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1.4m workers could fall through the cracks in Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee

Jon Wilson, Chief Executive - Totaljobs

New analysis* finds that millions of low paid workers will struggle to access the Government’s new Lifetime Skills Guarantee (LSG) when it is launched next year amidst a growing jobs challenge.

The flagship Lifetime Skills Guarantee was announced as part of the Government’s plans to create new and better jobs and ensure “everyone has the chance to train and retrain”. However, the LSG is only open to workers without a level 3 qualification (A level or equivalent) and the report finds many of those who could benefit most from additional training don’t qualify, with 1.4 million low paid mid-career workers (aged 25-49) locked out of support for holding at least one level 3 qualification.

In addition, further barriers exacerbated by Covid-19, including greater financial challenges; family commitments; difficulties navigating the training system; lack of confidence; and requirements for welfare support mean that millions more could struggle to access training or progress their careers.

With Brexit set to change the demands of the labour market further, making it harder to recruit European workers, the report highlights the urgent need to review policy and invest in further training and development to better equip the UK workforce of the future.

Vulnerable livelihoods are most at risk

The research shows that participation in training decreases with age and varies significantly from sector to sector and by personal circumstance. As well as those locked out through ineligibility, the report has identified some 1.9 million people with children under the age of 16 who find it difficult to access training as a result of caring and family responsibilities. This means they are unlikely to benefit from the LSG without increased flexibility in training provision and support with the indirect costs of participating, such as childcare.

The welfare system can also place limits on the amount of training that people in the middle of their working life can access. For example, in May there were 1.4 million mid-career recipients of Universal Credit who were required to spend 35 hours a week looking for a job in order to access their payments, and over 300,000 mid-career recipients of Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance were only permitted to undertake a maximum of 16 hours of training per week.

Covid-19 worsens access to training

Historical analysis highlights how many workers are forced to put earning before learning and the report shows how Covid-19 has exacerbated this. The challenge some workers may face in prioritising training is clear; analysis shows there are some 4.8m mid-career workers who are not currently eligible for redundancy pay. This includes 1.6m mid-career workers in routine or manual occupations and almost 70% (1.1 million) of this number are women.

A lack of confidence acts as a further barrier, particularly for older workers who may not have had access to structured training in the past. In fact, over 7.5 million mid-career workers have not received any training since leaving full time education. Separate Totaljobs research of 1,000 UK workers aged 25-50 found that three in five (61%) are interested in learning new skills to better their prospects within their current industry but don’t know how to go about doing this.

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.”

Ben Harrison, Director at The Work Foundation added: “The Lifetime Skills Guarantee offers a real opportunity to boost life-long learning. But as things stand there is a real risk that millions of those who would most benefit from additional training won’t access it – either because they are not eligible, or because the Covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating financial and family pressures.

“It is vital that we have a clear focus on maximising participation from those in low paid roles and those looking to re-enter the labour market but who lack the skills to do so. That means reviewing the eligibility criteria for the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, alongside offering support to help people with the indirect costs of engaging in training such as childcare. We know that millions of families are facing tough times financially due to the pandemic, and Government must do everything it can to ensure training and skills development is a viable option for them in the months ahead.”

*Work Foundation and Totaljobs

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