More than one million low paid workers don’t qualify for Lifetime Skills Guarantee

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More than a million low paid employees who would benefit from further training could be locked out of the government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee because they hold at least one A-level or equivalent qualification.

According to analysis by the Work Foundation and Totaljobs, 1.4 million low paid mid-career workers, defined as workers between the ages of 25 and 49, would not be able to take advantage of the scheme because it is only open to people without a level 3 qualification.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which was announced by Boris Johnson in September, will offer a free college course to help “give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs” when it launches in April 2021.

But the Work Foundation think-tank and jobs board Totaljobs said many of the workers who would benefit the most from further training did not qualify, while numerous other barriers to further education exist, including lack of confidence, financial challenges, family commitments, difficulties navigating the training system and requirements for welfare support.

Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs, said: “Changes need to be made to realise the ambition of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. By doing so, we can take the nexus of a promising scheme and turn it into a policy that truly puts skills development at the heart of the UK economy.

“Removing restrictions for individuals receiving welfare benefits and expanding the scheme’s reach by making it available to more people are some initial steps that can be taken. We believe that by addressing the barriers we’ve uncovered, the Lifetime Skills Guarantee can be successful in aiding business success and transforming the livelihoods of millions of people.”

Work Foundation director Ben Harrison said: “The Lifetime Skills Guarantee offers a real opportunity to boost life-long learning. But as things stand there is a real risk that millions of those who would most benefit from additional training won’t access it – either because they are not eligible, or because the Covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating financial and family pressures.

“It is vital that we have a clear focus on maximising participation from those in low paid roles and those looking to re-enter the labour market but who lack the skills to do so. That means reviewing the eligibility criteria for the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, alongside offering support to help people with the indirect costs of engaging in training such as childcare.”

The bodies recommend that the government:

  • Reviews the eligibility criteria for schemes under the Lifetime Skills Guarantee to increase participation among workers in low-paid positions, by recognising that some may hold a level 3 qualification but would benefit from further training
  • Offers support with indirect costs of training, such as childcare
  • Removes restrictions on training hours for those receiving welfare benefits such as Universal Credit, Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance
  • Creates flexible training pathways, such as modular options
  • Advises and incentivises employers to encourage staff to undertake training.

Last month the Independent Commission on the College of the Future – a group of experts looking at the role colleges can play in addressing skills needs – recommended the establishment of ’employer hubs’ at local colleges to help tackle skills gaps. It also recommended that every person be given a statutory right to lifelong learning.

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