Dominic Cummings, like many other Brits this year, is considering his next career move.
While someone of his stature might have many doors open, a route to a new career is not as clear-cut for most people in the middle of their working lives.
A key pledge from the government is to provide long-term support for the UK’s workforce as we emerge from Covid-19 through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee (LSG). This was announced to help people at every stage of their working lives and give “everyone the chance to train and retrain”.
However, the LSG will only be available to those without a level 3 (A-level or equivalent) qualification. This will rule out not just Mr Cummings but 1.4 million low-paid mid-career workers (aged 25–49), according to new analysis from the Work Foundation and Totaljobs.
On top of this, there are many other barriers that make retraining a real struggle for people of a similar age to Boris Johnson’s ex-special advisor.
At 48 and with a young family, Mr Cummings’ demographic is similar to many people who might now be making less and need to put earning before learning for the sake of financial and family commitments. Our research shows that not only does reskilling decrease with age, but 1.9 million people with children under 16 would struggle to take on training.
The challenges that could limit people’s access to training are crucial to overcome. While much of the recent focus has importantly been on youth unemployment, the impact of Covid-19 coupled with Brexit will continue to dramatically transform the labour market — for all ages. Some sectors are going to rapidly expand, but without the right support in place, many workers risk being left behind, struggling to progress or access more secure work. Meanwhile, employers will see continued skills shortages.
The LSG is a big step forward in making up for shortcomings in government investment into adult education over the past few decades. However, to make it a scheme that truly puts skills development at the heart of the UK economy, eligibility must be expanded, flexible learning needs to be a central focus, and — for the 7.5 million UK workers who haven’t received any training at all since leaving education — the benefits of funded college courses should be made clearer. There also needs to be greater support to help mid-career workers with indirect costs of engaging in training, such as childcare.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll see Dominic Cummings going back to the classroom to retrain anytime soon, a consolidated effort from the government and businesses can create a culture of lifelong learning to ensure workers who need it most have the chance to learn new skills and have a flourishing career — in their own sector, or a new one.
Main image credit: Getty