Skills are the key to unlocking opportunity, regardless of age or experience
Everyone should be able to access the skills and training they need to enable them to get their first job, progress in their career, or start out on a new path in employment.
Improving access to skills training, and so to better jobs, forms a vital part of our ambition to 'level up' communities like those in my constituency. Although talent is spread equally across our country, opportunity sadly isn't. By helping local people to get new qualifications we can open up access to new jobs and make our communities more attractive places to open and grow businesses. But we must also take an integrated approach between education and business to ensure that we match skills provision with the gaps in our local jobs market.
I am therefore delighted that the Chancellor has recognised the importance of skills, including upskilling and reskilling, in his Budget this year. This includes spending:
- £1.6billion to roll out new T-levels (technical qualifications equivalent to A-levels) for 16–19-year-olds
- £550million to improve adult skills provision
- £830million to modernise and upgrade further education colleges
This new funding sits alongside a number of schemes announced recently, including the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. This gives every adult aged 19 and over who does not have a level 3 qualification (equivalent to an advanced technical certificate or diploma, or A-levels) the opportunity to take a fully funded course. This includes online and flexible courses that fit around work, and covers a wide range of areas including digital skills, accountancy, and business skills.
Missing out on education the first time should not limit your chances for the rest of your life, and the Lifetime Skills Guarantee makes sure that everyone is able to access the skills they need to progress in their career.
Similarly, helping school leavers to gain workplace skills and experience is one of the best ways to ensure they can get well-paid, high-skill jobs. I fully support the Government's work to increase the number of apprenticeships available and to give young people a helping hand through the Kickstart scheme. I saw for myself the positive impact Kickstart is having in Sheffield when I attended a 'graduation' ceremony for young people who had recently completed the scheme. Getting that first bit of experience in the workplace can open so many new doors and the investment in this sort of training is one of the best ones we can make in our economy and our communities.
I am working locally with local colleges, business groups, and universities to help expand our skills offer across Barnsley and Sheffield. The best way to make training more accessible is to be innovative in the courses we offer and the way we deliver them. That means making courses easier to access in our local communities, offering flexible courses that fit around work, integrating study with work placements, and ensuring that courses are designed to meet local need.