Skills and Post-16 Education Bill could help jobs recovery

The UK government will today introduce its new Skills and Post-16 Education Bill which it hopes will be the rocket fuel needed to level up the workforce post-pandemic.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the new laws are the rocket fuel that we need to level up this country and ensure equal opportunities for all.

The Bill was announced during the Queen’s Speech on 11 May, with Johnson claiming the new will play a key part in the economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: “We know that having the right skills and training is the route to better, well-paid jobs.

“I’m revolutionising the system so we can move past the outdated notion that there is only one route up the career ladder and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to retrain or upskill at any point in their lives.”

The Bill will create a new student finance system giving every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, useable at any point in their lives. 

Employers will also now have a statutory role in planning publicly-funded training programmes with education providers, through a “Skills Accelerator” programme.

Kate Palmer, HR advice director at Peninsula, said although it remains to be seen how the Bill will work in practice, the new legislation may provide employers with the opportunity to have a say in what is being taught to potential future candidates.

She told HR magazine: “This could be a win-win situation. Helping young workers attain the skills they will need to progress in specific sectors and companies and giving employers access to individuals who possess more key knowledge about the specific area than they otherwise would have done.”

Palmer said the Bill could help to streamline the process from which young people leave education and enter the workplace.

“Especially if those individuals are interested in going into certain areas but may not be given the best means by which to do so at college,” she said.

However, Paul Geddes, CEO of tech training company QA, said the UK needs far more digital skills to level up.

Geddes said research from the Learning and Work Institute found less than half of UK employers (48%) believe that young people are leaving full-time education with sufficient digital skills.

“This Bill has the potential to start moving the dial on the digital skills gap, making tech training accessible to all age groups.

Tech training can also level up opportunities for individuals across the UK, providing a pathway to some of the best paid jobs, with starting salaries in many cases averaging £30,000 and above,” he said.

Thomas Seymour, senior director, HR, at talent and reskill training partner mthree, told HR magazine the pandemic has highlighted the unstable nature of employment for many in the UK, and demonstrated how we urgently need to find ways to equip people with the skills they need to pursue more sustainable, future-proof careers.

He said: “In addition to opening new doors for people, the new skills initiative should prove invaluable in combatting the looming digital skills shortage.

"Businesses in every sector are already struggling to hire skilled tech talent, and this is only set to worsen as our reliance on technology increases."

Seymour said he hopes organisations of all sizes will recognise and take advantage of this new opportunity to upskill and reskill their existing employees.

“By providing employees with guidance regarding useful qualifications, and perhaps the support they need to study part time or the promise of a job offer once they have achieved a new qualification, this could be a brilliant way for businesses to broaden their talent pipelines, while also minimising redundancies and improving employee engagement and retention.”

The importance of further education for the UK workforce:

Call for further education for furloughed workers

Putting the HR in higher education

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