What the Taylor Review says about learning and skills
This is not too surprising considering the focus of the review on tackling contentious employment rights issues in the gig economy and the varied reactions to these recommendations (e.g. see various TUC blogs).
A closer read of the review reveals a number of major recommendations to government on what it should do to support progression at work, including “how people working in atypical or casual work are able to obtain, improve and evidence skills and experience over the course of a working life” (page 82).
The recommendations on learning and skills fall into three main categories.
1. Apprenticeship levy
There are a number of proposed reforms of the apprenticeship levy, which apparently nearly every employer had something to say about.
The review proposes that the levy should be flexed to ensure that it boosts access to apprenticeship training for those working atypically, including through agencies.
Secondly, it is recommended that the levy funding should be able to be used for other forms of off-the-job-training than just apprenticeships.
Interestingly the Conservative manifesto contained a similar proposal to this, saying that the levy would in future be allowed to fund the wages of employees when they were engaged in a new National Retraining Scheme.
Whilst there was nothing about the proposed National Retraining Scheme in the Queen’s Speech, the DfE website does now list it as one of the key responsibilities of the new Skills Minister.
However, at this stage it remains unclear if it will go ahead with a wage subsidy funded from the levy as originally proposed.
The review also has something to say about the role of the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA), saying its remit should be extended to tackle the barriers faced by BAME people, disabled people and women in accessing high quality apprenticeships.
A recent TUC submission to a consultation on the strategic role of the institute made exactly the same recommendation as this.
The second category of reforms echo the proposals from a wide range of stakeholders (including the TUC) calling on the government to develop new learning accounts to empower more workers to access funding to develop their skills.
The review suggests an initial focus on some key groups, including older workers and those in receipt of Universal Credit.
It also emphasises the need for government to bring about more coherence to employability and lifelong learning by developing a “unified framework of employability skills” and encouraging take-up of this by stakeholders.
3. Career guidance
The third area of reform touched on is the need to improve career guidance services (again with a specific focus on workers in low paid and atypical employment) and also to extend access to high quality work experience placements at various stages of the education and work cycles.
This is not the first review to make such proposals and the TUC and a number of unions have consistently highlighted the decline of career guidance services, for young and old alike, in recent years.
The TUC has also supported union action to establish safeguards to promote high quality work experience, including through charters such as the TUC Traineeship Charter.
The TUC’s new Great Jobs Agenda campaign includes a number of policy recommendations on learning and progression that reflect elements of the proposed reforms in the Taylor Review.
For example, this new TUC campaign says that government should introduce a range of measures to support more people to learn throughout their lives, including through new learning accounts, comprehensive high quality face-to face careers guidance, new rights to a midlife career review, and free retraining programmes aimed at targeted groups.
Crucially the TUC campaign stresses the urgent need to accompany this policy strategy with a commitment to make sure that further education is properly funded to deliver on this.