Westminster Employment Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
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Lifelong learning, the National Retraining Scheme and establishing the National Skills Fund - take-up, delivery and adapting to a changing labour market following the pandemic

Morning, Wednesday, 9th September 2020

Online Conference


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will focus on what has been learnt so far from the development of Government’s National Retraining Scheme (NRS).

The discussion will also look ahead to:

  • the role of the NRS in dealing with medium term skills needs following the COVID-19 pandemic
  • the establishment of the Government’s new £2.5bn National Skills Fund prior to an expected consultation on the fund which will look at long term skills needs
  • wider issues around lifelong learning

The discussion in detail:

Funding - with concerns being raised by some in the sector, and with projected costs for both the National Retraining Scheme and National Skills Fund yet to be outlined - delegates will discuss:

  • cost expectations
  • sources of funding, including the potential balance of contributions from government, employers, and users

Size and scope - and what has been learnt so far from the National Retraining Scheme, with:

  • pilots initially focused towards adults in low-skilled work and occupations susceptible to automation
  • the first phase of the Scheme ahead of full rollout available only to adults aged 24 and older, qualified below degree level, and within a certain wage threshold

Inclusivity - and what will be needed to develop programmes that:

  • adapt to user needs
  • ensures high take-up
  • secures the involvement of hard-to-reach groups
  • serves those who are otherwise unlikely to receive retraining - particularly those lacking the time, money, and the confidence or necessary skills to retrain

Strategic aims - and how to achieve the overarching objectives of both the NRS and National Skills Fund, for:

  • creating a culture of retraining and lifelong learning
  • overcoming the barriers that adults face to retraining - looking at the roles of:
    • careers advice and guidance - and how it will need to develop
    • qualifications and awarding bodies

The changing skills landscape following the pandemic - with the Government increasingly focusing on digital skills across the spectrum, we expect discussion on:

  • the contribution of the National Retraining Scheme to maintaining and updating the digital literacy of the workforce
  • opportunities for retraining in data science and artificial intelligence skills, with plans for this to be supported by the Adult Learning Technology Innovation Fund
  • the shape that the National Skills Fund should take to support long term skills needs following COVID-19 - including how:
    • the Fund can complement existing support which is available
    • support employers - particularly SMEs
    • how the Government can ensure the best possible return on investment

Broader economic impacts - with the National Retraining Scheme and National Skill Funds widely considered as a response to work automation, we also expect discussion on:

  • how the programmes can be designed to combat macro-economic challenges, such as skill shortages, productivity issues, and labour mobility
  • examples of how retraining is being approached outside the UK

Developments that are relevant to the discussion:

  • The first phase of the NRS - in the Liverpool City Region, the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Leeds City Region LEP, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority area, the Heart of the South West LEP and the North East LEP
  • The forthcoming Government consultation on the establishment of the National Skills Fund
  • Changes at the National Careers Service and with the Careers Strategy currently being implemented - against the backdrop of evolving technology and changing workforce needs
  • 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 first full level qualifications at level 2 and 3 being fully funded at any age
  • 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 the Government’s record on policy regarding lifelong learning more widely
  • 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 of employer engagement
  • Government’s call for views on new digital Functional Skills qualifications
  • The launch of the new digital service ‘Get Help to Retrain’ being trialled in the Liverpool City Region

The agenda:

  • What has been learnt from the National Retraining Scheme
  • Creating an effective retraining offer - funding, scope, and engagement with industry and the workforce
  • Case study: international approaches to lifelong learning
  • The role of qualifications in the future lifelong learning landscape
  • Adapting to a changing labour market following COVID-19 - careers advice and guidance, retraining, digital literacy and the impact on labour mobility
  • Lessons from the National Retraining Scheme pilots and user research, and the next steps for the National Skills Fund

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

It’s certainly the case with this one. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Department for Education; DWP; DCMS; the Department for International Trade; the Ministry of Defence; the Ministry of Justice; Office for Artificial Intelligence; Office for National Statistics and The Scottish Government.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Patrick Craven

Director of Assessment Policy, Research and Compliance, City & Guilds

Iain Murray

Senior Policy Officer, TUC

Dr Fiona Aldridge

Director, Policy and Research, Learning and Work Institute

Keynote Speakers

Iain Murray

Senior Policy Officer, TUC

Matt Hassan

National Retraining Scheme and National Skills Fund Programme Director, Department for Education

Nic Trower

Senior Policy Advisor, CBI

Dr Fiona Aldridge

Director, Policy and Research, Learning and Work Institute

Patrick Craven

Director of Assessment Policy, Research and Compliance, City & Guilds

Juliet Stuttard

Director, PwC UK


Lord Watson of Invergowrie

Shadow Spokesperson for Education

Baroness Garden of Frognal

Deputy Speaker, House of Lords


Simon Tindall

Head, New Business Unit, The Open University

Stephen Cole

Head of Careers Strategy, CITB

Joe Billington

Director, National Careers Service

Jack Orlik

Research Lead, CareerTech Challenge, Nesta

Kenny Barron

Head of Lifelong Learning, Unite the Union

Simon Ashworth

Chief Policy Officer, Association of Employment and Learning Providers

Dr Susan Pember

Director, Policy and External Relations, Holex

Patrick Spencer

Head of Work and Welfare Unit, Centre for Social Justice

Lesley Giles

Director, Work Advance