I think I’d somehow missed the news regarding the National Retraining Scheme (NRS) until today.
Some further info links and my own initial thoughts quickly thrown together below:
- .gov.uk website with more information
- TES article “National Retraining Scheme: what needs to happen next?”
- Computer Weekly on the initial small-scale roll-out in Liverpool
- .gov.uk on what over a million of the committed £100m is being spent on
There’s a lot to like in this, not least that a Conservative government is working with Trade Unions on such a thing. However, previous cuts to funding are obviously part of the issue but this scheme, as an investigation of alternative models, feels like it deserves to be given a chance. Indeed Labour’s plans for a “National Education Service” would presumably supersede this if the government changes but shares some common ideology.
A worry would be that government agendas risk further muddying the waters by making personal improvement akin to getting your bins emptied and other services, i.e. “the government should do it” rather than encouraging people to consider this themselves. Of course, this has always been a problem and the decline of traditional manufacturing left many areas of the country with skilled labour that needed to move, re-skill or face unemployment. Similarly this article in the FE press states an issue that has effectively existed ever since schools were created, my view here would be to advocate for apprenticeships and on-the-job learning (ironically apprentice adoption currently being damaged by the 20% off-the-job rules):
what really is a first world problem is the number of people who have been completely put off any type of learning by the time they leave school.
However, the whole scheme also poses more ‘noise’ along with T-levels, apprenticeships and the rest. Therefore, careers and personal development advice becomes increasingly important, and messy, in this environment – the simplification of polytechnics in 1992 being rolled back somewhat into more complex ‘streams’ of people.
Considering the domination of the universities, especially since ’92, it is nice to see something being done specifically for those without a degree. However, this counters the logic in the apprenticeship reforms, namely that those with a degree can now reskill via apprenticeships but not via the NRS.
The TES article points out “that [perceptions the] learning isn’t relevant” will be a barrier. As most L&D departments will attest learning will only stick if the learner has opportunity to put the material into practice – therefore there is a real risk of NRS supporting people for roles that should be available but are quite possibly not. As the article says, “employer engagement is key” – or, in other words, the employers really ought to be on top of this but the government are aware of potential rising unemployment, decreasing disposable incomes and a general failure of organisations to train and retain.