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Queen's Speech 2021: Government's 'Lifetime Skills Guarantee' will not reach the workers most in need of learning opportunities

Date: 12 May 2021 Retail trade union Usdaw has criticised the Government’s ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’ proposals in the Queen’s Speech. The union says that they fail to address the fundamental issues facing many of those needing to upskill.
Usdaw is concerned about:
  • Accessibility of courses for those without level two qualifications, because 16% of adults have qualifications below level one and many have no qualifications at all.
  • Adults from poorer backgrounds and in low-paid jobs being fearful of committing to a 4-year programme of loans and debt as part of the Government’s ‘Lifelong Learning Loan’ entitlement.
  • Another employer-led scheme that will continue the decline in employer investment in skills training, as demonstrated by £330 million returned to the Treasury by employers from the Government’s failed apprenticeship scheme. 
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “The Government is squandering an opportunity to invest meaningfully in individuals and the country’s future. This mishmash of proposals will not ‘level up’, but merely widen the division between those with skills and opportunity and those without. The reliance on loans is particularly damaging for those who are already struggling to make ends meet. Insecure work means many are fearful of being saddled with an unmanageable debt, should they lose their job. 
“The Government wrongly scrapped the successful Union Learning Fund, despite our opposition, which fundamentally addressed these issues directly engaging, supporting and enabling workers to level up. They are continuing to ignore the importance of union supported workplace learning as a proven way of engagement in skills training and reaching the workers others do not. Instead the Government has yet again chosen an employer-led offer, which has continually failed to address the issue of engagement. Under this Government, investment in workplace training by employers has crumbled not increased. The 2019 Employer Skill Survey reports the largest decline in employer investment in training since reports were first published.
“Making employers the gatekeepers for learning will not engage those without qualifications. The Government needs to work with trade unions if they want to seriously engage those most in need of upskilling. Also provide a fully funded lifelong learning programme, not a loan scheme that low-income and low-skilled workers cannot afford.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers