Skills for Jobs White Paper – what does it mean for the tech industry?

Government has ambitious plans to put the skills needs of businesses at the heart of the Further Education system.

Launching today (21 January), the Skills for Jobs White Paper responds to recommendations set out in the Augar review of post-18 education and funding in England from May 2019. The review showed that more funding is needed to create an education and training system that is beneficial to all, and to meet the skills needs of the UK economy.

The White Paper outlines key proposals including:

  • Giving employers a central role in designing almost all technical courses by 2030, to ensure that the education and training people receive is directly linked to the skills needed for real jobs.
  • Boosting the quality and uptake of Higher Technical Qualifications - that provide the skills that many employers say they need and that can lead to higher wages – by introducing newly approved qualifications from September 2022 supported by a government-backed brand and quality mark.
  • Changing the law so that from 2025 people can access flexible student finance so they can train and retrain throughout their lives, supported by funding in 21/22 to test ways to boost access to more modular and flexible learning.
  • Business groups working alongside colleges to develop skills plans to meet local training needs

The measures announced today will put an end to the illusion that a degree is the only route to success and a good job. By encouraging retraining and flexible learning, techUK believes that these proposals would emphasise lifelong learning – something that is crucial in an ever-changing labour market. The UK’s world-leading education sector, however, needs continual investment to support this.

techUK has found within our Nations and Regions work that building 21st century skills for an inclusive workforce is essential to tackle the immediate challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Closing the Local Digital Capital gap would transform the UK, boosting economic output by as much as £145 billion and creating 2.7 million new jobs in the process.

Many of the skills that employers are demanding require intermediate or Higher Technical Qualifications – but only 4% of young people achieve a qualification at higher technical level by the age of 25 compared to the 33% who get a degree or above.

The Department for Education had previously annouced the Lifetime Skills Guarantee in December 2020.

Commenting on the Further Education Skills for Jobs White Paper, techUK Deputy CEO Antony Walker said:

"Reforming our further and technical education system is the first step to toward building a digital economy that works for everybody. We welcome short modular digital skills courses, in particular those accredited by industry and employers, to open up more accessible and affordable pathways for people looking to retrain for digital roles and to ensure value for learners.

"The crucial next step will be implementing such proposals to enable people of all ages to get into the high skill, high wage jobs that higher technical education can lead to."

Tom Lovell, Managing Director of Tech Partnership Degrees said:

"Ensuring education is tailored to the needs of employers is essential to help learners participate in, and grow, the UK economy.

"The Lifetime Skills Guarantee offers great potential to support the ongoing skills development that is a prerequisite in the continuously evolving digital sector.  Across all industry sectors there is an acute need for improved digital skills to enhance productivity.  Targeting these reforms where they will have the greatest impact can support the growing importance of the sector and help the UK to compete on the world stage."

Nimmi Patel

Nimmi Patel

Policy Manager, Skills, Talent and Diversity, techUK

Antony Walker

Antony Walker

Deputy CEO, techUK

Tom Lovell

Tom Lovell

Managing Director, Tech Partnership Degrees, techUK