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Adult Skills and National Retraining Scheme

Volume 682: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2020

Today, I want to update both Houses on further policy developments we are making as part of our efforts to help boost productivity, ensure that businesses can find and hire the skilled workers they need, and help people to fulfil their potential. The impact of the current situation and the longer-term challenges we are likely to face have underlined the ever-present need to support all adults in gaining new skills that employers value, whether to progress in work or to boost their job prospects.

Last month, the Prime Minister visited Exeter College and set out an exciting vision to make lifelong learning a reality, announcing new opportunities to help more people to realise their talents, develop new skills and pursue their careers. With that broader vision in mind, wanting to reduce complexity in the adult skills landscape and recognising the need to work closely with a wide range of key stakeholders and experts, we are integrating the national retraining scheme into the national skills fund. The national retraining scheme will no longer continue as a separate programme but rather its work and learning will be rolled into the development of the national skills fund. This will be reflected in wider communications around the national skills fund and our broader offer for adult skills. It will include the conclusion of the trials of the Get Help to retrain service, a digital platform that helped adults identify their existing skills as well as new training options.

The findings we have gathered by testing Get help to retrain have already provided useful insights for the National Careers Service. This will help inform the further development of the National Careers Service website for people considering a change to their career.

The understanding and insights we achieved through high levels of research and comprehensive user engagement while developing the national retraining scheme have also produced a strong foundation for developing the national skills fund and other adult skills reforms. As both Houses know, the national skills fund is a long term, substantial investment of £2.5 billion—£3 billion included devolved Administrations—that will drive adult retraining and support our ambitious agenda for reform to further education.

Our engagement with employers on the national retraining scheme ensured we were better sighted on the skills they need their workers to have, as well as the need for a more flexible approach to the delivery of skills. Greater flexible provision was a clear need for both the employers and the individual. Both of these factors have been central to the design and delivery of the bootcamps announced in the Prime Minister’s speech, which are a key element of the national skills fund offer.

The bootcamps will support local regions and employers to fill in-demand digital vacancies. The impact of the covid crisis has shown that digital skills are in demand now more than ever, so these flexible initiatives will be instrumental in giving all adults the skills employers need. We are planning to expand the digital bootcamps to more of the country from spring 2021, and we also want to extend this model to include other technical skills training.

The Prime Minister also announced, as part of his lifetime skills guarantee, that for all adults who do not currently have an A-level equivalent, we will be fully funding their first full level 3, focusing on the valuable courses that will help them get ahead in the labour market.

Through our development of the national retraining scheme, we have also undertaken qualitative research into online training tailored for adults’ needs. Our findings have shown that online training has the ability to deliver learning at a time and pace that would fit in with the busy lives that users have. It could also reach the more remote areas of the country where users might struggle to access provision at a time that works best for them. This has informed the development of the skills toolkit, which has recently expanded to provide access to even more high-quality, free courses, to help all adults gain the confidence and skills they need to move into new jobs, potentially in completely new sectors of the jobs market.

We remain firmly committed to working with industry, workers, and providers. That is why we plan to engage extensively with these groups right across the country through the upcoming consultation on the national skills fund.

Our strong evidence base, delivered through the national retraining scheme, is summarised in a key findings paper that will be published today at: The paper sets out how the extensive learnings and evidence from the scheme will support our ambitious plans for levelling up across the country and help to ensure everyone can get the skills they need, at every stage of their life.

We will set out wider plans for adult skills later in the autumn and we will update the Houses in due course. In the meantime, we will engage closely with stakeholders as we continue to develop detailed plans for the national skills fund, including considering what role the fund could play in meeting more immediate needs in response to the covid-19 pandemic.