Conservative manifesto: £3bn for ‘national skills fund’

Election 2019: £600m-a-year programme will be ‘new funding on top of existing skills funding’, says Tory manifesto

Election 2019: The Conservatives, with Gavin Williamson as education secretary, are promising £3bn for a 'national skills fund'

A “national skills fund” worth £3 billion over the course of the next parliament is included in the Conservative Party’s manifesto.

The prime minister unveiled the party's manifesto for the 2019 general election today in Telford.

The party revealed that it would “take the first steps towards a Right to Retrain with £3 billion for a new national skills fund”. 

A Conservative government would invest £600 million a year into the fund, which it insists is “new funding on top of existing skills funding”. It expects this would be for a range of courses, including apprenticeships.


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“A proportion of the fund will be reserved for further strategic investment in skills and it comes on top of existing skills and training programmes,” the party’s website adds.

“This,” it says, “will give individuals and small businesses the chance to level up with high-quality education and training, opening up new opportunities for the incredible talent that is spread throughout the country”.

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A future Tory government would “consult widely on the final design of the fund to ensure that the money is invested wisely and delivers the best possible outcomes for individuals and businesses”.

The Conservatives’ “ultimate ambition” is to establish a “Right to Retrain” for all adults, its website continues, adding: “It is our ultimate ambition to empower millions of people in the future with the skills to achieve their potential, keep pace with technological change and embrace lifelong learning.”

During the election campaign, the Conservatives, with Gavin Williamson (pictured) as education secretary, have announced plans to invest £1.8 billion in capital funding for colleges, as well as to introduce a Prison Education Service.

The party's manifesto states: “We’ll also have 20 Institutes of Technology, which connect high-quality teaching in science, technology, engineering and maths to business and industry.

“We have already announced a UK Shared Prosperity Fund, to ensure that the people of the UK do not lose out from the withdrawal of EU funding (which was, of course, only a small part of the billions of pounds we were contributing), and to replace the EU programme with one that is fairer and better tailored to our economy. And we will ensure that £500 million of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is used to give disadvantaged people the skills they need to make a success of life.

“The Augar Review [of post-18 education] made thoughtful recommendations on tuition fee levels, the balance of funding between universities, further education and apprenticeships and adult learning, and we will consider them carefully.

“We will strengthen universities and colleges’ civic role. We will invest in local adult education and require the Office for Students to look at universities’ success in increasing access across all ages, not just young people entering full-time undergraduate degrees.

“As well as encouraging investment in physical building and equipment, we will help employers invest in skills and look at how we can improve the working of the apprenticeship levy.”

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “AELP warmly welcomes the additional funding promised for skills, because Brexit means that we need to train or retrain more home-grown talent. All three main parties appear committed to some form of skills account for individual learners, which we would consider a positive step with the right to train or retrain.  Equally positive would be the establishment of the £3 billion national skills fund if it is allocated correctly to employers and learners to encourage good quality training provision.

“The Conservatives are right to aim to ‘level up’ opportunities for small businesses.  Right now, SMEs are being starved of funding to offer apprenticeships to young people across the country and the proposed fund could actually be swallowed up in its entirety by the need to restore the funding smaller businesses used to receive for apprenticeships before the levy was introduced.  But AELP looks forward to making constructive proposals on the design of the national skills fund.”

 

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen is TES' Further Education Editor. He has worked at TES since 2010, and was previously the education correspondent at the Cambridge News. He was the winner of the award for Outstanding National Education Journalism at the CIPR Education Journalism Awards in 2015 and 2013.