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Government’s Skills Revolution

Volume 706: debated on Wednesday 5 January 2022

On 17 December 2021, I announced a package that forms part of the Government’s skills revolution which will level up more opportunities for everyone and plug skills gaps to boost the economy. Adults and young people across the country will benefit from more high-quality and flexible education and training—levelling up opportunities and supporting more people into higher skilled, higher wage jobs.

A further nine institutes of technology were also announced and will join the 12 already up and running. The Government’s network of institutes of technology are unique collaborations between employers, further and higher education providers—backed by £290 million of Government funding—that specialise in delivering high-quality higher technical education and training across a range of STEM occupations and industries, in subjects such as advanced manufacturing, digital and cyber security, aerospace, automotive engineering and healthcare to train people for technical careers that will plug skills gaps. The new institutes of technology, in locations including Blackpool, Derby, Salford and Essex, will help deliver the skilled workforce businesses need and support people of all ages to get better jobs and fulfil their potential. This takes the total to 21 institutes of technology, delivering on the Government’s manifesto commitment.

People looking to upskill or retrain will have access to more than 100 short courses starting from September 2022, lasting between six weeks to a year, helping to fit training around their lives. More than 20 universities and colleges will offer the courses in subjects where there are skills shortages such as digital, net zero, education, STEM and healthcare, and offering an alternative to studying a traditional three-year degree. Student finance will be available to students taking the courses, marking the next step in the development of the Government’s lifelong learning entitlement which, from 2025, will provide individuals with a loan entitlement to be the equivalent of four years of post-18 education they can use flexibly over their lifetime.

The Office for Students has made awards totalling £128 million to 100 successful further and higher education providers who will lead projects to modernise facilities following the outcomes of the Office for Students’ strategic priorities grant 2021-22 capital bidding exercise, with a particular focus on STEM and supporting the disadvantaged. Two examples of successful projects include funding for Nottingham College to create a new laboratory science and innovation centre to expand their training offer, and funding to Roehampton University to deliver a new healthcare hub to support more higher technical, apprenticeships and flexible modular training. Details of all the successful projects can be found on the Office for Students’ website.

On 17 December 2021, we also opened the bidding for a share of over £150 million from the fourth wave of the T-level capital fund, for colleges, schools and sixth forms delivering T-levels. The funding will be used to refurbish buildings and build brand new facilities, including creating training kitchens for catering students, studios for media students, and facilities for agricultural courses such as trainee milking parlours or labs to learn about land science in readiness for students starting courses in September 2023. The fund will also enable providers to buy up-to-date, industry standard equipment.

A further 12 projects totalling £16 million supported by wave 3 of the T-level capital fund were also announced, bringing the total to 77 projects that will provide new buildings and facilities for students studying T-levels from September 2022. Successful projects include Gateway Sixth Form College in Leicester, awarded funding to create a dedicated health suite and a central learning resource space for students, and UTC South Durham, awarded funding to extend their engineering hall, to include two engineering workshops and an IT suite.

The Chancellor announced in the Budget that an extra £1.6 billion would be invested in 16-19 education and training by 2024-25 compared with 2021-22. The Department for Education has published details of how £615 million of that funding will be invested next year, resulting in the per student funding being boosted by over 8% from £4,188 in 2021-22 to £4,542 in 2022-23. This includes funding for an extra 40 hours of education per student to help them catch up on lost learning due to the pandemic. On top of this, funding for high value courses—those that deliver the skills that the country needs and which can lead to higher wages for students—and high cost courses including building and construction will also be increased.

The measures announced on 17 December will help level up opportunities for people and communities across England, and ensuring we have the skilled workforce needed to boost our economy.