them stay in work throughout their working lives. What opportunities are available to my constituents through jobcentres to access training to ensure they can apply for a wider range of opportunities in south Essex?

I thank my hon. Friend for the chance to highlight our jobcentre teams in Basildon and east Thurrock, who are working closely with partners to provide a wide range of support for local jobseekers, including with South Essex College, which has delivered a sector-based work academy programme—SWAP—for candidates to help them prepare to go into new roles in healthcare, logistics and administrative jobs with Essex Police.

I welcome the work being done by the Government in this important area, which is appreciated in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend update the House on the SWAP and how it is helping people upskill and change careers?

This is a very successful programme, helping jobseekers, including in my right hon. Friend’s constituency, get an opportunity to develop the key new skills that employers are looking for, including through training and work experience, and a guaranteed job interview in that new sector. I am delighted to be able to say that we have surpassed our delivery goal, with over 146,000 SWAPs having been started since April 2020.

We know we are at record levels of in-work poverty, with more than 8 million people in that category, so why are three out of four people who were in low-paid work in 2010 still in low-paid work now?

The hon. Lady makes an important point about progressing; there is a focus on that at DWP and I hope the Select Committee she serves on will have a look at it, because we have just mentioned two areas where this is working for people and filling vacancies that need to be filled. We will be filling half a million new jobs by the summer through our Way to Work campaign; that will help people progress, and I hope the hon. Lady will welcome it.

The Minister has just accepted the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) that far too many people in this country are stuck in low-paid work. Last month the Secretary of State told me that she was the block to the Government’s response to the report on in-work progression, and last week the Minister told me it would be coming soon. It looks like nothing is happening, so may I give the Minister one last chance: when will the Government respond to the report they commissioned last year on in-work progression?

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me one last chance at the Dispatch Box—that sounded rather ominous. In-work progression is absolutely vital; from April we will, as was just mentioned, have more work coaches supporting people who have got stuck, as some people have—there might be things going on in their lives which mean they need more skills or confidence. The Secretary of State and I are working on this response and will be bringing it forward very shortly.