Employment skills and learning: Government to reform adult education and training


  • Employment and Skills

28 January 2021


In a bid to kickstart skills and support the economy as it prepares to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has laid out a blueprint for the UK's further education system in the Skills for Jobs white paper. It has also published a parallel report on post-18 education which stresses the need for a skills system that truly supports the needs of employers and the economy by offering genuine choice between academic and technical learning.

The Skills for Jobs white paper cements the Prime Minister’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee which will offer everyone the opportunity to access education and training at any stage of their lives. This will be financed through the creation - from 2025 - of a flexible, easily accessible lifelong loan entitlement equivalent to four years of post-18 education. The aim is to enable learners to fit study around work, family and personal commitments and retrain as their personal circumstances and the economy change.

Other plans and reforms outlined in the white paper include:

  • giving employers a central role in shaping skills provision to meet local labour market needs: new Local Skills Improvement Plans will bring employers together with colleges and other education providers, and local stakeholders such as Chambers of Commerce
  • align most adult technical education and training to employer-led standards set by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, so skills provision matches need
  • expand the Institutes of Technology programme to all parts of the country by the end of the current Parliament with a corresponding increase in higher-level technical skills education
  • giving adults without a full Level 3 qualification (A-level equivalent) the opportunity to gain one for free in a range of sectors including engineering and health
  • skills ‘boot camps’: free, flexible 12-16 week courses giving adults the opportunity to build sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer
  • continue to roll out T-levels, improve traineeships and grow apprenticeships
  • provide clear information about career outcomes through occupational maps, wage returns data and ensuring providers give pupils information about all options.

Meanwhile, the Department for Education has also published its Interim Conclusion of the Review of Post 18 Education and Funding which aims to ensure a genuine choice and parity between high quality technical and academic routes. This report highlights that the UK’s skills system lags well behind that of other countries in terms of enabling learners to achieve good quality higher technical skills. Whilst echoing many of the reforms outlined in the Skills for Jobs White Paper, the document concludes that post-18 education must create clear pathways into higher level training or skilled employment so that employers can access the skilled workforce they need.

IWFM will continue to analyse the proposals for reform to ensure we can support our members and employers in finding the best routes for upskilling and addressing any gaps existing, both in skills. If you would like further information or have any comments on this article, please email: policy@iwfm.org.uk