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The National Skills Fund

To help address some of the rising challenges set to impact the economy and labour market throughout the 2020s and beyond, the Conservatives promised in their General Election manifesto to introduce a National Skills Fund from 2021. This fund would provide £3 billion over five years, to contribute towards retraining and upskilling the adult workforce.

While not much is known about how the national skills fund will be spent,  Boris Johnson announced  that it will fund part of his new “lifetime skills guarantee”. The DfE is expected to launch an consultation on the wider use of the national skills fund in the coming months.


Gillian Keegan the skills minister, said the “understanding and insights we achieved through high levels of research and comprehensive user engagement whilst developing the national retraining scheme have also produced a strong foundation for developing the national skills fund and other adult skills reforms".

The DfE is expected to launch an consultation on the wider use of the national skills fund in the coming months. Keegan said: “We will engage closely with stakeholders as we continue to develop detailed plans for the national skills fund, including considering what role the fund could play in meeting more immediate needs in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

During the speech, the Prime Minister committed to a wide set of reforms. These included commitments to:

  • Give everyone a flexible, lifelong skills entitlement to four years of technical education

  • Upgrade FE colleges with capital investment

  • Expand apprenticeships and make them “portable”; thereby making it easier to get high quality apprenticeships which are connected to local employers

  • Fund free technical courses for adults, equivalent to A Level

  • Expand the government’s Digital Bootcamps

  • Expand and transform the funding system so it is “as easy to get a loan for a higher technical course as for a university degree”

  • Enable FE Colleges to access funding on the same terms as universities

The Department for Education will deliver its plan through the  “ambitious vision” for reform in the upcoming FE white paper.


Gavin Williamson met this year with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which represents the UK’s 53 accredited local chambers, to discuss “further education and apprenticeships”, according to the latest government disclosures of Williamson’s meetings.

The FE white paper is thought to be modelled on Germany’s “world-class” system, which relies on local chambers to approve the trainer, known as a meister (German for master), that every company needs to have apprentices. 

Lifetime Skills Guarantee

  • Lifetime Skills Guarantee to give adults the chance to take free college courses valued by employers

  • New entitlement to flexible loans to allow courses to be taken in segments, boosting opportunities to retrain and enhancing the nation’s technical skills

  • PM acts to boost productivity and help the country build back better from coronavirus

  • This offer will be available from April 2021 in England, and will be paid for through the National Skills Fund.

  • A full list of available courses will be set out shortly.

Kick Start Programme


KickStart Guide for employers

KickStart Posters

  • The Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit.

  • Help employers apply for a Kickstart Scheme grant (Kickstart gateway).

  • Organisations who want to be a Kickstart gateway and help employers apply for the Kickstart Scheme.

  • A Kickstart gateway is an organisation that has shown interest in representing employers who want to apply for 29 or less job placements. Kickstart gateways can be any type of organisation.


  • DWP performs due diligence checks on these organisations and employers can look up details of Kickstart gateways who have told us they’re interested in helping.

  • Kickstart gateways will get £300 for each job placement to cover admin costs.

National Retraining Scheme


The national retraining scheme was announced in 2017 to help adults to retrain as the economy changes.


The National Retraining Scheme – backed by £100 million of Government investment – is led and overseen by the National Retraining Partnership – a unique partnership between Government, the CBI and the TUC – to ensure the collective voices of businesses and employees are heard.

In 2018 the government committed £100 million to test out and trial the new programme, including:

  • Developing and rolling out an online service – Get Help to Retrain – by trialling it in various localities and launching it nationwide in 2020

  • Developing new job-specific retraining courses for workers that will be tested out in a second phase of trials.


Get Help to Retrain service had a phased rollout and was initially made in six major cities and regions across England.


Which were: Leeds City Region, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, and the Heart of the South West.


Two separate initiatives are also being taken forward as part of the National Retraining Scheme. These include a specific initiative to tackle skills shortages in the construction sector and the development of digital platforms to support flexible online access to education and training opportunities, especially for adults wishing to retrain.

Get Help to Retrain

The aim of this new online service is to help people to:

  • understand their current skills

  • explore alternative occupations and training opportunities to develop new skills

  • access support from a dedicated career advisor.

Users can also search for local training options and jobs as well as being able to phone an adviser to discuss their options in more detail.

The online service is currently available to eligible adults in the following 6 areas:

  • Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

  • North East Local Enterprise Partnership area

  • West Midlands Combined Authority.

  • Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership area

  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Area

  • Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership area

You are eligible to access the online service if:

  • you're employed

  • you don't have a degree

  • you're aged 24 or over

  • and you're earning below £35,000 a year.


National Retraining Scheme Key findings

National Standards for essential Digital Skills




Improving Adult Basic Skills

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