A Manifesto Roundup

Last week saw the three main political parties, The Conservatives, The Labour Party and The Liberal Democrats, all release manifestos which set out their proposed policy platforms.

For each Party, this was an opportunity to present its vision for the country and to persuade voters of its credibility in tackling the issues facing Britain today. First, The Liberal Democrat Party published its manifesto “For a Fair Deal”, positioning it as a party that would bring about the change the “country desperately needs”. Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ manifesto “Clear Plan, Bold Action, Secure Future” was focused on its commitments to grow the economy, provide young people with opportunities to develop skills and to support the labour market, and address issues surrounding migration and health. Finally, The Labour Party’s manifesto “Change” strived to set out why the Party is the only one in the running that can solve the many crises facing the nation after fourteen years of Conservative Government.

Notwithstanding the political positioning that comes with manifestos, they also included policy announcements designed to appeal to voters.

Education has remained relatively high on the agenda throughout this campaign with Rishi Sunak announcing after the first week of campaigning that the Conservative Party would introduce 100,000 new apprenticeship places, funded by scrapping “rip-off” degrees. Meanwhile, both Labour and the Conservatives have increasingly been linking immigration policy and skills policy, with the Conservatives’ backbenchers increasingly calling for additional restrictions on the Graduate Visa Route, and Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, saying Labour would reduce the need for overseas workers by training and retraining British workers.  

The manifestos themselves affirmed each Party’s commitment to reforming and/or investing in the skills and apprenticeship system.

The Conservative manifesto included pledges to:

  • Create 100,000 new apprenticeships in England every year by the end of the next Parliament – paid for by reducing ‘rip off’ university degrees.
  • Deliver the Lifelong Learning Entitlement to provide adults with the support they need to train, retrain and upskill flexibly throughout their working lives. From the 2025 academic year, adults will be able to apply for loans to cover new qualifications.
  • Continue to expand adult skills programmes such as Skills Bootcamps which meet skills shortages.
  • Support the National Citizen Service to help young people build confidence and develop the skills they need to thrive.
  • Extend the UK Shared Prosperity Fund for three years at the next Spending Review, before using this funding to support UK-wide National Service, involving funding community groups focused on increasing life chances, instilling civic pride and boosting people’s skills.


The Labour Party’s manifesto promised to:

  • Devolve funding so local areas can shape a joined-up work, health and skills offer for local people.
  • Establish Skills England to bring together business, training providers and unions with national and local government to ensure there is the highly trained workforce needed to deliver Labour’s Industrial Strategy.
  • Ensuring Skills England works with the Migration Advisory Committee to make sure training in England accounts for the overall needs of the labour
  • Devolving adult skills funding to Combined Authorities, empowering local leaders to have greater control of skills development in their areas.
  • Reform the Apprenticeship Levy by creating a flexible Growth and Skills Levy, with Skills England consulting on eligible courses to ensure qualifications offer value for money.
  • Transform FE colleges into specialist Technical Excellence Colleges which will work with businesses, trade unions and local government to provide young people with better opportunities and the highly-trained workforce that local economies need.
  • Establish a youth guarantee of access to training, an apprenticeship or support to find work for all 18- to 21-year-olds, to bring down the number of young people who are not learning or earning.


Finally, the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto set out the Party’s plan to:

  • Replace the apprenticeship levy with a flexible skills and training levy. 
  • Increase the participation rate of apprenticeships by guaranteeing apprentices are paid the National Minimum Wage. 
  • Create new Lifelong Skills Grants, providing £5,000 to all adults to spend on education and training throughout their lives with the goal to increase this to £10,000 when public finances allow. 
  • Identify and resolve skills gaps by advancing higher vocational training, including foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas and Higher Apprenticeships. 
  • Review further education funding, including the option of exempting colleges from VAT. 
  • Develop National Colleges as centres of expertise for key sectors, including renewable energy, to deliver high-level vocational skills needed by businesses. 
  • Invest in education and training to equip people with the skills needed for the low-carbon economy of the future.


At the halfway point of the general election campaign, none of these manifestos offered any surprises with many of these announcements shared or drip-fed in advance. However, all three parties did reflect the need to address the current skills gap, whilst also promoting apprenticeships in our education and training system. Significantly, both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have committed to reforming the apprenticeship levy.

At The St Martin’s Group, we look forward to working closely with the next Government to increase the supply of apprenticeships and meet the current demands of young people and businesses, whilst simultaneously ensuring the system works and is flexible in supporting all parties involved, including employers and SMEs.