Association of Employment and Learning Providers

Press release: Embargoed until Wednesday, 23 October 2019, 00.01hrs


National Retraining Scheme should be recast as ‘Traineeships for Adults’

The challenged and slowly rolled-out £100m National Retraining Scheme should be restructured to become a ‘traineeship for adults’.

The call in a new policy statement from the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) says a vital rethink is necessary if we are to avoid another “expensive skills white elephant” such as the Employer Ownership of Skills pilot (EOP) which over 5 years until 2017 saw £350m of taxpayers’ money completely wasted.

AELP recommends the creation of a form of adult traineeship for both the unemployed and employed participants through the National Retraining Scheme (NRS). The recent shaping of the scheme into an information-sharing platform simply duplicates existing government-backed job signposting initiatives.

What’s needed is a clearly defined set of outcome and progression measures within a proper training scheme, with providers being financially incentivised to support participants to both complete and progress.

A further call concerns how NRS funding is channelled. Encouragement of more demand for adult learning could lead to further waste if mistakes with apprenticeship and adult education budget (AEB) funding are repeated. In AELP’s view, all adult funding should be accessible to all types of provider to reduce, for example, unjustifiable subcontracting fees.

AELP CEO Mark Dawe comments:

“We believe that the NRS represents good policy intent and is much needed, but the implementation has been piecemeal and it lacks a clear and coherent plan and strategy. The scheme must be more than just a digital information-sharing platform if we are seriously going to tackle the adverse consequences of automation. What we need is a form of adult traineeship that particularly help adults with lower levels of qualifications or no qualifications. Despite the initial injection of £100m, there remains a lack of investment in core delivery and provider participation funding.”

The AELP policy blueprint for the NRS makes several other recommendations including:

  • relaxing NRS learner eligibility requirements to better address the automation risks
  • allowing scheme participants to top up their skills and having this formally recognised
  • discouraging government from commissioning new resources where high quality tools already exist
  • better utilising providers with well-established track records of employer engagement.

AELP’s proposals go further in addressing specific challenges and outline the contribution that government funding should make in the overall required investment.

The AELP statement outlines another area where provider involvement could be helpful which is the potential legal minefield of employees being informed that their jobs might disappear with automation. Employers also don’t want to lose staff who have acquired new and attractive skills on the NRS. Participation could be held back unless more consideration is given to these matters. AELP believes therefore that a review and restructuring of the NRS is needed.

The AELP policy blueprint for a restructured National Retraining Scheme can be downloaded here:


NRS on the agenda at AELP Autumn Conference, 29 October, Manchester

Michael Carney, Policy Engagement and Communications Lead, National Retraining Scheme Division, Department for Education, is speaking at the AELP Autumn Conference 2019, sponsored by City & Guilds, on Tuesday 29 October at the Midland Hotel in central Manchester. The full conference agenda is here:




Contact Aidan Relf on 07710 305182

Notes to editors

  1. Government information about the National Retraining Scheme is available here:
  2. Traineeships are currently available for 16 to 24 year olds in England. A successful traineeship will lead to a place on an apprenticeship, a job or further education. More information is available here:
  3. An evaluation report commissioned and published by the DfE on the £350m Employer Ownership of Skills (EOP) in September 2018 found: “There is no evidence to suggest that EOP has changed attitudes towards training or that it led to subsequent increases in the number of staff trained” (source:



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