Skills for Jobs White Paper on post-16 technical education

05 February 2021

On 21 January the Department for Education’s White paper Skills for Jobs was published with the promise it will ‘reform further education so it supports people to get the skills our economy needs throughout their lives’.

The White paper trails a range of consultations on proposals, including a consultation on changes to accountability and funding for post-16 further education in spring 2021, as well as wide ranging commitments which colleagues in FE have said are a welcome evolution, rather than revolution.

Local Skills Improvement Plans

Employer-led Local Skills Improvement Plans will bring employers, colleges and local stakeholders together. Employer-led standards will also drive development of level 3 and higher technical qualifications, echoing the way they have been used in designing the new T Levels.

Potentially this is a good opportunity for groups of creative industry and cultural providers to join together to help shape these Local Skills Improvement Plans. However, provision will be needed to ensure the micro and small organisations are supported to take part. A weakness with the new T Levels has been how to involve micro and freelance businesses in developing standards, as often it places an unfair time burden for individuals to develop standards for a whole sector.

Employer-led standards for qualifications – how will these be created for the creative industries?

Given the issue of unfair burdens on freelance and micro businesses’ time, we also have questions about how the proposed ‘clear, national system of standards, developed by leading employers’ will work for the cultural and creative industries. The majority of businesses in our sector are micro or small, and the Creative Industries Federation estimates that a third of the sector is freelance.

Building on the recent Post-16 level 3 qualifications consultation, the White Paper proposes ‘aligning advanced technical (level 3) qualifications to these standards’ and ‘reducing the advanced technical (level 3) offer so it focuses on fewer, high-quality, employer-led qualifications that are needed alongside T Levels’. Do read our blog which outlines our reservations about this approach.

Lifetime Skills Guarantee

In September 2020 the Prime Minster announced the Government was bringing in the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which brings several initiatives under one title, all aimed at supporting adults to retrain. This includes the level 3 adult offer, for adults without a full level 3 qualification (A level equivalent), to gain one from April 2021 for free, although it should be noted that crafts, creative arts, design and performing arts qualifications are excluded from the offer.

Skills Bootcamps are being offered: free, flexible courses of 12-16 weeks in areas such as digital skills, which end with a guaranteed interview with a local employer.

Lifelong Loan Entitlement

A recommendation from the Augar Report was to end the unfairness between offering students who take degrees four years of loans, while those who pursued technical qualifications did not qualify. The Lifelong Loan Entitlement will entitle every adult to the equivalent of four years of post-18 education from 2025, with loans to support study. The entitlement does not have to be used concurrently, so students can study more flexibly.

Consultation on how to implement the Entitlement will be run in 2021.


The DfE plan to make it easier for Apprenticeship levy-paying employers, who cannot use all their credits on Apprentice training, to transfer funds to smaller employers.

‘From August 2021, we will enable levy-paying employers to pledge specific amounts of their funds as available for transfer. At the same time, we will launch an online matching service to help levy-paying employers find small employers to transfer funds to.’

The White Paper also included acknowledgement of the problems facing the creative industries when hosting apprentices, and DfE’s proposed solutions, which include developing the online apprenticeship information and sectoral apprenticeships.

‘We have heard from the construction and creative sectors that one of the barriers is the varied and flexible employment patterns that mean an apprentice and their employer are unable to commit to the minimum 12-month apprenticeship duration. We want to support apprentices and employers to make use of apprenticeships in sectors where short-term, project-based employment is the norm, and we will seek to develop our online apprenticeship service to make it easier for this to happen. Sectoral apprenticeship agencies may offer one solution, giving constant employment to an individual during the life of their apprenticeship which allows them to move between work placements and continue their training. We are working with Screenskills and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to test a new apprenticeship agency in the film and television sector in 2021 …’

Careers advice

The White Paper includes a section on improving and joining up careers advice. The National Careers Service website will become the single source of government-assured careers information for young people and adults, and the Careers & Enterprise Company will encourage use of the site as part of careers education in schools and colleges. Ofsted will be running a thematic review on careers advice in schools and colleges, to provide recommendations to improve practice.

Read responses to the White Paper from FE Week, the TES and Wonkhe.