@BorisJohnson’s speech on #LevellingUp the UK 

  • Free skills courses expanded for adults across the country to upskill or retrain for better paid jobs
  • 18 areas across the county to lead new programme of work to match training with local skills gaps 
  • Comes as the Prime Minister underlines the need to escalate the value of practical and vocational education through the lifetime skills guarantee

Further measures to boost the nation’s skills, level up opportunities and get more people into better paid jobs have been announced today (15 July). 

The measures come after the Prime Minister delivered his levelling up speech, where he underlined the need to escalate the value of practical and vocational education through the lifetime skills guarantee, which will boost skills and open up opportunities for more people at every stage of their lives.

The Government’s successful Skills Bootcamp training programmes will be expanded to every region of the country, offering an extra 16,000 fully funded places for adults to upskill or retrain.

The expansion covers a range of digital and technical training including in green skills, such as solar energy installation, sustainable agriculture, nuclear energy, and green transport, along with coding and software development, so more adults have the opportunity to access the skills and training they need that leads directly to a job.  

A consultation has been launched on the future of the National Skills Fund, which has already supported thousands adults to upskill and retrain through Skills Bootcamps, and access to almost 400 free courses through the Free Courses for Jobs programme.

The consultation will ask for views on how the fund should be adapted for the future, so it continues to meet the future skills needs of individuals and employers, levelling up opportunities across the country.

Eighteen areas across the country will also be the first to lead work to build stronger partnerships between local employer groups, colleges and other providers through the Skills Accelerator programme, so the training on offer meets the need of local communities and fills skills gaps in key sectors of the economy including construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing. This will mean more people can get the training needed to secure great jobs close to home.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: 

“No matter where you are from, everyone should have the chance to get the skills needed to get a good job – whether that’s to launch a new career or upskill in their industry.  

“We have put skills right at the heart of our ambitious reforms, to make sure we can build back better from the pandemic, empowering people to get the skills they need to build the life they want.   

“Today marks the next vital step in our mission to level up opportunities by investing in skills, investing in lifelong learning and investing in communities so that people can thrive and prosper – wherever they live.” 

New careers guidance has been published for all schools and colleges, to make sure that every young person is aware of all the options available to them, including apprenticeships and technical education opportunities instead of concentrating on the traditional university route. 

A further consultation has been launched on plans to simplify funding for adult skills training, while giving colleges more freedom to decide how best to support the training needs of the local communities they serve, so they can focus on helping more people into good jobs locally.

Sector Reaction 

Julian Gravatt100x100Julian Gravatt Deputy Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges said:

“The Department for Education set out some ambitious plans in the Skills for Jobs white paper to improve the way we meet the education and skills needs of half the population and ensure employers have the skills they need.

“The current funding and accountability systems can sometimes be an obstacle to these goals so we welcome the open way in which the Department is consulting on reforms and look forward to working through the details over the summer.”

Julian continued:

“We have long called for colleges to get the recognition they deserve for their role in uplifting people and communities, so we welcome the positive comments from the Prime Minister today about the role of education in giving opportunities to people and communities but more specifically we are pleased that DfE is getting on with the FE white paper implementation.

“DfE announced the results of its Skills accelerator competition today. We know that there were lots of high quality bids but we are pleased that the 19 selected build on strong college partnerships and cover a good mix of urban, rural and coastal locations. They will work with selected Chambers of Commerce to develop the Local Skills Plan and college business centre models.

“DfE has also published a funding and accountability consultation which develops the ideas in the FE white paper for a government approach which is less focused on processes and checking transactions and getting the best value from available funds for the adult learners, employers and communities involved in further education. DfE has worked with colleges and AoC on these plans which are a first step towards a more effective way of organising the system.

“The third DfE announcement is a consultation on the National Skills Fund which is already being used by colleges to improve the skills of adult learners and via bootcamps where they have been selected in the recent tender. We welcome the opportunity to discuss some of the barriers to participation in learning – including current universal credit rules and qualification assessment regimes – but we will also encourage DfE and Treasury to keep a focus on how to make skills funding simple and easy to understand. The National Skills Fund is currently managed separately from other funding lines. It will be worth looking at how to integrate them.

“The country faces big challenges in the next few years. Let’s hope the government matches its bold and ambitious plans with the investment to make up for a decade of neglect for this to be the turning point for opportunities that the government wants it to be.” 

Jane Hickie 20Dec 100x100Jane Hickie, Chief Executive, Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said:

“Today’s consultation documents and announcements are a helpful step in taking forward the proposals in the Skills for Jobs white paper.

“While the details will require careful study, AELP has been calling for a simplification of the adult education funding system and, providing that all types of provider are being treated equitably, we can imagine welcoming the broad principles.

“With the government committed to a “user-centred” approach in the white paper, we have been positive so far on the developments under the National Skills Fund because they are strengthening learner choice.  There is definitely a case for rolling out bootcamps across more sectors and all regions with their focus on securing employment outcomes.

“It is good to see the new statutory guidance to schools and colleges on the Baker Clause after the recent UCAS research showed that so much more needs to be done on compliance.  It is desperately disappointing that so many pupils are still not being informed about apprenticeships.

“Independent training providers are willing and committed to working with closely with the LSIP trailblazers but it must be a two-way street in that the LSIPs should not act as a closed shop and they should engage with ITPs in their area.  Last week in the committee stage debate on the Skills Bill, the government promised to issue statutory guidance on LSIP engagement with local stakeholders after the Bill’s royal assent and we look forward to seeing this.”

nick brook 100x100Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said:

“The Prime Minister is right to include schools in his vision for a fairer society, but sadly at the moment, the government’s actions do not match their lofty rhetoric.

“Independent research by EPI has found that schools serving the most disadvantaged schools will benefit the least from its most recent school funding package.

“Furthermore, we know that many disadvantaged children have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, and yet the government’s response to education recovery from Covid has been woefully inadequate.

“The government declined to fund Sir Kevan Collins’ suggested catch-up plan on the grounds that it was too expensive. Instead, they chose to fund one-tenth of the cost of the plan. Even when you take into account previous Covid funding this still only equates to around £310 per pupil per year. In the USA this is £1,600 and in the Netherlands it is £2,500. Far from levelling up, this looks like a race to the bottom, internationally.”

Lee Elliot Major 100x100Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, said:

“Any attempt to level-up opportunities will only be successful if we adopt a cradle to career approach, addressing educational inequalities early in children’s lives and creating job and training possibilities for young people whereever they happen to live.

“Our research shows that levelling-up must be bottom-up: we must understand and tackle specific local and regional impediments to boost life prospects.” 

Carl McIntosh, 37, Junior Software Developer, Wise a Birmingham-based technology company that specialises in the self-employment sector, said:

“When the pandemic hit, I was made redundant from my job in printing, but the Skills Bootcamp in coding has given me a whole new lease of life! It really prepares you for work, teaching you everything from different codes, to soft skills like how to communicate effectively and work as a team. And the fast-track to an interview, meant I was able to successfully gain a role as a Junior Software Engineer at Wise. I feel so happy to have had the Skills Bootcamp opportunity and that I’ve been able to join the tech sector.”

Dr Neil Bentley 100x100Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK said: 

“We welcome the vision put forward by the Prime Minister to address regional imbalances in our economic geography and ensure that opportunities are more evenly spread across the UK and we wholeheartedly agree that a focus on human capital and skills will be crucial to deliver the Government’s ambition to level up.

“At WorldSkills UK, we are already playing our part in boosting standards in skills in local economies across the UK.  Through our Centre of Excellence, in partnership with NCFE, which was recognised for its ground-breaking approach to training in the government’s ‘Skills for Jobs’ White Paper for England, and our Innovation Network and Skills Development Hub, we are working with 90% of UK colleges, with wide geographic coverage across the UK, to share world-class standards in teaching, learning and assessment. 

“However, our international benchmarking data shows the UK needs to do more to catch up on other major global economies in valuing the high quality skills we develop. This means developing a world-class skills economy to equal our already world-beating knowledge economy so that we can compete with any country globally for foreign investment on the basis of technical skills as well as academic experience.  

“That is why we have commissioned a new Skills Taskforce for Global Britain, led by former CBI Director General John Cridland with analytic support from consultancy EY, to answer how we can make a world-class skills economy a reality in the UK and we look forward to sharing our initial insights with the government ahead of the publication of its White Paper in the Autumn.  

“By pursuing world-class standards in technical education right across the UK, identifying how best to respond to the demand for high-quality skills from investors and making sure that we have confident ways of marketing our skills prowess, local leaders should be in a much better position to articulate the vision for their local economy and leverage the high quality skills we develop to attract valuable foreign investment to their communities, increasing employment prospects and living standards for as many people as possible.”

Dr Graeme Atherton 100x100Professor Graeme Atherton, Head of UWL’s Centre for Levelling Up, and author of their report also published today “Learning about place”, said:

‘These are all areas characterised in the government’s levelling up agenda as being left behind by social and economic changes, with poor jobs, failing schools and out-dated infrastructure. However, the reality is more complex than this. While they all have challenges, they also have strengths.

“But to build on these strengths we need a new ‘hyper local’ approach with stable, long term investment where control is as close as possible to delivery. Short term funding for high visibility projects will not be enough. We must put education at the heart of our efforts in support of change if we are going to help people transform their futures.’

Erica Roscoe, senior research fellow at IPPR North said:

“Boris Johnson promised to ‘level up’ the country in his first speech as Prime Minister. It was welcome rhetoric, but two years on our deep divides between and within regions are growing, and places like the North are still waiting for the powers, resources, and transparency they need to see from government to level up for themselves.

“The Prime Minister is right to identify that the status quo here in the UK has benefitted nobody. For too long the Treasury has held onto major decisions and has treated London and the South East as a cash cow for tax revenue, rather than seeking to deliver a good life for people. This is dysfunctional. People nowhere have benefitted – regions have been kept back and London has some of the highest levels of poverty in the country. So the need for deeds, not words, has never been more urgent.

“The evidence is clear – levelling up can only be achieved if places are empowered to level up for themselves. From better living standards, to better work, health and a better democracy – leaders across England are beginning to show the difference that devolution can make, but limits to their powers and competition for short term funding initiatives mean they cannot realise their communities’ full potential. We need a fair, transparent settlement in which power is shared between places and government – not piecemeal projects where government continues to hold all of the strings because that isn’t real, progressive devolution. The Prime Minister must let go to level up.”

Katie Schmuecker, Deputy Director of Policy & Partnerships at JRF said:

“The Prime Minister is right to identify living standards as a key priority to help people flourish. But can a Government that intends to cut the incomes of the poorest families in just a few weeks’ time really claim to be levelling up?

“Taking money out of the pockets of households that need it most by cutting Universal Credit makes no sense at all, and would suck money out of our recovery in the places that are most likely to struggle.

“Cutting Universal Credit would be a terrible mistake which would pull half a million more people into poverty. It’s not too late for the Prime Minister to change course and keep in place this lifeline which will give people across the country the chance of a better life.”

Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, said:

“Levelling Up is not only vital to prosperity and opportunity in all parts of the UK, it’s also a core requirement for our competitiveness in the global economy. The PM is right to recognise the importance of creating confidence among businesses to invest, and empowering local leaders to deliver.

“For too long, we have been so much more regionally unequal than our economic competitors. Our success in the decade ahead needs to draw on the unique talents and advantages of our regions and nations.

“So levelling up must be a business imperative too. Only through dynamism in every community can we create the skills, jobs, and growth we need.

“At the CBI we intend building coalitions of business leaders in different clusters around the country for this task – working with our partners across government and centres of education and skills.

“Businesses are already playing their part – whether that’s renewable energy in the North East, advanced manufacturing in the Midlands, or semiconductors in Wales. Now we must seize the moment to grow prosperity for all.”  

 Amanda Mackenzie OBE, CEO of Business in the Community:

“We fully support the Prime Minister’s commitments to spread opportunity and prosperity around the country and restore pride in communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequalities in the UK; levelling up is now more important than ever. Like the Prime Minister said, levelling up means empowering local leadership and moving away from a centralised ‘one size fits all’ model. Communities know what they need to prosper, we need to listen and act.

“For levelling up to succeed this should not be a political endeavour but a great collaboration of  business, local government and communities to create sustainable long-term change. We know from our experience built over 40 years that business is ready and willing to roll their sleeves up and play their part. The private sector is key to create an ambitious, realistic and shared vision for long-term transformational change that addresses challenges which have been around for too long.

“I echo the concerns of many business leaders that short term must be the beginning, not the end, of levelling up. Quick wins and short-term projects like bench statues and grassroots football funding are of course valuable but the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

“We urge the Prime Minister involve business as a partner with community leaders from the start. Use their inherent strength, commerciality, access to jobs, links to education and connectivity so together, and in time levelling up will become levelled up!”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchestersaid: 

“Much of the Prime Minister’s analysis today was right and I don’t in any way disagree with it – far too often people’s life chances and health are still determined by the postcode they are born in. But what was missing was credible action that would actually change the reality of people’s lives here in the North of England.

“You don’t level up by throwing money at towns here and there and creating a chewing gum taskforce. You do it by backing city-regions like ours to create a London-style transport network with London level fares that will unite towns and cities and transform the life chances of the 2.8 million people who live here. I urge the Government to give us the power and resources we need and make levelling up a reality here in the North.”

Escalating the value of practical and vocational education through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee 

Since April, adults without a full qualification at Level 3 (A level equivalent) have been able to access almost 400 free courses, through the Free Courses for Jobs offer,  ranging from engineering to healthcare to conservation, to help them gain in-demand skills and open up job opportunities.  

In January the government set out vital reforms to post-16 education and training in the Skills for Jobs White Paper, which will ensure everyone no matter where they live can gain the skills they need to progress and secure a great career at any stage of their life.  

Skills Bootcamps offer flexible training of up to 16 weeks, so adults have the opportunity upskill or retrain in sector-specific skills including technical and digital training and fast-track to an interview with a local employer. They are already running in 6 regions of England. This expansion will extended them to all 9 regions of England.

The measures announced today builds on the work already underway to transform further and technical education, including the roll out of new T Levels, working with employers to create more high-quality apprenticeship opportunities, establishing a system of Higher Technical Education and a network of Institutes of Technology, backed by up to £290 million. 

The National Skills Fund consultation is seeking views from adults, employers and education providers. The Consultation runs for 10 weeks, closing on 17th September. 

The Funding and Accountability consultation will run for twelve weeks from the 15th of July closing on 7th October.  

Through the Skills Accelerator programme the government is putting local employers at the centre of skills provision.  The programme will build stronger partnerships between employers and their local Further Education colleges and other local training providers, ensuring that technical education and training meets local needs in sectors including construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing. Today we have announced 18 new pilot areas who will be eligible for funding through the £65 million Strategic Development Fund to enable and enhance strategic partnerships between employers and post-16 providers. Eight of these areas will also lead work to develop Local Skills Improvement Plans, which will ensure that technical education and training is well-aligned to what employers need. 

Government to publish Levelling Up White Paper 

4th May 2021: The Government will publish a landmark Levelling Up White Paper later this year, articulating how bold new policy interventions will improve opportunity and boost livelihoods across the country as we recover from the pandemic.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, levelling up and ensuring that the whole UK can benefit from the same access to opportunities remains core to the Government’s vision.

The White Paper – which will be led by the Prime Minister – will focus on challenges including improving living standards, growing the private sector and increasing and spreading opportunity.

It accompanies work being undertaken to repair the damage done by Covid to public services, with backlogs in hospitals and courts prioritised alongside school catch ups and jobs.

A new No10 – Cabinet Office Unit will be set up to drive through work on the White Paper and the Prime Minister has also appointed Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough, as his Levelling Up Adviser.

Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough, Levelling Up Adviser, said:

“Levelling up has been a real passion of mine for many years, and I’m incredibly excited by the Prime Minister’s agenda.

“After such a challenging year, there has never been a better time to unite and level up the country. It’s absolutely crucial that we bring opportunity to every single part of the UK by making sure our spending, tax, investment and regeneration priorities bring about meaningful change.”

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