Sep 29, 2020
Boris Johnson Adult Education & Training Speech Transcript September 29
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a speech on September 29 to address new plans for adult education and skills training. Read the transcript of his remarks here.
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Boris Johnson: (03:47)
And there are many, many reasons for me, I should say, to come here to Exeter College, the outstanding further education college in Devon. You have a total 462 courses, some of which I’ve tried this morning, from particle physics to cake decorating. And you offer your students an extraordinary chance to skill themselves in everything from football coaching to specialist Devon cookery, industrial robotics, heavy vehicle manufacture and design. And I’m thrilled that you offer philosophy and languages and even classical civilization, but this is the home of the practical, the hands-on, disciplines that are not only academically and intellectually challenging, but which are also of immediate practical usefulness and relevance to the world we live in.
Boris Johnson: (04:40)
And I don’t just mean useful for individual jobs and livelihoods. All of us in this country need you to have those practical skills. We need those practical skills collectively as a society and as an economy more than ever. And so today, I want to set out how this government will offer a Lifetime Skills Guarantee to help people train and retrain at any stage in their lives and enable us not just to come through this crisis, but to come back stronger and build back better.
Boris Johnson: (05:18)
Our economy has been shaken by COVID. And in the hand-to-mouth scrabblings of the pandemic, the shortcomings of our labor market and our educational system have been painfully apparent. In the last few months, I’ve been touring labs where people, many of them young, are working flat out on testing samples, testing for the disease, testing for the efficacy of potential vaccines, testing the tests. And it’s hard work. It requires endless patience and good hand-eye coordination. It also requires an excellent grounding in lab techniques and in the science. And every time, I’ve been fascinated to find that a sizeable proportion of the technicians are from overseas. And although I welcome that, because it’s one of the glories of our education system that it attracts so many people from around the world, we have to face the fact that at this moment, when we need them so much, there is a shortage of UK-trained lab technicians, just as there is a shortage of so many crucial skills.
Boris Johnson: (06:35)
We’re short of skilled construction workers and skilled mechanics and skilled engineers, and we’re short of hundreds of thousands of IT experts. And it’s not as though the market doesn’t require these skills. The market will pay richly. The problem is one of supply. And somehow, our post-18 educational system is not working in such a way as to endow people with those skills. And I don’t for a second want to blame our universities. I love our universities. And it’s one of this country’s great achievements, massively to have expanded higher education. But we also need to recognize that a significant and growing minority of young people leave university and work in a norm graduate job [inaudible 00:07:33] did the right thing. Was it sensible to rack up that debt on that degree? Were they ever given the choice to look at the [inaudible 00:07:45], the courses just as stimulating that lead more directly to well-paid jobs?
Boris Johnson: (07:51)
We seem, on the one hand, to have too few [inaudible 00:07:57] right skills for the jobs our economy creates, and on the other hand, too many graduates with degrees which don’t get them the jobs that they want. And the truth is, we’re not giving anywhere near enough of the right kind of training or support to the 50 percent of young people who don’t want to go to university. And so we’re depriving them of the chance to find their vocation and develop a fulfilling, well-paid career. So the result is business isn’t happy, the economy isn’t productive, and many working adults are stuck in jobs without much future when they’re hungry for new opportunities. So it’s time for change, for radical change. And let’s begin by admitting that part of the problem is that not every FE college, not every trade college is as superb as Exeter College. We need to invest in skills and we need to invest in FE.
Boris Johnson: (09:02)
And that’s why we’re putting 1.5 billion pounds into upgrading and improving colleges across the country, fixing the leaky ceilings, bringing forward 200 million pounds this year. The facilities here are awesome. I tried them myself this morning. Improving all FE is part of our leveling up agenda to ensure that the same quality applies everywhere. And as everybody knows, you can’t acquire skills in the classroom alone. You need to learn on the job to build up the muscle memory and not just the theoretical understanding. So I can announce today that we will be expanding apprenticeships, reforming the system so that the unspent funds can be used more easily to support apprenticeships, not just in big companies, but in the SMEs where there’s so much potential for job creation. And we want many more of these apprenticeships to be portable so you can take them from company to company. Suppose you’re in a small startup making videos for YouTube, and the project ends.
Boris Johnson: (10:07)
So you’ve got to move to another such small company. Under our plan, you’ll be able to take that apprenticeship to your new employer and it won’t die with the end of the contract. But if we’re going to reform our post-18 education, we must go much further. We’ve got to end the pointless, nonsensical guff that’s been fixed for generations, more than 100 years, between the so-called academic and the so-called practical varieties of education. It’s absurd to talk about skills in this limited way. Everything is ultimately a skill of way of doing something faster, better, more efficiently, more accurately, more confidently, whether it’s carving or painting or [inaudible 00:11:02] or writing or drawing or mathematics, Greek philosophy. Every single study can be improved not just by [inaudible 00:11:11], but by teaching.
Boris Johnson: (11:11)
So now is the time to end this bogus distinction between FE and HE. We’re going to change the funding model so that it is just as easy to get a student loan to do a year of electrical engineering at an FE college, or do two years of electrical engineering, as it is to get a loan to do a three-year degree in politics, philosophy and economics. The Augar review highlighted the complexity of the funding system, the bias that propels young people into universities and away from technical education.
Boris Johnson: (11:48)
It’s time to end that bias. We will give FE colleges access to the main student finance system so that they’re better able to compete with universities, not for every FE cost, but for a specific list of valuable technical courses to be agreed with employers. And in the coming years, as part of our Lifetime Skills Guarantee, we will move to a system where every student will have a flexible life-long loan entitlement to four years of post-18 education. And suddenly with that four year entitlement and with the same funding mechanism bringing universities and FE closer together, you level up between them and a new vista of choice opens up. I want every student with the aptitude and the desire to go to university to get the support they need. But I also want all young people to be given a real choice in life and not to feel there’s only one route to success.
Boris Johnson: (12:58)
At the moment, any young people feel they have to go for the degree option. They feel they have only one chance to study and to borrow. They might go for the maximum and get a degree. Under our plans, you could go for a one-year technical qualification and launch yourself a life, or you could do that and then go to university later on. You have a choice. And it will be easier for older people to borrow to do courses locally and to study and train part-time to acquire the skills that transform their lives. And of course, we need this nimbleness now, this flexibility to acquire new skills. Because COVID has massively accelerated changes that were already happening in the UK economy, whether in retail or in restaurant chains. And while the government is building on our furlough scheme, and we’re devising evermore imaginative ways to safeguard jobs and livelihoods, including the Winter Economy Plan, which Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, announced last week. Alas, as Rishi said, we cannot save every job.
Boris Johnson: (14:13)
But what we can do is give everybody, give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs. Of the workforce in 20, 30, 10 years from now, the vast majority are already jobs right now. But a huge number of them are going to have to change jobs, to change skills. And at the moment, if you’re over 23, the state provides virtually no free training to help you. In fact, we’ve seen a hemorrhage in the last 20 years in adult education, a million fewer than there were. We’re going to change that right now. We’re expanding the Digital Boot Camps where you can learn IT whatever your age, and replicating our highly successful training camps in Manchester and Birmingham into more locations. Above all, from next April, we will introduce a new funding promise. As part of our Lifetime Skills Guarantee, we will now fund technical courses for adults equivalent to A-level, all of which teach skills that are highly in demand.
Boris Johnson: (15:32)
They’ll give anyone who left school without an A-level or equivalent the qualifications they need when they need them, when they need them, helping people to change jobs and find work [inaudible 00:15:45] burgeoning new sectors that this country is creating. So, suppose you work in retail or hospitality, and you think you’re going to need to find a new job. And before COVID, people were already shopping evermore online and already sending out for food. But COVID has compressed that revolution. So let’s imagine that you’re 30 years old and you left school without A-levels, and you’re thinking you could find a job. You were in retail or hospitality. You could find a job in the wind farm sector in the Northeast, or in space technology in nuclear, or in construction here in Exeter, or retrofitting homes, retrofitting homes so as to reduce carbon. You might see a job for yourself on one of the vast engineering and infrastructure projects that this government is leading, a surveyor or a rail technician.
Boris Johnson: (16:47)
You might want to work in adult care, a crucial sector for our country. You have a range of options in theory, but you need that technical know-how. You need that A-level equivalent qualification. And we will fund it. We will give you the skills you need. The British economy is in the process of huge and rapid change driven by the internet and the possibilities of remote communication. But as old types of employment fall away, communities are opening up with dizzying speed fast new sectors in which this country already leads or can lead the world. And over the last few centuries, there is no other country that has shown the same adaptability, the same ingenuity in matching the demands of new technology. But for the last few decades alas, we have been hamstrung as a country by a lack of investment in infrastructure, in science, by our antiquated planning system and by our failures in technical education.
Boris Johnson: (18:00)
And this government is putting that right. We’re making unprecedented investments in infrastructure and doubling the investment in science and technology from 11 billion pounds to 22 billion pounds a year by 2024. We’re changing the planning rules so it’s easier to provide homes for young families and [inaudible 00:18:21] to grow and invest. And we’re transforming the foundations of the skills system so everyone has the chance to train and retrain. And this combination of reforms will tackle the fundamental problems in our economy of productivity and growth, helping the country to invent industries and contribute to humanity’s great challenges from fighting pandemics to achieving net zero carbon emissions. Above all, it will make this country, our United Kingdom, richer, and it will make our country fairer. So my message today is that at every stage of you life, this government will help you get the skills you need through our Lifetime Skills Guarantee. We’ll upgrade further education colleges across the country with huge capital investment.
Boris Johnson: (19:21)
We’ll expand apprenticeships, making it easier to get a high-quality apprenticeship and connect them better to local employers who know where the jobs of the future are going to emerge. We’ll fund technical courses for adults equivalent to A-level, extend our Digital Boot Camps. We’ll expand and transform the funding system so it’s as easy to get a loan for a higher technical course as for a university degree. And we’ll enable FE colleges to access funding on the same terms as our most famous universities. And we’ll give everyone a flexible lifelong loan entitlement to four years of post-18 education, so adults will be able to [inaudible 00:20:09] with high-level technical courses instead of being trapped in unemployment. And this long-term plan, learning from what has worked around the world, will really enable our amazing country to close the gap with other countries that in this one respect have had, or thought they’ve had, the edge on us when it comes to skills and technical education.
Boris Johnson: (20:35)
And they thought they had the edge on us for 100 years. Well, we have the talent, we have the potential. All we have to do is give people the chance. And yes, we face a once in a century pandemic, but now is the time to fix a problem that has plagued our country for decades. Now is the time to end the pointless snooty and frankly vacuous distinction between the practical and the academic. And now is the time to give everybody, with this Lifetime Skills Guarantee, give people of all ages the means and the confidence to switch and to get the skills they need. And now is the time for all of us to begin to build back better. Thank you all very much for your patience. Thank you. Thank you.