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Can the Liberal Democrats' policies enhance lifelong learning in the UK?

The Liberal Democrats launched their 2024 election manifesto this week. Education is one of their key priorities alongside climate change, and economic reform. We have highlighted some key proposals in line with the LEI's Manifesto for Skills.

💡 People ✨ 

Their headline skills proposal 'Lifelong Skills Grants' is a re-work of the Skills Wallet which was first trailed in the 2019 election. This will now give all adults £5,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives, with the aim to increase it to £10,000 when the public finances allow. There are currently 37.5m people of working age in England. So this would cost the public purse £185bn, potentially rising to £370bn over the next 36 years, which is the course of an expected working life. Evidence from Singapore, where Skills Accounts have been in operation for the past decade, suggests that less than 10% of the eligible population will take up skills accounts of $500. This could make LibDem proposals more workable, although £5k per adult would still be unaffordable without cutting costs in the wider skills system. The LEI supports Adult Skills Accounts as a policy initiative. However, we have argued for a contribution scheme that can help share the cost of training between employee, employer, and state. A reformed apprenticeship levy could further help with employer costs.

💡 Productivity ✨ 

The LibDems also include measures to address skills gaps through vocational training, and quality career advice. Particularly in areas such as renewable energy, digital, and bioscience sectors, connected to a new industrial strategy that can boost productivity and help the UK become a world leader in new technologies. In our view this must be driven by better labour market intelligence. To this end we have recommended Local Skills Observatories that can help match the supply and demand of skills.

💡 Place ✨ 

The manifesto also proposes move responsibilities for local education authorities and calls for devolved administrations to help develop new policies. The LEI supports the devolution of more powers to Mayoral Combined Authorities, to design and deliver skills initiatives, which are essential for a place-sensitive approach to narrowing regional disparities in skills attainment and employment opportunities. 


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