Government to offer further education courses

The Prime Minister has announced that adults in England without an A-level or equivalent qualification will be offered a fully funded college course.

This offer will be available from April in England, and will be paid for through the National Skills Fund. The  reforms will be backed by continued investment in college buildings and facilities – including over £1.5 billion in capital funding.

Higher education loans will also be made more flexible, allowing adults and young people to space out their study across their lifetimes, take more high-quality vocational courses in further education colleges and universities, and to support people to retrain for jobs of the future.

The reason behind the move is predominantly the coronavirus pandemic, which ministers have said will be key in building back better, and also the growing unemployment rate.

As such, apprenticeship opportunities will also be increased, with more funding for SMEs taking on apprentices, and greater flexibility in how their training is structured – especially in sectors such as construction and creative industries where there are more varied employment patterns.

The Office for Budget Responsibility recently warned that the unemployment rate could peak at  13.2 per cent in the next few years.

Kevin Bentley, chairman of the Local Government Association’s People & Places Board, said: “Our economic recovery depends on people being able to retrain and learn the skills they need for the future, therefore it is good that significant support will be offered including free Level 3 courses for those who want to start new roles and occupations, which we have been calling for. Using the National Skills Fund to fund this is a step in the right direction. Flexible loans will be helpful for some, but may not be the best way of encouraging adults to go back into learning.

“Retraining must be supported by a good mix of local providers including colleges, independent training providers, and council-run adult education centres, which can join up and offer a clear pathway to further learning and work. It is right that courses should target employers but they also must respond to the needs of different local areas, with a strong role for councils, combined authorities as well as colleges. The upcoming Spending Review is an opportunity to devolve and further target funding for people and places.”

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