Boris Johnson has vowed “radical” changes to the adult education system in England to help boost the post-Covid economy.
The prime minister said the pandemic had “massively accelerated” changes to the world of work, and made training gaps “painfully apparent”.
He said funding changes could help end the “bogus distinction” between academic and vocational learning.
But Labour said the plans would not make up for “a decade of cuts”.
Speaking at a further education college in Exeter, Mr Johnson said the government cannot “save every job” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
But he added that better training would “give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs”.
He said a new “lifetime skills guarantee” would offer a fully funded college course to all people over 18 in England without an A-level or equivalent qualification.
Currently, only people aged under 23 qualify for a fully-funded qualification at this level.
The commitment will be paid for under an already-announced £2.5bn boost to England’s National Skills Fund coming into effect next April.
Funding will be offered for courses offering “skills valued by employers” – with full list to be announced next month.
The prime minister added that the government would make higher education loans more flexible, to allow people to “space out their study across their lifetimes”.
PM tries to offer some hope amid Covid gloom
Whether it’s Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda or previous governments’ promises to tackle the skills gap, some of what we’ve heard today may sound familiar.
For example, that the supply of skilled workers in certain industries simply isn’t meeting demand, and calls to end the “snootiness” between academic and vocational qualifications.
Also familiar was the suggestion