'Very grave' consequences warning if low-income workers are not re-skilled

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Britain faces "very grave" consequences if it fails to give low-income workers the skills they need to progress, a former minister has warned.

Labour's David Lammy said he believes a "very dark chapter" in the country's history will be opened if the problem is not dealt with, insisting immigrants are not to blame for people becoming trapped in jobs which pay low wages.

He pointed to the failings of both Labour and Conservative administrations, adding MPs were "totally obsessed" with apprenticeships and university education for 16 and 18-year-olds.

Mr Lammy (Tottenham), speaking during an adjournment debate on night schools and adult education, said: "It's not good to say if you don't go to university you can't progress and you're limited to a life of low-paid work with no prospects of change.

"And it's not good enough to deny opportunities to the already-marginalised and already-struggling, and those who didn't have opportunities when growing up."

The former skills minister added: "Education does not and must not end at 18."

Mr Lammy said much more will need to be done to re-skill and retrain workers in Britain to take up jobs post-Brexit should firms be unable to recruit from the continent to plug gaps.

He called for a national strategy on adult education, later telling the Commons: "Look across the country in our seaside towns, in our post-industrial towns across the North, the Midlands and Wales.

"In places like Boston, Hartlepool, Blackpool, Oldham, Wrexham, the prevailing wind is to blame immigrants for our problems - for taking jobs, for taking houses, for taking school places, taking GP appointments.

"But in a country where people are trapped in low-income, low-skilled work and don't see a way out, we're playing a very dangerous game if we don't act.

"People are not trapped in low-income jobs because of immigrants.

"It is the fault of successive governments who have failed to equip them with the skills they need to get on in a modern economy.

"My fear, and very real fear indeed, is that if we don't act now then the consequences down the line will be very grave indeed and we'll be opening up a very dark chapter in our history."

Education minister Robert Halfon said he accepted the problems with skills has been getting worse over the last 20 years.

He added the Government's priority is to create a "ladder of opportunity" which people can climb.

Mr Halfon said: "As part of a survey into adult and community learning that I recently commissioned, it's emerged that evening classes are run in 1,380 local centres.

"The survey is still in progress but results so far received from 97 providers (show) around a third of providers use more than 40% of their budget for evening classes."

He went on: "In 2015-16, of the £1.5 billion for adult skills provision, the Government provided £210.7 million to 315 providers for community learning, 130 local authorities got £170 million, 137 FE colleges £29 million, and there is more.

"Two hundred and thirty six community learning providers are rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted."

Mr Halfon added: "The reason I quote those statistics is because, yes, we need to do a lot more and, yes, there are problems, but things are not completely bleak."

 


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