The Prime Minister has unveiled new plans to expand the training and skills system, which will see adults without an A‐level or equivalent qualification entitled to a free college course in England from April 2021. Greater flexibility will also be given to higher education loans to encourage take up of vocational courses by both young people and adults.  But as written they will miss the mark for construction.

In the plan, the Prime Minister announced that apprenticeship opportunities will also be increased, with more funding for SMEs taking on apprentices, and greater flexibility in how their training is structured – especially in sectors such as construction and creative industries where there are more varied employment patterns.  The pan will be backed by continued investment in college buildings and facilities, including over £1.5 billion in capital funding, and more details will be set out in a white paper later this year.

The plan sets out to reverse an ongoing decline in technical qualifications – in 2000, over 100,000 people were doing Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, but that has reduced to fewer than 35,000 now. Those doing foundation degrees has declined from 81,000 to 30,000.  As a result, only 10% of adults hold a Higher Technical Qualification as their highest qualification, compared to 20% in Germany and 34% in Canada.

Speaking about the announcements, FIS CEO Iain McIlwee said “the capital funding elements to college is certainly good news, but as written, many occupations in the construction sector, certainly those working in the Finishes and Interiors Sector will not benefit directly.  Funding is targeted at those starting a Level 3 qualifications, but those progressing to Level 3 tend to be assessed through the vocational qualification route, following introduction through a Level 2 option.  We will be raising this point with Government and looking at how we can work through our Approved Training Provider Network to see how we can leverage some of the support, we are going to need all the help we can get given recent announcements about immigration that are going to leave a concerning shortfall in competent people available for construction works.”

For full details of the announcement click here.