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Lifetime Skills Guarantee: free courses launch in April 2021

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Four hundred free training courses, ranging from engineering to healthcare, will be available to adults without a qualification at A-level or equivalent from April 2021 to help boost in-demand skills and provide job opportunities.

The fully-funded courses, part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee announced by Boris Johnson in September, have been carefully chosen to help adults improve their career prospects and meet the needs of the economy. They will be reviewed regularly so the courses offered can be updated as the economy changes.

The Prime Minister said: “Despite all our efforts, coronavirus is damaging the economy and putting people out of work. But I am determined to help everyone who has lost their job to retrain, develop new skills and find new opportunities. The Lifetime Skills Guarantee will give thousands of adults across the country the chance to do exactly that – as we build back better after the pandemic.”

Why wait until April? We know the end of March could mark yet another unemployment spike, so we need to fast track funding and open up opportunities in real-time. If we are to give the economy a fighting chance of recovery sooner rather than later, we need to act now” – Kirstie Donnelly, City & Guilds Group

The offer is backed by £95 million from the £2.5 billion National Skills Fund, which is financing programmes that both support the immediate economic recovery and help meet future skills needs.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “These free qualifications will help open doors to better employment opportunities for thousands of adults and support businesses to access the workforce they need to grow.

“Our new Lifetime Skills Guarantee promises to help you get the skills you need at every stage of your life. I’d urge all those eligible to see what course they can take from spring next year and start thinking about their next steps.”

The funding will not only enable people to gain new qualifications and access better jobs; a proportion will also be used to support education and training providers to scale up their provision to deliver the courses and meet the needs of learners.

But Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive at City & Guilds Group, criticised the plans saying they were limited in scope and not nearly ambitious enough.

“By limiting this offer only to those who haven’t got a level 3 qualification, the government is effectively ignoring the vast swathes of people who are losing their jobs within industries that have been decimated by the pandemic.

“These individuals need help to retrain and reskill to find work elsewhere and the offer of funded training could provide a much-needed lifeline. The priority for adult retraining right now is to get people back into work quickly and it’s vital the funding goes towards courses that will genuinely lead to meaningful employment in industries where there are real job opportunities.

“And time could not be any more of the essence – so why wait until April? We know the end of March could mark yet another unemployment spike, so we need to fast track funding and open up opportunities in real-time. If we are to give the economy a fighting chance of recovery sooner rather than later, we need to act now.”

Stephen Phipson, chief executive of manufacturers organisation Make UK, said: “Industry will be pleased to see manufacturing and engineering-related level 3 qualifications as part of this new offer. Protecting existing vital skills and providing people with an opportunity to learn much needed new skills is crucial.

“It is also an important first step in supporting individuals on the pathway towards higher-level qualifications as we transition to a digital economy. These new opportunities will be critical in the months ahead for the manufacturing sector as we build a workforce fit for the future.”

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