Both parties pledge targeted training to cut immigration

Labour is claiming it will hold companies to account on training through 'proper' workforce plans

Labour is claiming it will hold companies to account on training through 'proper' workforce plans

Both Labour and the Conservatives have made similar pledges to cut overseas recruitment and immigration by targeting training at sectors facing staff shortages.

Appearing on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg last weekend, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claimed a Labour government would set up a “new skills system” and target key sectors with “training plans” to reduce the need for overseas recruitment.

The pledge appeared strikingly similar to a Conservative announcement made the day before the general election was called.

In a speech on May 21, Conservative work and pensions secretary Mel Stride claimed that his party would combine “tighter visa rules” to curb overseas migration with training schemes targeted at key sectors.

Stride claimed he had set up a taskforce to come up with “interventions”, such as initiatives to fill HGV driver shortages in 2021, which included skills bootcamps and jobcentre training opportunities.

The key difference between the two parties’ proposals appears to be Labour’s pledge to develop “major workforce plans” for several priority sectors.

Cooper told Kuenssberg that Labour agrees that net migration “needs to come down”. She claimed her party would get unemployed people “back into work”.

She said Labour would target five critical sectors which see high levels of overseas recruitment: engineering, social care, health, IT and construction.

Labour’s ‘proper plan’

The shadow home secretary said the current government lacked a “proper plan” to increase the number of engineers in the UK, despite overseeing a drop in the number of apprentices for the role, which is on the government’s list of shortage occupations.

Today, the party shared further details on the policy, which includes encouraging employers to train workers in Britain by refusing to grant sponsoring work visas to companies that are not doing enough.

Labour says it could also remove roles from the shortage occupation visa list if it felt a sector is not engaging with the workforce plan.

Labour has also pledged to reform the apprenticeship levy as the growth and skills levy, giving employers flexibility to spend their contributions on other forms of training for their staff.

Keir Starmer’s party has also said some of the rebranded levy would fund 150,000 traineeships for young people, a programme which was scrapped in 2022 after a decade of delivery but low starts.

Labour has also said it will set up Skills England, a “taskforce” which would work with the government and devolved authorities to “develop outcome agreements” to ensure accountability for skills spending.

Emma Meredith, director of skills policy and global engagement at the Association of Colleges, which has called for a new national skills “partnership”, said the UK needs a “coherent and cohesive national strategy” on training and immigration policy to address its “chronic skills shortages”.

Labour and the Conservatives were approached for comment.

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