Labour to offer free adult retraining scheme
The Labour party has promised to spend an additional £3 billion per year on a scheme to provide adults in England with free access to retraining which will increase job prospects and help close the skills gap.
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has said she wants to “open the door” for adults who want to learn new skills and help those "who want to change career, are made redundant or didn't get the qualifications they needed when they were younger".
She added: “For many, adult education is too expensive, too time-consuming or too difficult to get into."
But incumbent education secretary Gavin Williamson said Labour was "making promises that it simply won't be able to fulfil".
The Conservatives already have a National Retraining Scheme in the pipeline for adults who need to learn new sets of skills to continue with their work or find a new job, which is now in its testing phase.
It is set to be rolled out in 2020, followed by plans to introduce new vocational qualifications known as T-Levels.
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have pledged ahead of the election to provide each adult a £10,000 grant as a training “skills wallet” that can be withdrawn at different stages of life and is topped up after intervals of several years.
Concern among employers about the lack of skilled staff is well documented and party plans to address the issue will be a key battleground for December’s general election.
The Confederation of British Industry lobby group was supportive of making adult training a priority measure, adding that adult participation in education is at “its lowest for two decades.”
The CBI’s chief policy director, Matthew Fell, added that "lifelong learning is rising to the top of the political agenda” and that businesses would approve of additional support for technical learning to put it “on par” with academia.
Jo Grady, who heads the UCU lecturers' union, has also highlighted "steep falls" in the numbers of adult students, adding that its place in the UK education system has been “sorely neglected”.
Labour’s plans would offer up to six years of training for each adult, including making them fit for work in the healthcare and engineering sectors. The party hopes that the scheme will see uptake of adult courses rise by 300,000 individuals a year.
Employees would also be given the right to have paid time off work to accommodate education and training courses, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visualising the future of education as working "like an escalator running alongside you throughout life, that you can get on and off whenever you want".