£100m pilot integrated into £2.5bn National Skills Fund

The government’s national retraining scheme pilot has been rolled into the national skills fund, Gillian Keegan announced today.

In a ministerial statement, the skills minister said the decision to amalgamate the two programmes was taken in order to “reduce complexity” in the adult education landscape.

The retraining scheme was first announced in the 2017 Budget to help adults retrain into “better” jobs, with £100 million set aside for the next three years to test and develop the scheme.

It took the Department for Education two years to rollout the resulting Get Help to Retrain service, which has been trialled in six areas of England to date by over 3,600 individuals.

The digital service acts as a course and job directory. It allows users to identify and input their current skills and then based on those skills, offer suggestions for training and alternative employment. The service then directs users to vacancies in their area based on the suggestions provided.

Keegan said integrating the scheme with the national skills fund would include the “conclusion of the trials of the Get Help to Retrain service”, but it is unclear at this stage as to whether the platform will be scrapped.

She added that the DfE’s engagement with employers on the retraining scheme “ensured we were better sighted on the skills they need their workers to have, as well as the need for a more flexible approach to the delivery of skills”.

The national skills fund was a Conservative Party manifesto commitment from the 2019 election and is worth £2.5 billion over five years in England.

Keegan said the “understanding and insights we achieved through high levels of research and comprehensive user engagement whilst developing the national retraining scheme have also produced a strong foundation for developing the national skills fund and other adult skills reforms”.

While not much is known about how the national skills fund will be spent, prime minister Boris Johnson announced last month that it will fund part of his new “lifetime skills guarantee”, which includes a free level 3 qualification to all adults that do not yet hold one.

The DfE is expected to launch an consultation on the wider use of the national skills fund in the coming months.

Keegan said: “We will engage closely with stakeholders as we continue to develop detailed plans for the national skills fund, including considering what role the fund could play in meeting more immediate needs in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”