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National Retraining Scheme
July 19, 2019

The national retraining scheme is the government’s new programme to prepare adults for future changes to the economy, including those brought about by automation, and to help them retrain into better jobs.

The national retraining scheme is a manifesto commitment and was announced at the autumn 2017 budget.

The scheme is a part of the government’s industrial strategy for building a country that works for everyone. It’s overseen by a partnership made up of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the government.

To support the development of the scheme, the Chancellor announced £100m in the autumn budget 2018. This is for the continued testing and development of the scheme, as well as delivering the first parts of the scheme to the public.


The national retraining scheme will initially support employed adults who:

  • are aged 24 and over
  • do not have a qualification at degree level
  • are paid below a certain wage threshold – this threshold will be tested with people earning low to medium wages as we develop the scheme

We’re investing in this group of people first as they:

  • have comparatively less access to existing government support
  • are most in need of adapting their skills so they can take advantage of new opportunities

The need for the national retraining scheme

We’re introducing the national retraining scheme to respond to:

  • the changing nature of jobs and the types of tasks people do at work
  • the need for a multi-skilled workforce in the future
  • make the most of the new opportunities that the future economy will bring

The sections below summarise some of the challenges the country will face.

Automation: benefits and challenges

While automation will lead to new jobs, it will also change many of the jobs of today.

Research on the probability of automation in England: 2011 and 2017, suggests that around 7.4% of jobs (1.5 million) in England could be automated or partly automated in the future.

Some jobs will change significantly or will see reduced demand with up to 35% of jobs being at high risk of automation in the next 10 to 20 years.

Fewer adults undertaking training

Despite the range of learning and training opportunities currently available, the number of adult learners continues to fall.

Barriers to retraining

Our research with adults who have used early parts of the national retraining scheme during its testing phase shows that many people face a range of barriers that prevent them from accessing further learning or training. These barriers include:

  • the financial cost of training
  • training opportunities that do not fit the working patterns of people already in employment
  • poor previous experience of education
Low productivity growth in the economy

The national retraining scheme aims to boost productivity by taking advantage of new technology.

The scheme is part of other measures the government is taking to increase productivity in the economy.

Longer working lives

As people work longer, there will be a greater need to:

  • adapt to changes in the economy
  • consider new careers throughout their working lives
What the scheme will include

The national retraining scheme aims to overcome some of these challenges, and prepare adults for changes to the workplace, by:

  • supporting people already in work to move into better jobs through training and tailored advice
  • complementing existing training programmes for adults
  • encouraging people to develop their flexibility and resilience in the world of work, so they can take advantage of new opportunities

Further details about what we expect the national retraining scheme to offer when it’s fully rolled out are available below.

Tailored advice and guidance

People will be able to access dedicated support from a qualified national careers service adviser.

This will support people while they’re training and looking for new jobs.

Functional skills provision

Training offered through the scheme will initially focus on helping people to access English and maths training.

We’ll develop this opportunity based on feedback from people using the service, so it meets their needs.

Improving English and maths skills will help remove a common barrier that some people face when applying for new jobs.

Online and blended learning

We are developing this flexible approach to training so it fits around working adults’ busy lives.

Online and blended learning will have a broader reach and will mean more adults can access training.

Blended learning is a mix of online and face-to-face provision.

Technical training

We’ll offer in-work vocational skills training, learnt on the job, as part of the national retraining scheme.

Get help to retrain

Get help to retrain is the first part of the national retraining scheme that we have started testing in the Liverpool city region.

It will help people to:

  • understand their current skills
  • explore alternative occupations and consider new roles
  • find the training they need to access opportunities for a broad range of good jobs
Features of get help to retrain

The service will:

  • offer descriptions of currently available jobs and potential better jobs to help people understand their skills
  • identify specific local job and training opportunities to help people develop the skills they’ll need
  • get dedicated support from an adviser to use the service and find training opportunities
Development of get help to retrain

We’ve started testing get help to retrain in the Liverpool city region with a small number of adults who:

  • fit the eligibility criteria
  • have been invited to join the scheme through colleges and other training providers.

The initial version has limited functionality, but this will be scaled up as we test and develop the service.

We’ll expand get help to retrain to other areas across the country, adding more functionality to every stage.

Get help to retrain will be available to all eligible adults in 2020.

Development of the national retraining scheme

Our approach

We’re developing the scheme with a user-centred, ‘test and learn’ approach.

This means we’ll:

  • develop the scheme with the people and businesses who’ll use it
  • start small and scale up products and services following extensive testing with people using the scheme

This approach reduces risks, while developing a national retraining scheme that:

  • uses lessons learned from previous retraining programmes
  • offers value for money
  • is fully tested before we roll it out nationally
  • works for the people who’ll use it
  • can be developed to meet employers’ needs and expectations
  • offers the flexibility to make changes quickly based on feedback from people using it
  • can be changed to meet the future needs of the economy
National retraining partnership

The national retraining scheme is led and overseen by the national retraining partnership which includes:

  • government departments – led by the Department for Education (DfE), working with HM Treasury (HMT) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
  • Trades Union Congress (TUC)

The national retraining partnership aims to help businesses and workers:

  • provide feedback to develop the national retraining scheme effectively and meet users’ needs
  • adapt to the changes the future economy will bring
  • be competitive in the future economy

Our research

Extensive research with potential users has helped us develop the first part of the scheme. This research has allowed us to meet the needs of employed adults who are eligible to use the scheme, as well as employers.

To do this, we conducted research with:

  • over 340 working adults, including people with assisted digital needs (over 90 of these workers took part in a remote test of the service)
  • 90 people representing around 35 employers across 7 different locations
  • 17 careers advisers

We’ll continue to use this approach with employers and working adults as we roll out the scheme.

Views from people who will use the scheme

From our research with people currently employed and who are eligible to use the scheme, we have found that:

  • most people will only consider training if there is a clear route to a new job
  • the current training and job landscape can be overwhelming
  • most people would not sign up for training without further information and guidance first
  • negative perceptions were common, for example, poor previous learning experiences
  • the term a ‘better job’ means different things to different people
  • online training often meets people’s needs for flexibility, but many people lack the confidence using it
  • existing online training is often targeted at the highly-skilled and motivated
  • existing online training only meets users’ needs to a limited extent as it represents only a small proportion of adult training provision
  • people would pay or co-fund training if it led to a job
Employers’ views

When speaking to employers, we found that they value:

  • soft skills, such as good communications skills and a strong work ethic
  • a scheme that was integrated with existing recruitment processes
  • apprenticeships, but many have expressed an interest in a shorter, more flexible retraining offer
National organisations

We’ve worked with a range of national representative bodies at conferences and events, including:

  • Association of Education and Learning Providers – national conference, June 2019
  • Unionlearn – annual conference 2019 (as well as a range of regional events across the country)
  • The Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network May 2019
  • The Association of Colleges – including through their 2018 annual conference
Regional organisations

We’ve held meetings across the country so that our research is:

  • representative of local areas
  • captured a full range of views and experiences
  • highlighted the strength and depth of existing provision

To do this, we spoke with:

  • regional representative organisations, including chambers of commerce, local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and other representative groups.
  • training providers
  • awarding bodies
Specialist advice

We are consulting behavioural change specialists on a research project that will provide clear recommendations for:

  • getting eligible adults to consider retraining for a better job
  • encouraging them to use the national retraining scheme to help them achieve this goal

We are taking forward a range of pilots and initiatives to inform the scheme. A summary of this work can be found in National retraining scheme: associated projects document.

Working across government

While DfE is taking the lead in the design and delivery of the scheme through the national retraining partnership, we are working across government to make sure that the national retraining scheme complements existing initiatives and services that have been proven to work well.

This is one part of a wider strategy of government reforms which include:

Bill Introduced to Make all Jobs Flexible by Default
July 19, 2019

Advertising all roles as flexible could help close the gender pay gap, assist parents to share childcare, and better support older workers say experts

A bill requiring employers to make all jobs flexible by default was introduced by Conservative deputy chairman and MP for Faversham and Mid Kent Helen Whately in Parliament on 16 July and was given approval to go to a second reading on 17 July.

Whately said that unless employers have a sound business reason for having specific working hours all jobs should be advertised as flexible.

It would help close the gender pay gap, assist parents to share childcare and help businesses retain staff, Whately explained.

“The 40-hour five-day working week made sense in an era of single-earner households and stay-at-home mums, but it no longer reflects the reality of how many modern families want to live their lives,” she said.

She added that a lack of flexible working reinforces gender stereotypes around work:

“At the moment too many women are reluctantly dropping out of work or going part time after having children because their employers won’t allow them flexibility. This entrenches the assumption that men are the breadwinners and women are the homemakers,” she said.

“As a result men don’t get to spend as much time as they might like with their children, women miss out on career opportunities, and the country loses out on the contribution they could and would like to make – if only they could do slightly different hours or work some days from home.”

Ella Smillie, head of policy and campaigns at the Fawcett Society, gave her backing to the bill.

“We urge MPs to give Helen Whately’s bill the support it deserves. Ensuring that employers offer flexible working would open up new jobs to a whole raft of people who want to work alongside carrying out caring responsibilities or simply achieving a better work/life balance,” she said.

“There are also clear benefits to employers: offering flexible working to employees creates a stronger, loyal and more diverse workforce, which pays dividends.”

Patrick Thomson, senior programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said that the move could also be invaluable in supporting older workers, who may find it difficult to stay in work because of health problems and caring responsibilities. “We welcome calls to consider making flexible working the default for every job. The most common reasons people leave work before state pension age include managing caring responsibilities or health conditions, and flexible working is effective in helping balance these with staying in work,” he said.

“Office for National Statistics data out today shows older workers continue to be the fastest-growing age group, so we can’t afford to wait on this. There were a quarter of a million more over-50s in work last year,” he added. “But we know many people struggle with inflexible working practices that can result in them leaving work before they are ready. That’s bad for them as individuals – affecting their earnings and social connections – and bad for the UK economy as employers lose out on the skills and experience older workers can bring.

“We need to move towards flexible working being the default, and for employers to take action to support everyone to work in a way that suits them best.”

Joeli Brearley, founder and director of Pregnant Then Screwed, said it’s clear that flexible working is better for people and the economy: “This is good for our economy, good for business and good for humans. We know that 96% of employers already offer some form of flexible working, but only 11% of jobs state flexible working options. This means those with caring responsibilities, or other needs that require flexible working, feel unable to apply for positions that would otherwise make good use of their skills and expertise. It means we are not making the best use of our labour force and a lack of good-quality flexible working is the key cause of the gender pay gap,” she said.

“I don’t think there is a single employer that would argue that flexible working isn’t good for productivity. Time and time again the research shows this, we just need a culture shift – led by the government – to encourage employers to think about how a job can be done flexibly before they recruit.”