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PRESS RELEASE: Manifesto for Lifelong Education

Updated: Jun 5

The next government must fill the UK’s skills gaps by driving forward the lifelong learning revolution.

The general election on 4 July is a watershed moment for the UK’s skills agenda. Every region and sector of the UK is facing its own acute challenges, which have to be answered in their own clear and distinct ways in development planning, knowledge sharing, and community engagement. Every part of the UK must do its bit to boost productivity, which means making it the central strategic focus of public projects, professional development, and knowledge transfer. Learners must be given the support, the time, and the opportunity to develop their knowledge and capabilities in the way that works best for them. Overall, the UK needs a lifelong learning strategy that embeds key institutions responsible for safeguarding lifelong learning into the heart of government, business, and education.

The Lifelong Education Institute believes that solving the UK’s skills challenges means addressing them in a holistic way. The path to prosperity requires an education system that puts people first, allowing everyone to become a learner at any stage of life. Raising productivity depends on a well-trained workforce that has opportunities to reskill and upskill throughout the course of their careers. And growth will only return to every left-behind place across the UK by tapping into the talent and potential of all of its residents. This manifesto sets out the LEI’s recommendations for sound, pragmatic, visionary policies that will transform the UK’s education and skills landscape, and put the country on the road to growth.

Dame Ann Limb, Chair of the Lifelong Education Institute, said:

This election is taking place at a crossroads for the future of lifelong learning in the UK. The last few years have seen the country take huge forward strides in modernising the landscape facing learners over the age of 16. But there is much more still to be done before we get to the flexible, integrated tertiary system we hope to see, one that gives everybody real choice and opportunity to upskill when and where they need it. It is of the utmost importance that the next Government builds on the achievements of its predecessor to save the UK’s skills, and see the lifelong learning revolution through to completion.

Dr Marius Ostrowski, Executive Director of the Lifelong Education Institute, said:

The next Government needs to turn the UK into a lifelong learning society by 2030. Achieving that is the only way to ensure the UK overcomes its entrenched skills shortages, and gets back on the path to long-term sustainable and inclusive growth. To do that, the Government has to give every corner of society the capacity to better match its local supply and demand for skills. That means giving regions and local areas more autonomy to design place-based solutions tailored to their specific needs. And it means generating better information, insights, and intelligence about the geography of skills across the whole of the UK’s labour market and business environment.

The manifesto makes a number of key recommendations for policy changes that affect each of the three key stakeholders in the bid to boost the UK’s knowledge and capabilities: government, business, and education providers. These include:

  • Implement the Lifelong Learning Entitlement by 2026, and develop it into a co-investment system for lifelong learning that combines contributions from learners, businesses, and government.

  • Create a digital individual learner account, and introduce Lifelong Learning Pathways for all subjects at levels 1–8.

  • Expand the apprenticeship levy into a lifelong learning levy, and introduce a skills tax credit for businesses in strategic sectors.

  • Create an Institute for British Productivity to oversee Regional Skills Improvement Plans, with business, trade union, education provider, learner, and community representatives.

  • Revise the UK’s industrial strategy to prioritise each region’s comparative advantage, strategic/legacy, and future growth sectors.

  • Create regional Skills Observatories to identify skills gaps and skills matching opportunities.

  • Introduce high-density business Skills and Innovation Hub clusters, and Skills Academies to foster curriculum co-design and industry-expert teaching.

  • Create a Minister for Lifelong Learning with cross-departmental responsibilities in education, business, and innovation.

  • Mandate businesses to introduce a senior role responsible for workforce development and upskilling.

  • Mandate universities to create a Department of Lifelong Learning in collaboration with local post-16 education providers.


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