A report from The Work Foundation and Totaljobs has found that 1.1m mid-career workers (aged 25-49) won’t be able to access the government’s flagship Lifetime Skills Guarantee (LSG) when it launches on Thursday (1 April).
This is despite new analysis of ONS data finding that unemployment among mid-career workers rose by 41% (211,000) over 2020.
Whilst the LSG was designed to ensure “everyone has the chance to train and retrain”, it is only open to workers without a level 3 qualification (A level or equivalent) meaning many who could benefit from the scheme most are not able to access the support it offers. Specifically, unemployment for mid-career workers who hold a level 3 qualification went up by 35% over 2020 (from 90,000 in Oct-Dec 2019 to 121,000 in Oct-Dec 2020).
Jon Wilson, CEO of Totaljobs said: “Attention around rising unemployment has rightly been focused on younger workers but there’s also a growing number of people later in their careers whose jobs have fallen victim to the pandemic. The Lifetime Skills Guarantee is a great concept which has the potential to give a career leg up to thousands of adults. However, the right support needs to be in place to allow the scheme to reach its full potential, and more needs to be done to help those who can’t access it.”
“The Government and FE organisations need to create flexible learning opportunities and support with indirect training costs to ensure taking on training is realistic and accessible. As the demands of the labour market shift post Brexit and the pandemic, employers should also think about broadening their searches for talent across different industries, whilst creating opportunity for workers to upskill later in life.”
Vulnerable livelihoods are most at risk
The Work Foundation and Totaljobs’ research shows that barriers to training have been exacerbated by Covid-19, including greater financial challenges; family commitments; difficulties navigating the training system; lack of confidence; and requirements for welfare support, meaning that millions more could struggle to access training or progress their careers.
Participation in training decreases with age and varies significantly from sector to sector and by personal circumstance. As well as those locked out through ineligibility, the report identified some 1.9 million people with children under the age of 16 who find it difficult to access training as a result of caring and family responsibilities. This means they are unlikely to benefit from the LSG without increased flexibility in training provision and support with the indirect costs of participating, such as childcare.
Ben Harrison, Director at The Work Foundation added: “The Lifetime Skills Guarantee offers a real opportunity to boost life-long learning, but our latest analysis shows that too many of those who could benefit from the scheme will be left behind.”
“Further measures will be needed to support workers struggling through this crisis into well paid, secure jobs in the future. With unemployment already rising, and set to grow further when the furlough scheme ends, broadening access to subsidised courses and offering support to meet the indirect costs of engaging in training, such as childcare, will be key to doing so.”
The welfare system can also place limits on the amount of training that people in the middle of their working life can access. For example, in May there were 1.4 million mid-career recipients of Universal Credit who were required to spend 35 hours a week looking for a job in order to access their payments, and over 300,000 mid-career recipients of Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance were only permitted to undertake a maximum of 16 hours of training per week.