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400 Government-funded courses unveiled to ‘build back better’

The Government-funded courses are intended to help adults without A-levels gain new employment opportunities after the pandemic
11/11/2020. London, United Kingdom. Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak visit Tesco Distribution Centre. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak visit a Tesco Distribution Centre in Erith, South East London, during Covid-19. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

The Government has unveiled 400 fully-funded courses to “build back better” following the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the economy, but training providers warned key sectors had been excluded from the new scheme. 

The courses will help people over 18 without a full Level 3 or A-Level equivalent qualification gain “in-demand skills” and, the Government hopes, open up further job opportunities once enrolment opens in 2021. 

The Government hopes tens of thousands of adults will take up courses ranging from engineering to healthcare and conservation, but training organisations expressed concern over the lack of qualifications in sectors such as hospitality and retail. 

Jane Hickie, managing director of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said while the latest announcements were a “positive step” it was disappointing parts of the economy had been shut out. 

Hickie said: “The inclusion of adult care on the qualifications list is welcome and vital in terms of attracting more home grown talent to the sector after Brexit. But we can’t fail to hide our disappointment that hospitality and retail have been left off when these sectors are being hit so hard by the effects of the pandemic.”

According to FE Week, sectors including media, arts, travel and retail were excluded after being deemed by the Department for Education to be “low priority with low wages”. 

The new courses are the first major fleshing out of the £95 million Lifetime Skills Guarantee announced in September, which will expand adult education to “level up” and “prepare workers for the post-Covid economy”. 

The Department for Education says the skills have been “carefully chosen” to help adults improve their career prospects and meet the needs of the economy and the content of the government funded courses will be reviewed regularly as the situation changes. 

By Spring 2021, 2.6 million people are expected to be unemployed in the UK, with the economy not likely to recover until the fourth quarter of 2022.

The Big Issue’s Ride Out Recession Alliance (RORA) has been launched to develop and implement practical steps and solutions to stop families from losing their jobs and homes following the crisis. 

Founder John Bird said new skills and green jobs would be needed to build back better adding it was about “getting things right and not pretending that we can return to the old days.” 

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are offering almost 400 free courses to adults without a full A-Level or equivalent qualification from April 2021 as part of our Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

“Tens of thousands of adults are expected to benefit from the offer next year which includes a wide range of qualifications that are valuable across the economy and in multiple sectors including engineering, health, digital, construction and accountancy.

“Awarding organisations and local areas are able to suggest new qualifications where they align with labour market needs and meet the criteria. We will keep the list of qualifications under review.”

Have you been affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic? The Big Issue is committed to supporting its readers and finding ways to help people stay in their jobs and in their homes through our Ride Out Recession Alliance. Send your stories and ideas to to help us support those who need it most.