BORIS Johnson has promised to give every adult without an A-level free college courses and flexible loans to help people who lose their job due to the coronavirus.
The PM today vowed to ensure everyone can re-train and find their way into “well-paid” jobs and rip up the snobby attitude towards further education.
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It comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak admitted last week the Government would not be able to “save every job” as he announced his new wage-subsidy scheme.
Mr Johnson this morning said of the new plan, dubbed the Lifetime Skill Guarantee: “To help people train, and re-train at any stage in their lives and enable us not just to come through this crisis, but to come back stronger, and build back better.
“Our economy has been shaken by Covid.
“As the Chancellor has said, we cannot, alas, save every job. What we can do is give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs.
“So my message today is that at every stage of your life, this Government will help you get the skills you need.
“We’re transforming the foundations of the skills system so that everyone has the chance to train and retrain.”
The PM added: “We’re short of skilled construction workers and skilled mechanics, skilled engineers, short of hundreds of thousands of IT experts.
“It’s not as though the market doesn’t require these skills. The market will pay richly.”
Mr Johnson said the current further education system wasn’t geared towards “endowing” Brits with practical, vocational skills and the new plan would enable “radical change” to the way people think about their future.
The offer of free college courses will be available from April in England, and will be paid for through the National Skills fund which will be given a £2.5billion top up.
Further education colleges are being given an extra £1.5 billion to upgrade buildings and “fix leaky ceilings”.
The skills boost will give any adult without an A-level or equivalent qualification the chance to take a college course for free so they can be equipped with the skills to take on the next job.
Mr Johnson announced that loans for higher education courses will be made flexible so people can take on extra vocational courses at universities and further education colleges over the course of their lives.
The PM promised to fix the “gulf” between the academic education and vocational training and bring both forms of education on an even keel.
He said: “Everything is ultimately a skill, a way of doing something faster, better, more efficiently, more accurately.
“Every single study can be improved not just by practice but by teaching.
“Now is the time to end this bogus distinction between FE and HE. We’re going to change the funding model, so it is just as easy to get a student loan to do a year of electrical engineering… as it is to get a loan in politics, philosophy and economics.”
Mr Johnson blasted the “pointless and snooty” divide between higher education and further education.
People going on to some courses at further education colleges will be just as easily able to get a hold of loans as university students.
A full list of available courses will be announced next month, Number 10 confirmed.
While making his skills speech, the PM fumbled over his own local lockdown rules, and was unable to articulate the differing guidance after the North East was given even tighter restrictions.
Skills minister Gillian Keegan said this morning the reforms to boost retraining people with new skills is long overdue.
She told Times Radio: “We have often talked about the need to retrain.
“There will be some technological disruption based on artificial intelligence robotics and the trend to move online and some aspects of that have been massively accelerated with coronavirus.
“We wanted to make sure that we had the right package to support adults through their development and career progression and to give them the opportunities that perhaps they didn’t have for the last few years.”
Mr Sunak vowed to only protect “viable jobs” in his latest attempt to deal with the oncoming job losses as a result of the economic chaos of coronavirus.
He said last week: “It’s not for me to sit here and decide what job is viable and not.
“But what we do need to do is evolve our support through the acute phase of the crisis.
“I believe it is the right thing to do for jobs which are viable and have a genuine prospect of being.”
The PM warned that the jobs many people relied on were disappearing but that the new boost would help make sure people were prepared for the jobs they need.
There have been warnings that Brits face as many as one million job cuts in crucial industries such as retail and hospitality.
And hospitality bosses have warned many high street jobs simply won’t exist anymore, prompting the need for people to retrain to be able to find new jobs.
The CBI praised the reforms to high educations, calling them a “strong start”.
Director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Retraining was already a vital priority for the UK.
“The significant unemployment coronavirus is leaving in its wake only accelerates the need for people to develop new skills and adapt to new ways of working.
“The lifetime skills guarantee and flexible loans to support bitesize learning are a strong start. But to really shift gears, this must be backed up by meaningful progress on evolving the apprenticeship levy into a flexible skills levy.”