Mike Cherry, Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses

Responding to the Prime Minister’s "Lifetime Skills Guarantee" speech addressing adult training and technical skills in England as well as the calls from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to include senior care workers onto the skills Shortage Occupation List across the UK, Federation of Small Businesses (@fsb_policy) National Chair Mike Cherry (@MikeCherryFSB) said:

Now more than ever it’s vital that we provide opportunities for all individuals to succeed and thrive in their adult and working lives. Today’s speech by the Prime Minister gives some detail into how the government hopes to address the shortfall in adult education, re-training and technical skills.

This has been an area long neglected, and at a time when the job market is in turmoil, it’s crucial more than ever that people are given the tools they deserve in order to enjoy a better quality of life.

The pandemic has changed our economy, and it’s only right that how people gain access to life-changing education also changes to adapt to the new economic landscape we now face in the coming months and years. And small businesses are inextricably linked to job creation, which is why these announcements are so important.

However for this system to work it is vital that it’s co-designed with smaller businesses front and centre. Small businesses have long been crying out for enhanced technical skills and the much welcomed fully sponsored college courses for adults without an a level or equivalent, will need to reflect the major skills shortages in the resident labour market.

The announcement of a lifetime skills learning guarantee could be game changing as will making it easier to access government backed finance for FE courses.

What is crucial to upskilling the nation, is also addressing the skills gaps the country faces. So FSB has welcomed the new recommendations by the MAC to include senior care workers and other roles such as welders onto the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), which FSB had asked the Government to do, on behalf of FSB members concerned about their workforce.

The pandemic has highlighted the value of social care workers and the challenging nature of their work. Moreover, there is a significant recruitment challenge within the sector that cannot be solved from the UK labour market. Without doubt, changes in immigration rules will not solve the issues within the social care sector, and so Government policy should not seek to impose further constraints on a sector struggling to survive.

It’s also very good to see the MAC recommend additional roles on separate SOLs for Wales and Northern Ireland highlighting the distinctive needs of small businesses in each nation.

Apprenticeships are hugely important both for small businesses looking to expand their workforce and for the individual who can learn on the job and set themselves up for the future.

So it was welcome to see incentives that were announced earlier this year, being set out to support small firms wanting to take on an apprentice.

Young people’s employment outcomes are being disproportionately impacted by the covid-19 crisis. We know that 92% of all apprenticeships offered by smaller businesses in England are held by 16-24 year olds. Whilst we welcome the financial incentives introduced for small firms that hire offer apprenticeships that were announced at the summer economic update, more needs to be done to support smaller businesses to hire apprentices including reducing upfront recruitment costs which would be a huge sign of support to many cash strapped small businesses.

The introduction of digital skills boot camps along which have been successfully trialled already in parts of the country are another key step to ensuring that young adults and those retraining, have the right skills that they need to either get onto, or back onto, the jobs ladder. But it is vital that these boot camps engage and work with small businesses so that they can truly benefit those in training as well as small firms.

Both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have acknowledged that not every job can be saved, but we must pull out every stop to save as many as possible, to safeguard the future of thousands of small businesses and jobs as well as the livelihoods of millions.

There is no single solution to the economic crisis we now face, and this requires the government to do all it can ensure that small businesses, who are the backbone of the economy, have the support that they so desperately need.”

Mike Cherry, Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses

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