Westminster Employment Forum

Establishing the National Retraining Scheme - take-up, delivery and adapting to a changing labour market

Morning, Thursday, 28th November 2019

Central London


This seminar will focus on the development of the new National Retraining Scheme.

Timed to follow the rollout of the first phase of the scheme - with the launch of the new digital service ‘Get Help to Retrain’ being trialled in the Liverpool City Region - the seminar will provide an opportunity to evaluate the first stage of implementation ahead of it being rolled out nationally in early 2020.

Delegates will also consider the approach being adopted by the National Retraining Partnership - using a phased method of implementation, initially rolling out on a limited scale, and targeting older workers and those without a degree - and how it can most effectively integrate into the existing skills, training and qualifications landscape.

The seminar follows the Post-18 Review of Education and Funding, which endorses the National Retraining Scheme, while recommending the introduction of a lifelong learning loan allowance, greater investment in ‘second chance learning’ - such as through the National Retraining Scheme - and for first full level qualifications at level 2 and 3 to be fully funded at any age.

With concerns over the funding of the scheme being raised by some in the sector, and with projected costs for the programme yet to be outlined, delegates will discuss cost expectations and sources of funding - including the potential balance of contributions from government, employers and users.

They will discuss the possible size and scope of the programme - with pilots initially focused towards adults in low-skilled work and occupations susceptible to automation - and options for expansion into further sectors and workforce areas. Discussion will also examine the scope of the first phase of implementation, available only to adults aged 24 and older, qualified below degree level and within a certain wage threshold, and initially only within the Liverpool City Region.

We also expect discussion to reflect findings in the report from the Lord’s Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision, which questioned whether the scheme would be employer or participant led, the incentives for people participating, how it fits within the existing post-18 education and training landscape, and more widely the Government’s record on policy regarding lifelong learning.

Delegates will also consider what will be needed to create a programme that matches user needs, ensures high take-up and the involvement of hard-to-reach groups - and those who are otherwise unlikely to receive retraining, particularly those lacking the time, money and confidence or the necessary skills to retrain.

Further sessions discuss how careers advice and guidance will need to develop to support the creation of a culture of retraining and lifelong learning, which is cited as an overarching objective of the Scheme.

The seminar will provide an opportunity to discuss evidence from the interim report of cost and outreach pilots, which highlighted a number of barriers to learning and training, including attitudinal and cost barriers, and the need for diverse outreach and engagement activity and a high level employer engagement.

It also takes place with changes at the National Careers Service and with the Careers Strategy currently being implemented - and in the face of evolving technology and changing workforce needs.

We also expect discussion on the role for qualifications and awarding bodies in the changing skills landscape.

With the Government increasingly focusing on digital skills across the spectrum, we expect discussion on the role the National Retraining Scheme has in maintaining and updating the digital literacy of the workforce.

It follows the Government’s recently announced call for views on new digital Functional Skills qualifications, looking at options for further new qualifications to compliment the programme, and how they might be implemented.

A further area for discussion is opportunities for retraining in data science and artificial intelligence skills, with plans for this to be supported by the recently announced Adult Learning Technology Innovation Fund.

With the National Retraining Scheme widely considered as a response to work automation, further sessions will consider the likely broader economic impacts, discussing how the programme can be designed to combat macro-economic challenges such as skill shortages, productivity issues and labour mobility - and examples of how retraining is being approached outside the UK.

Keynote Speaker

Ian Caplan

Programme Director, National Retraining Scheme, Department for Education

Keynote Speakers

John Cope

Head, Education and Skills, CBI

Ian Caplan

Programme Director, National Retraining Scheme, Department for Education


Paul Comyn

Senior Skills and Employability Specialist, International Labour Organisation

Stephen Radley

Director of Policy, CITB

Kirstie Donnelly

Managing Director, City & Guilds

Iain Murray

Senior Policy Officer, TUC

Simon Tindall

Head, New Business Unit, The Open University

Anthony Bruce

Partner and Head, HR Consulting, PwC

Simon Ashworth

Chief Policy Officer, Association of Employment and Learning Providers

Patrick Spencer

Head of Work and Welfare Unit, Centre for Social Justice

Joe Billington

Director, National Careers Service

Dr Susan Pember

Director, Policy and External Relations, Holex

Dr Muriel Dunbar

Skills Development Consultant

Lesley Giles

Director, Work Foundation