Boris johnson is set to announce measures to help the unemployed retrain for jobs in growth sectors with a new push to reverse the decline in adult education.

The prime minister will on tuesday promise a lifetime skills guarantee open to adults in england who do not have an a-level or equivalent qualification, offering them a free college place on an approved list of vocational courses.

Higher education loans would also be made more flexible to allow adults to space out study across their lifetimes, allowing them to retrain for new careers as the economy changed.

Ministers are under pressure to show that the government is doing enough to support workers whose jobs are under threat as the coronavirus crisis accelerates structural changes in the economy, with sectors such as high street retail and aviation facing what may prove to be a permanent contraction.

We cannot, alas, save every job. what we can do is give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs, mr johnson will say.

The government has so far concentrated its efforts on measures to keep existing workers in jobs, primarily through the furlough scheme, rather than on help to retrain workers in struggling sectors for careers with better long-term prospects.

The adult education initiative comes after chancellor rishi sunak last week set out plans for a successor to the furlough scheme.

The new offer of free college places will be paid for from the 2.5bn national skills fund, which was announced in the budget in march before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. an additional 1.5bn of capital investment was allocated to upgrade further-education colleges.

The injection of funding follows a decade of funding cuts in further education, which has led to a steep decline in the number of people taking vocational qualifications in stark contrast with the rapid expansion of higher education.

Downing street said that further details of the plans for reform of further education in particular, the life-long loan entitlement would be set out in a white paper later in the year, suggesting that many of the details of how the new system will work have yet to be ironed out.

The aim is to make it easier for learners to break up study into shorter segments, which they could fund more easily than a single three- or four-year block, with more flexibility to transfer course credits between colleges and universities and to study part time.