Skills bootcamps can help fill immigration shortages, says DWP

Work and Pensions minister plans to better target short training scheme at high vacancy sectors

Work and Pensions minister plans to better target short training scheme at high vacancy sectors

21 May 2024, 16:08

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Skills bootcamps will be “targeted” at sectors facing staff shortages due to tighter immigration rules, a senior minister has claimed.

In a speech today, work and pensions secretary Mel Stride said a new government taskforce is looking at “interventions” to help recruitment into sectors such as construction, care and hospitality.

Stride said new visa rules which are expected to cut migration are a “huge opportunity” for jobseekers already living in the UK who should take on roles previously filled by “overseas workers”.

His taskforce has only met once and is yet to release any detailed plans.

It will reportedly try to emulate initiatives used to fill HGV driver shortages in 2021, which included skills bootcamps and jobcentre training schemes.

However, it remains unclear how the government will encourage more people to sign up to bootcamps as they are already free for any adult aged 19 or over who is not in work.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions told FE Week measures such as incentives for employers and targeted funding could be used to boost bootcamp numbers, but stopped short of providing any further detail.

Unspent bootcamp budget

The government has significant amounts of unspent funding from the £584 million set aside for bootcamps between 2022 and 2025.

According to a freedom of information request response last year, of the £150 million set aside in 2022-23, only £85 million was spent.

The government has not yet published details of how much of the remaining £498 million was spent in 2023-24.

Stride said the government will also deliver a “major new advertising campaign” encouraging businesses to recruit from local Jobcentres.

Courses for the unemployed

Skills bootcamps are flagship government post-pandemic work programme that aims to help people progress in their career or move into a new sector such as digital, construction or engineering.

They are open to the unemployed for free, as well as employed people, but their employer has to pay up to a 30 per cent cash contribution.  

They involve a combination of training, work experience and a guaranteed job interview over a period of up to 16 weeks.

Despite the half a billion pound-budget, there is limited evidence to show whether skills bootcamps are successful at getting people into employment or achieving other positive outcomes.

A government-commissioned study of the courses found about half of participants in 2021-22 started a new job, a new role with their employer or were given increased responsibilities with the same employer.

Since then, the government has only published the number of people starting the programme, despite also collecting data on how many complete them and move into new jobs.

Lack of joined up support

Responding to Stride’s announcement, Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning and Work Institute, said the main reason people who can work are unemployed is a “lack of effective joined-up support” rather than migration.

He added: “Many employers are already working with jobcentres and of course more should do so.

“But to make a real difference we need to employers to look at how they structure jobs to fit with people’s health needs and caring responsibilities and think more broadly about where they recruit, given many people are out of work but not on benefits.

“That needs to be coupled with a step change in joined-up work, health and skills support for people, since only one in ten out-of-work disabled people get help to find work each year.”

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