Over 9.4 million people are working in sectors excluded from the government’s new adult level 3 offer under its lifetime skills guarantee, analysis by Labour has found on the eve of the scheme’s launch.

FE Week was first to reveal that key economic sectors such as retail, hospitality and travel and tourism have been left out of the flagship scheme which prime minister Boris Johnson hopes will help people retrain after the pandemic.

The Labour Party has now analysed House of Commons Library data and found that over a third of all current jobs will be excluded from the training programme as a result.

This follows another recent FE Week investigation that revealed how the offer is being misrepresented.

The DfE and skills minister Gillian Keegan have repeatedly said the policy will enable eligible adults to achieve “their first full level 3 qualification”. However, this publication’s analysis found over half of the qualifications on offer do not meet the Department for Education’s own definition of a “full” level 3 qualification, with over a third below an indicative 360 guided learning hours.

Labour has also pointed out that adults who already hold a level 3 qualification are also excluded from accessing the scheme, which is due to rollout from April 1. The scheme is backed with £95 million from the National Skills Fund.

Shadow further education and skills minister Toby Perkins said: “You would be forgiven for thinking the Conservatives’ Lifetime Skills Guarantee is an April Fool’s joke, rather than a plan to help reskill our country after this pandemic.

“The Conservatives’ mishandling of the Covid crisis has led the UK to experience the worst economic crisis of any major economy. Their limited plans will now leave millions unable to access the skills they need to play their part in our recovery.”

He called on ministers to “urgently” widen eligibility for the level 3 adult offer to “ensure it reaches all adults who could benefit”.

The DfE declined to comment on Labour’s analysis, but in a press release about the launch of the scheme, education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “This offer will help give millions of adults the chance to gain the skills they need to secure rewarding careers in key sectors.”

And prime minister Boris Johnson added: “As we cautiously lift lockdown restrictions, the government’s focus is on recovering from the pandemic and building back better.

“The Lifetime Skills Guarantee is fundamental to that – with free courses giving adults the expertise they need to find new, better jobs.”

Ahead of the April 1 launch of the policy, the DfE said the government will pilot an extension to the length of time that people can receive Universal Credit while undertaking work-focused study, which is currently set at eight weeks.

They will now be able to train full time for up to 12 weeks, or up to 16 weeks on a full-time skills bootcamp in England, while receiving Universal Credit to support their living costs.

The qualifications that are on offer range from engineering to social care and are available to any adult who has not already achieved a qualification at level 3.

There are 387 currently available, but the list is still in its first draft. The list is expected to expand over time as the government allows mayoral combined authorities and awarding bodies to make requests for other qualifications to be added.

Employers have however branded the process for adding qualifications to the list “bureaucratic” and “frustrating”.

Independent training providers have meanwhile been given just a four-month window to start and complete the courses through the offer, while colleges have warned of a slow start owing to a lack of detail from the DfE and strict eligibility rules.

The scheme builds on a similar policy that has been in place since 2013 which allows adults up to the age of 23 to be fully funded for their first full-level 3 qualification from the adult education budget. Those aged 24 and over have since had to take out an advanced learner loan to pay for the course.

The current entitlement for those aged 23 and below spans 1,178 qualifications which are all classed as “full” level 3 courses.

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