What does the Skills for Jobs White Paper really mean?

28th January, 2021

The latest Skills for Jobs White Paper outlines what’s going to be a very exciting and positive few years that Futures are ready to get behind. Through our experience of delivering the National Careers Service, working directly with young people in schools, our NEET provision and our partnership delivery with the Careers Enterprise Company, we’re in a strong place to support the governments new plans.

In short, the white paper outlines how the government will set out to:

  • Place employers at the heart of post-16 skills
  • Provide the advanced technical and higher technical skills the nation needs
  • Put in place a flexible Lifetime Skills Guarantee
  • Continue to back responsive providers supported by effective accountability, governance, and intervention 
  • Support outstanding teaching

We’re particularly pleased to see a cohesive approach to careers, and the continued support to grow apprenticeships. The onus shifting to employers to define the skills they need to influence the skills agenda and Local Skills Improvement Plans is key to developing a future proof workforce. We’ve put together the key takeaways below.

Transforming the National Careers Service

We all know the importance of impartial, lifelong careers advice and guidance being available to people when they need it, regardless of age, circumstance, or background. Since October 2018, we’ve engaged with over 118,000 people to support them getting into work, with COVID-19 only rapidly increasing this, which is why we’re really pleased to see the government plans for updating the National Careers Service website and aligning more with the Careers Enterprise Company (CEC) to have one, true interconnected service.

The National Careers Service website is to become a single source of careers information for young people and adults, offering personalisation through content recommendations for individual users, access to local and regional careers information and advice for groups like parents, students the employed and the unemployed. A one-stop platform is an ambitious challenge and we need to make sure it engages both young people and adults, but doesn’t miss out on those that are hardest to reach either. We also shouldn’t forget the importance and value of face-to-face, human interaction.

If designed well the website will not only be a great tool for people to understand the current job market, but it’ll help young people and those making career changes to plan ahead. If we can show where the trends of those careers are, it will allow people to make much more informed decisions about their future. All too much we see young people being influenced by what they see in the media, but the reality about what jobs are actually available to meet their preferred lifestyle can be very different.

“The benefits of joint up, cohesive service will provide much greater opportunities and in turn improve the lives of individuals and their communities. The CEC and National Careers Service working collaboratively can only be positive, so anybody of any age can make informed decisions about their career choices.” Sandra Cowley, Commercial Director at The Futures Group

Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunity and Growth

Making sure everyone can access flexible training, wherever they live and whatever their age has become more apparent than ever as Covid-19 continues to have such an impact on our lives. Continuing to support people of all ages into education, training, and employment is a vital role to the UK’s long-term economic recovery. Realigning vocational learning to meet the needs of employers so that people are trained to meet the skills gaps that exist now and in the future is a positive step. It will only enhance businesses and the UK's ability to compete in a competitive global economy and provide people with more sustainable careers.

Having a real strategy around a lifetime guarantee for skills which will offer thousands of adults the opportunity to retrain in later life and access to funding that will allow them to gain level 3 qualifications in specific sectors, isn’t just about supporting career progression. It's about getting back to a country that really celebrates lifelong learning and brings it to the forefront of family and community life.

Local Skills improvement plans

Local Skills Improvement Plans will see employers taking on a central role working with further education colleges, private training providers and local stakeholders to develop plans that will shape technical skills provision to meet the needs of the local labour market.

"Putting employer industry expertise at the heart of the designing the content of technical qualifications is essential. For too long governments have discussed but never managed to follow through on vocational reforms, as a result, our approach to vocational education hasn’t changed much in 30 years, but technology and new thriving businesses have resulted in some education providers struggling to adapt vocational programmes to meet the skills needs of new growing industries. Working together to make sure we’re offering training and guidance that supports the needs of new industries is critical.” Sandra Cowley, Commercial Director at The Futures Group

The paper talks a lot about Higher Education and the introduction of Skills Bootcamps that provide a clear route to specific sector skills and immediate access to employers looking to recruit. This is very welcome – as a country need to be able to develop the higher levels skills and bring new entrants to work in existing and emerging industries to compete globally but we need to not forget those individuals who are furthest away from the job market and ensure they also have a clear pathway when commencing their career. "We need to continue to offer introductory level 1 and 2 vocational programs as these build confidence and a genuine desire to progress onto Higher Education, enabling everyone to have a clear fulfilled career pathway.” Sandra Cowley, Commercial Director at The Futures Group

The paper goes on to state that the government recognises the needs for flexibility in the way learning happens for it to be successful and want to build on the development of online learning delivery during the coronavirus pandemic. To make sure this happens it's committed to a total spending on the further education workforce to over £65 million in 2021/22.

A new national recruitment strategy aims to reach millions of prospective teaching staff, targeting those with extensive experience and skills in industry, who can train the next generation of technical experts to ensure what’s taught in the classroom better aligns with the nest of industry practices. Again, putting employers at the heart of the skills need to make their business productive and successful.

 “Whilst maintaining outstanding teaching and technical expertise is of course vitally important, we mustn’t forget the ongoing investment needed in making sure we have enough trained and qualified careers guidance specialists in schools and communities. We need to make sure that before young people and adults make those critical decisions, they've had access to an experienced careers professional.” Sandra Cowley, Commercial Director at The Futures Group

We all know how challenging this year has been for many, but Futures are optimistic for the future. If you’d like to read more on the sector’s response to the Skills for Jobs White Paper, you can find lots of insightful comments here.

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