What the Prime Minister’s ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’ means for UK tech

In an aim to boost employability across the UK post-Covid-19, a national skills fund worth £2.5 billion has been declared by the Prime Minister to pay for free college courses for all adults without A-Levels, an extension from the previous age limit of 23.

Additionally, higher education loans are set to be made more flexible under the new government scheme, meaning that studies can be spaced out across lifetimes as opposed to a limited number of years, and access to vocational courses will be increased.

The offer is available from April, with a full list of courses to be announced.

“As the chancellor has said, we cannot, alas, save every job,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “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.”

Further access to digital skills

Sam Franklin, CEO of tech job startup Otta, said that the ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’ announced by the government today can give people the abilities they need to get into work within the sector.

“The government’s pledge offers a lifeline to people currently out of work as well as those who face losing their job when the government’s furlough scheme ends next month,” said Franklin. “The scheme will give people the skills to find new and better jobs – and we believe these jobs can be found in the tech sector.

“Research shows the tech jobs market is recovering faster than any other sector. In fact, job vacancies at fast-growing tech companies are almost at pre-pandemic levels. Tech companies are continuing to attract substantial investment and will be looking to expand their workforces over the next year; people with skills in software engineering, product management, design or data analysis are in particularly high demand.

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“While we face a bumpy road ahead, today’s announcement should reassure people that there are opportunities to learn new skills, and they can come out of this with better long-term prospects. I would encourage people to learn skills that will help them find a job in a fast-growing and exciting industry, such as technology.”

A need for prioritisation

Kevin Hanegan, chief learning officer at Qlik, however, has stated that digital skills must be a priority when looking to boost employment opportunities across the UK.

“The government’s new skills package is an important move in helping those affected in the current employment landscape,” said Hanegan. “Covid-19 has contributed to a large wave of unemployment, and the government has a responsibility to help people re-enter the job market by enabling them to learn the skills required for jobs that are both in-demand today and will be needed in the future.

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“With the growing number of jobs that are being digitally displaced, it’s critical that this skills programme puts great emphasis on gaining digital and data skills that are essential to the modern and changing workplace.

“We must look forward to ensure that this valuable reskilling opportunity doesn’t just serve the immediate pressures, but prepares the British workforce with the skills to thrive on the global market in years to come.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.