As you may have seen in the news, reforms to skills and training opportunities have been unveiled in the Queen’s Speech today. The Government’s new legislative programme aims to support the nation’s recovery from the pandemic with a focus on “levelling up” and equal opportunities for all.
Skills and Post-16 Education Bill
Part of the new legislative programme will be the “Skills and Post-16 Education Bill”, which will be introduced in England on Tuesday 18 May 2021.
The Bill forms the legislative underpinning for the reforms set out in the recent Skills for Jobs White Paper.
The ambition set out by the government is:
- To create a post-16 and adult education and training system that is fit for the future, providing the skills that people need for well-paid jobs and opportunities to train throughout their lifetime.
Legislative measures from the “Skills and Post-16 Education Bill” include:
- A Lifelong Loan Entitlement that will give all individuals access to the equivalent of 4 years of student loans for higher-level study. The loans can be used flexibly across their lifetime, full-time or part-time, for modules or full qualifications, for high-quality technical qualifications and academic education. The ambition is to transform the funding system by making it as easy to get a student finance loan for an approved Higher Technical Qualification as it is for a full-length degree. The “Skills for Jobs” White Paper notes the government will be consulting on the detail and scope of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement in 2021.
- Further realigning the system around the needs of employers, including the locally based Skills Accelerator partnerships. The Skills Accelerator will enable and enhance strategic partnerships between employers and post-16 providers to help shape future technical skills provision. Those interested will have access to the £65 million Strategic Development Fund to develop and deliver plans in pilot areas in 2021-22. Priority sectors are named as construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing.
- Extending existing powers of the Secretary of State for Education to intervene to improve quality of provision in colleges and training providers.
- Extending the powers of the Office for Students in regulating Higher Education.
The announcements come as recognition that universities and colleges must become more accessible to adults and part-timers, allowing people to change careers, upskill regularly, and stay up-to-date with changing knowledge and technologies. These reforms will enable people to learn, train or retrain and access new or updated skills at any time in their lives from age 16.