The government is set to drop a ban that stopped Restart programme participants from joining skills bootcamps, FE Week can reveal.
Currently, participants in the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Restart programme, which gives out-of-work Universal Credit claimants extra support to find employment, cannot enrol on skills bootcamps. Those enrolled on bootcamps cannot take part in the Restart scheme.
But the DWP and Department for Education have confirmed that from April 1 that restriction – which was intended as a temporary constraint – will be removed.
The DWP said the decision recognises the differences in provision between the two programmes, and will allow participants to take advantage of the different opportunities to best gain new skills and employment.
Pat Jackson, skills director at Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership said it was a change that her organisation had been lobbying for.
Natasha Waller, policy manager at the LEP Network which represents all 38 LEPs, said: “The benefit is that the participants on Restart can get the hand-holding/wraparound support to get them job-ready while skills bootcamps will give them the knowledge of a particular sector or job role and some preparation for job hunting and interview practice, but it is not as intense as what they would receive through Restart.”
Jane Hickie (pictured), chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “Currently Jobcentre Plus work coaches typically prioritise referrals to their flagship Restart programme over skills bootcamps, which has certainly impacted referrals.
“For this collaborative approach to work, we will need to give work coaches more support to understand the benefits of skills bootcamps so they can ensure potential learners take the pathway which benefits them the most.”
The Restart programme, which first began referrals in July 2021, gives Universal Credit claimants who have been out of work for nine months or more access to enhanced support to find work.
Around 340,000 people started on the programme between its launch and September last year, while 92,000 have achieved their first earnings since starting the scheme, although most have not yet had 12 months of support.
Government guidance said job coaches develop a package of support for participants having assessed their work history, current skills and aspirations.
That could include bespoke training, obtaining the correct certificates for specific industries or bolstered IT skills.
Skills bootcamps are courses up to 16 weeks in length for adults to train quickly in areas of skills shortage, such as digital, construction and HGV driving. They also guarantee a job interview for learners at the end of their course.
Data published at the end of last year reported that 16,120 people started a bootcamp between April 2021 and March 2022 against a target of 16,000, although numbers of completers and outcomes were not published.