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Billions added to the National Skills Fund to help people back into work post-COVID

The UK government has announced that £2.5 billion will be available through the National Skills Fund to help people get into work and others to train for higher-skilled, better-paid jobs after the coronavirus pandemic.

Part of the suite of support to mitigate the impact of the virus on the job market, the money was announced alongside the pledge of Lifetime Skills Guarantee, giving adults without qualifications free access to college courses and flexible loan entitlement for SMEs.

Generally, the pledge has been well received as critics previously deemed it the missing piece from the chancellor’s Job Support Scheme announced last week.

Katherine Easter, chief people officer at the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), said that she was pleased the new pledge will give people the opportunity to study at their own pace.

Easter told HR magazine: “The PPF has benefited from supporting people’s learning at different points in their lifetime. The government’s latest approach will allow people to pursue qualifications at a time, and stage of life, that best suits them, helping to give more people an opportunity to do work they enjoy and reach their potential."

Martin Taft, managing director of skills provider Springboard Training, also shared this sentiment. Speaking to HR magazine he said: "This is a time of genuine opportunity but HR leaders need to be mindful of the needs of staff rather than simply doing training for the sake of it.

"Those returning from furlough could be the leaders of tomorrow, and it's vital that they have learning and development that is genuinely useful."

Kirstie Donnelly, CEO at skills organisation City & Guilds Group, said that it was encouraging to see the government take on some of its recent recommendations for reskilling adults, and that it was “a step in the right direction.”

She added: “These measures still seem narrow in their scope and don’t contain the creative thinking needed to address vast skills and jobs challenges that lie ahead.”

Ross Maycock, SVP people at outsourced customer service provider Teleperformance UK & South Africa, also expressed concern for the scope of the support.

He said: “If the UK economy is to get back on its feet, we need to commit to the development of talent, rather than using skills as a stop gap for patching up industries in peril.

“Businesses, in collaboration with government, play a crucial role in investing in new career pathways and development programmes to ensure a strong pipeline of talent for the nation.”

The government’s skills support will be available in England from April 2021. A full set of courses available through the scheme is set to be available soon.