Will the Lifetime Skills Guarantee Work?

While more financial support measures have been introduced for businesses struggling with tier 2 restrictions, this blog will focus on the lifetime skills guarantee.

Word on the grapevine is that coronavirus has accelerated the changes which were already taking place in the economy. This acceleration centres around ‘digital transformation’. For some time, companies we think of as traditional tech companies have been arguing that all companies should now be considered tech companies due to the heavy use of tech across sectors.

However, the so-called digital transformation or revolution has been further accelerated by lockdowns. Lockdowns have meant that those who could work from home did (and still do in many cases). Furthermore, thousands of companies have been forced to shift their offerings online. Be it pub food via Deliveroo or events via Zoom, we have seen companies using tech in innovative ways in order to survive tighter restrictions or the closure of their physical spaces. At the same time, they’ve had to make redundancies.

What does this have to do with the lifetime skills guarantee?

Britain has a skills shortage. With so many redundancies, we would expect to see these gaps being filled as more candidates become available again. However, research from the OU’s business barometer report suggests that the larger candidate pool does not contain enough people with the skills that are in short supply.

These skills are generally technical or digital and go beyond the standard computer skills. They might include advanced data analytics or creative software or engineering.

The government’s lifetime skills guarantee has been designed to give everyone access to 4 years of technical education. The aim is to allow those who are out of work (or looking to change career) the opportunity to retrain and find sustainable jobs.

Full details of the scheme will be released in a white paper within the next few months.

Will it work?

Introducing free A level education for any adult without an A-level or equivalent is an excellent idea. This should help those is low skilled jobs in the first step of ‘levelling up’ (to borrow the Prime Minister’s phrasing).

Particularly if the courses offered correspond with areas of labour shortage.

That said, for those already in careers, it might not be as simple as studying a technical module here or there and jumping straight into a new role or career.

As things stand, those who do switch careers successfully often end up taking a role which pays less than the role they had previously. Of course, there are exceptions. But these are the exception rather than the rule.

Of course, the white paper has yet to be released. But unless there is much more detail, it seems unlikely that the scheme will work fully given the scale of labour shortages.

Why would it not work?

As mentioned, we need to await the full white paper. The government is most likely already considering the challenges. But, we came across an interesting blog by Nesta. During one of their case studies, they found that many workers were unsure of which skills they had or how their skills were transferable. There is also a lack of reliable resources for advice. Nesta concluded that retraining alone is not enough to aid people in making a career change.

Nesta’s suggestions for getting the lifetime skills guarantee to work are as follows:

  • Tools to help workers identify which jobs are growing and declining
  • Information on which jobs have the best long-term prospects
  • Ensuring tools are useful and not providing bad advice
  • Tools that clearly map which jobs require similar skills and work characteristics
  • Firm commitment from employers to employ workers who have retrained
  • Tools for employers which help them to identify which skills they require in a fast paced and changing market
  • Commitments from employers to revive in work training programmes and ensure continued development of their staff

There is still time

As pressing as the issue is with mass redundancies and Brexit looming, there is still time for the government to get this right. We’d hope to see the relevant departments working closely with businesses in the development of the white paper. If they can get businesses to work with them and commit to a new form of succession planning and talent sourcing it will, in our opinion, dramatically increase the likelihood that the scheme works.