Commitment to Skills and FE in the anticipated Levelling Up White Paper

On Wednesday 2nd February 2022, the Government published it’s highly anticipated Levelling Up White Paper. 

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has consistently spoken of the importance of further education (FE) and skills in not only supporting the economic recovery but also in ensuring all young people, irrespective of their background can benefit from high-quality training and employment opportunities. With this rhetoric becoming common place in Westminster, it’s no surprise that its commitment to skills and FE is reinforced in this paper.

While there is an increased focus on boosting regional training opportunities and productivity, the bigger picture promises a significant increase in the number of people completing high quality skills training across. 

“By 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas.”

Inextricably linked to jobs and living standards, the Paper also suggestions how these skills interventions support the Government’s commitment to employment and ensures people can access quality jobs and progress in work. It also highlights the important correlation between skills and employment and mental health and wellbeing, which has been significantly impacted throughout the pandemic, stating “the mix and level of skills that make up an area’s human capital play an important role in driving prosperity and productivity,” and that “a lack of good jobs is also bad for people’s health and independence. Being out of work is associated with poorer health outcomes.”

Within the Paper are specific skills commitments to: 

  • Implementing Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs), which will feature nine new Institutes of Technology with strong employer links will be established in England, helping to boost higher technical skills in STEM subjects
  • Introducing the In-Work Progression offer, helping people on low incomes address barriers to better employment opportunities including the provision of £1.3billion to provide employment support for disabled people and people with health conditions.
  • Greater regional devolution, which will see local authorities gain greater control of Adult Education functions and budgets as well as play a greater role in LSIPs and future employment programmes
  • Greater alignment to the delivery of employment and skills interventions, particularly in new Pathfinder areas bringing together local delivery partners to respond to local employers’ skills needs, supporting people into work and identifying progression opportunities for people in part-time work
  • An expansion to the Lifelong Learning Guarantee, to include a trial enabling any adult with a Level 3 qualification or higher who earns below the National Living Wage or who is unemployed to access a further high-value Level 3 qualification for free, regardless of their prior qualifications
  • Greater use of data, helping identify local skills demand, future skills needs of business, the skills available in an area and the pathways between training and good jobs. 

In its entirety, the Levelling Up White Paper, covers a range of issues from transport and infrastructure to culture, sport and health in addition to education and FE. The full Paper can be found here. The Department of Education’s response to the White Paper is available here.