Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by Community trade union (SPEB20)

Submission to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill Committee Stage call for evidence

About Community

1. Community is a general trade union that represents over 50,000 workers, both employed and self-employed, across the UK economy. This includes logistics, steel and manufacturing, education and early years, privatised justice, custodial and immigration, finance and professional, betting and retail, social care, and many more sectors.

2. Community works in partnership with good employers across industries and sectors to support our members to access learning and training opportunities, as well as support our members with no direct employer to access learning in an affordable and flexible way.


3. Prior to the pandemic, employers were facing skills shortages and that across the UK we faced a mismatch between the skills workers held and the skills needed to succeed at work. [1] The world of work is changing, and Community believes workers need to be both allowed and supported to change with it.

4. The Industrial Strategy Council estimates that, by 2030, 7 million extra workers will have insufficient skills for the jobs they are likely to hold. The Council’s modelling suggests that the single largest problem will be a lack of basic digital skills, followed by management skills, STEM and teaching skills. Their analysis shows that existing policies will not be sufficient to address the problem; and nor will formal learning outside the workplace: the only solution is a huge increase in employment-based learning. [2]

5. Community wants to see a workforce that has the skills and training to use new technologies well and to take up good jobs in new industries. New technologies will continue to change the nature of jobs, and people must have the support to adapt and reskill throughout their careers. They should be able to move seamlessly in and out of training as technology advances, and as they progress through their working lives.

6. Further to this, in order for the UK to meet net zero targets at 2035 and 2050, industries need to be supported to meet emerging skills needs that will come from decarbonisation. Community research in the steel industry shows employers need to invest more time to develop certain workforce skills [3] . While jobs, tasks and processes are likely to change in the future, the skillset that workers will need is not expected to change extensively. Steelworkers are well placed to navigate the technology and green transformation. Although members also told us that although employers were supportive about training needs, they still faced barriers such as cost of training, length of training, lack of capacity/cover for work and suitable training offers.

7. Community supports calls made by the Trades Union Congress [4] and believes we should follow the examples of other countries that have introduced rights for workers to guarantee them paid time off for education and training and access to regular skills reviews in the workplace. OECD research has shown that combining initiatives, such as establishing lifelong learning accounts and strengthening workplace training rights, has proved an effective response in countries adopting this approach [5] .

What Community wants to see in the Bill

8. Community wants to see the Government champion a social partnership approach to skills with employers and unions to create a lifelong learning culture and support union learning. Training and skills development are a lifelong necessity in order to keep track with a changing economy. Trade unions, by working with employers, have vital access to workers to encourage them to reskill and upskill flexibility throughout their lives. This was demonstrated with the essential Union Learning Fund that supported workers with the skills they needed for employment for over twenty years. In 2019/20 the Fund helped 200,000 predominantly low-skilled workers to access learning, education and training courses through their union and through their workplace [6] . That is why we support amendments to include the important role of Employer Representative Bodies such as trade unions throughout the Bill, in particular in proscribing additional Level 3 qualifications. Community also supports wider calls to ensure there is a much broader range of adult skills entitlements to access free courses, with no restrictions to adults, including prior qualifications.

9. To meet the economic needs of our future and to enable workers to transition into high quality and high skills jobs, Community believes there is a need for a wholesale revolution in the way the government approaches skills and training. This Bill is a key opportunity to do so and Community supports rebuilding the country’s adult skills system, but believes the vision in the Bill should go further to give workers both the right and the opportunity to retrain and reskill. Community would want to see this targeted to pre-emptively retrain workers and provide information about the key skills the workforce will require in the future, as well as those at risk of unemployment. This should also include support for non-traditional employees such as the self-employed, including exploring provisions to make the cost of training and skills development tax deductible.

December 2021


Prepared 8th December 2021