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Question for Department for Education

UIN 169294, tabled on 20 March 2023

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps she is taking with her Cabinet colleagues to ensure that people in all regions wishing to enter new careers have access to adequate training; and if she will make it her policy to ensure such training is provided free of charge.

Answered on

28 March 2023

Education is a devolved matter, and the response outlines the information for England only.

The department is investing £3.8 billion more in further education and skills over the Parliamentary session. The department’s skills reforms provide a ladder of opportunity that enables young people and adults to attain good jobs and progress in their careers.

Apprenticeships offer individuals throughout England the opportunity to gain valuable skills, retrain, or reskill for careers in a variety of industries. Apprentices earn a wage while they learn and are not responsible for their apprenticeship training costs.

In the Spring Budget announced on 15 March 2023, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a new initiative called Returnerships. This programme is designed to combine the three different pathways of Apprenticeships, Skills Bootcamps and Sector-Based Work Academies Programmes, in order to make it easier for people to return to work. Returnerships will raise awareness of these pathways, providing a clear route back into work and encouraging employers to hire older workers.

The department is also investing in re-skilling and up-skilling opportunities, to make sure that adults of any age, can upskill to reach their potential, transforming lives and delivering on the National Skills Fund commitment. As part of this investment, we have introduced the Free Courses for Jobs scheme, which gives eligible adults in England without an existing full Level 3 qualification or who are unemployed or meet the low wage criteria, the chance to access over 400 Level 3 qualifications for free.

This offer has seen over 35,000 enrolments reported between April 2021 and October 2022. This means that enrolments are 82% higher for adults without a full Level 3 qualification, compared to uptake of the same qualifications in 2018/19.

Skills Bootcamps were introduced at the end of 2020 to deliver short, free, flexible training courses, giving people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills, with an offer of a job interview with an employer on completion.

Skills Bootcamps are still a relatively new training offer, but they are already delivering positive outcomes for adult learners and employers and are available right across the country. Following the recent Budget announcement, the department aims to make 64,000 training places a year available by the 2024/25 financial year to ensure that even more learners across all areas of the country can access Skills Bootcamps.

We are continuing to invest in education and skills training for adults through the Adult Education Budget (AEB), which was £1.34 billion in the 2022/23 academic year. The AEB fully funds or co-funds skills provision for eligible adults aged 19 and above from pre-entry to level 3, to help them gain the skills they need for work, an apprenticeship or further learning.

Currently, approximately 60% of the AEB is devolved to nine Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) and the Mayor of London, acting where appropriate through the Greater London Authority (GLA). Devolution of the AEB gives MCAs and the GLA direct control over adult education provision for their residents and provides local areas the opportunity to meet local needs.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency is responsible for the remaining AEB in non-devolved areas where colleges, local authorities and other providers have the freedom and flexibility to determine how they use their AEB funding, to best meet the needs of their communities.

The National Careers Service provides free, up to date, impartial information, advice and guidance on careers, skills and the Labour Market in England and offers intensive support for low skilled adults without a qualification at level 3, as one of our six priority groups for the Service.