Westminster Employment Forum

Conferences that are scheduled to take place before September will be conducted online.
The format will mirror physical conferences organised by the Forum with speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish.
The conferences will be chaired and there will be opportunities for delegate questions and comments.
We will be contacting all participants in advance of each conference with full information and guidance on how to take part.
There will be some exceptions where conferences will be postponed, for instance those that would largely involve key stakeholders in the NHS or emergency services.
All participants affected by this will be informed as soon as possible.
If you’d like to speak to us over the phone about any booking-related queries, please call one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +044 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244

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

TO BE PUBLISHED September 2020

***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, and
  • 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, and
    • 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, and
    • 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, and
    • 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, including:
    • creating a culture of retraining and lifelong learning, and
    • overcoming the barriers that adults face to retraining - looking at the roles of:
      • careers advice and guidance - and how it will need to develop, and
      • 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, and
    • 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, and
      • support employers - particularly SMEs, and
      • 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, and
    • 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; and
  • 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 skills landscape;
  • Adapting to a changing labour market following COVID-19 - careers advice and guidance, retraining, digital literacy and the impact on labour mobility; and
  • 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 DCMS; the Department for Education; the Department for International TradeMinistry of DefenceMinistry of Justice and the Office for Artificial Intelligence.

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

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Westminster Employment Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates