Reinvigorating employment in the UK

Learning should be life-long and through this collaborative, progressive approach of multi-industry placements, this can remain so.

Employment, learning and skills. Three areas that should often interact with one another but due to a lack of joined up policy, often remain side by side.

 In 2009, the Future Jobs Fund was an initiative put forward by Labour in an attempt to counteract long term youth unemployment. However, despite this scheme proving to be of positive impact, it was one of the first to be scrapped by the coalition government.

 With the UK edging ever close to March 2019 and a post-brexit world, we all know how important employment, learning and skills, in particular transferable skills, will be. But if we applied the importance of transferable skills to more trade based and vocational roles, we can begin to plug the broader problem of the skills gap and improve both employment and learning. Yet how do we achieve this without something like the Future Jobs Fund?

 The current answer could lie within the apprenticeship levy,  a complex funding mechanism for both business and apprentice. If you’re an employer with a pay bill over £3 million each year, you must pay the apprenticeship levy. From there, you can pick between two structures - the trailblazers and the frameworks.

With higher national degree apprenticeships now being thrown into the mix too, our traditional definition and understanding of the apprenticeship offering has become blurred and muddled. Likewise, the introduction and approval of these particular apprenticeship frameworks through government departments has been slow and laborious, with the take up from both business and employer reflecting this.

 Since April 2018, the apprenticeship levy monies, if not used in full by an organisation can be transferred to another employer. So, by taking this notion of monetary transfer, what if the apprenticeship levy was a more flexible funding mechanism instead where monies can be pooled together? A pool for instance, that could be collated between boroughs or constituencies for an innovative cross-industry placement - something where businesses, cultural institutions and hospitals, could all work together? Additionally, the flexibility could also extend to those who are school leavers right through to people who have had a career break.

 I believe in the power of industry placements - from an apprenticeship, university and continuous professional development perspective. I, myself, was fortunate to be successful in obtaining a guaranteed political work placement through my university degree and know that the learning, skills and development I gained are increasingly helping me to achieve in both my job and voluntary roles.

 If we could provide employment, learning and skills through a collective set of institutions via multi-organisational placements, you could ultimately be presented with a lighting engineer at a theatre whose lighting skills and experience could be integral to saving someone’s life in a hospital theatre with power failure.

 By redistributing the levy into a reinvigorated and more measurable version of a scheme like the future jobs fund, not only would we be opening up employment opportunities on a local level, we will be encouraging local organisations to collaborate and work side by side in a new way. This collectivist approach will not only invoke cross-sector partnerships but will impact across multiple communities too. Employment costs and resources could be shared amongst organisations to ensure no single company is picking up the bill and an agreement could be produced by placement providers to allow for continual successful placements.

Learning should be life-long and through this collaborative, progressive approach of multi-industry placements, this can remain so. Likewise, when people work together, not only do individuals gain, society also gains.


Laura Griffiths is a member of the Young Fabians, Vice-Chair communications of Watford CLP and a graduate of the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme. Follow her on Twitter at @lauragriffiths

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