Building Back Better: the UK Government replaces it’s industrial strategy

On the 3rd March, the UK Government published a policy paper titled Build Back Better: our plan for growth alongside the new budget. This plan replaces the previous 2017 Industrial Strategy with a focus on post-pandemic recovery. The Government aims to use the investment to support a move away from an economy geographically weighted towards London and the South East of England and encourage growth across the UK.

These remarkable vaccines are giving us a realistic way forwards to restart our businesses and our lives. As we do so, we must grasp the historic opportunity before us: to learn the lessons of this awful pandemic and build back better, levelling up across our United Kingdom and fixing the problems that have held back too many people for too long.

Boris Johnson – Prime Minister

The plan covers six core areas for growth:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. SKills
  3. Innovation
  4. Levelling up the whole of the UK
  5. Support the transition to Net Zero
  6. Support our vision for Global Britain

The skills plan includes the Lifetime Skills Guarantee to narrow the skills gap in technical and adult basic skills, including digital fluency, and a continued rollout of apprenticeships. The OECD has suggested that the UK could improve productivity by 5% by reducing its skills mismatch to levels similar to other high performing economies.

There has been a recognition of the technical skills shortages, with only 4% of young people choosing a technical qualification after leaving school compared to 33% selecting to study a degree. Basic skills are a problem for many adults, with over a quarter of workers having low literacy or numeracy skills. The Government aims to invest heavily in the Further Education sector and make technical education a genuine alternative to University.

The best way to improve people’s life chances is to give them the skills to succeed. The UK has a strong foundation of advanced skills, but lags behind international comparators on technical and basic adult skills. The Government is transforming Further Education, encouraging lifelong learning through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, and building an apprenticeships revolution.

Rishi Sunak – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Apprenticeships play a large part in the skills plan. There is a commitment to expand traineeships and improve the progression rate to apprenticeships, incentives for new apprenticeship hires, steps to improve the quality of provision, and improvements to employers’ apprenticeship system.

Technical education is being expanded by increasing the number of T-levels as an alternative to A-levels and higher technical qualifications as an alternative to university degrees. Institutes of Technology will be rolled out in every region of the country to expand the twelve existing pilot institutions. 

For those already in work, funding is provided to study level 3 qualifications for those that do not yet have one. Skills Bootcamps have been launched to provide flexible and bite-sized introductions to employer-led skills. The Lifelong Loan entitlement is mentioned, but it will not be available until 2025. The loan promises students the ability to study qualifications by module and flexibly received funding to mirror their study choices.  

The policy paper has nothing new around the skills strategy, but it represents recommitments alongside the new budget. The Government’s focus is clearly on matching education and training provision to the economy’s skills needs. Many people will be disappointed that the Industrial Strategy will not be updated, and the university sector is still waiting for details on the Lifelong loan details. It is now the Government’s chance to deliver on the commitments.