New research has found that over one million workers could miss out on the Government’s new scheme that would allow people to retrain, prompting calls to change the policy.
In a new report by the think tank Work Foundation and job site Totaljobs, 1.4 million low-paid workers will be ineligible for support under the Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee scheme.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously described this scheme as allowing people “to train and retrain at any stage in their life”. Part of the scheme involved the Government’s plans to fully fund technical courses for adult learners from April 2021, specifically aimed at people who do not have A-Levels.
The new research finds that the Lifetime Skills Guarantee is only available to workers without a Level 3 qualification, which is an A-Level or equivalent. However, many people who could benefit most from additional training do not qualify under these terms – which would exclude 1.4 million low paid mid-career workers.
Other factors such as financial challenges, family commitments, difficulties navigating the training system and requirements for welfare support could also means that many more people in the UK would not qualify for the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.
Specifically, the research highlighted that 1.9 million people with children under the age of 16 would find it particularly difficult to access training due to their family and caring responsibilities. As a result, the report states that the Government must offer increased flexibility within the Lifetime Skills Guarantee in addition to support with the indirect costs of training e.g. the cost of childcare.
Additionally, the welfare system also puts a limit on how much training can be undertaken. In May, 1.4 million mid-career recipients of Universal Credit were required to spend 35 hours a week searching for a job to be eligible for these payments, limiting the amount of time people could spend on training. Also, over a quarter of a million people (300,000) were barred from completing more than 16 hours worth of training a week due to the restrictions of Income Support and Jobseekers Allowance.
Those in mid-career jobs within routine or manual occupations, which totals around 1.6 million people, are not eligible for redundancy pay at the moment. This also means people will be restricted from the training due to a need of prioritising their wage.
This report has made various recommendations to the Government in order to widen participation in the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. Particularly, it calls on the Government to review eligibility for the scheme, offer support with indirect costs such as childcare, remove restrictions on engaging in training for individuals (as is the case for those seeking Income Support, create flexible training pathways and advise and incentivise employers to encourage their workers to undertake this training.
Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs said:
Changes need to be made to realise the ambition of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. By doing so, we can take the nexus of a promising scheme and turn it into a policy that truly puts skills development at the heart of the UK economy.
Removing restrictions for individuals receiving welfare benefits and expanding the scheme’s reach by making it available to more people are some initial steps that can be taken. We believe that by addressing the barriers we’ve uncovered, the Lifetime Skills Guarantee can be successful in aiding business success and transforming the livelihoods of millions of people.
Alongside Government, the decisions businesses make now will play a crucial role in keeping skills development on the agenda. UK employers can join us in calling on policy makers to improve the scheme’s effectiveness, alongside ensuring their employees are aware of the relevant opportunities on offer and feel able to spend time developing their skillset.
*This data was taken from Work Foundations and Totaljobs’ report, published in November 2020, called “Learning to Level Up: The role of skills in tackling job insecurity through Brexit and Covid-19”.
Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.