Does demand outstrip ability to supply through Adult Skills Budget?

30 August 2013

Increased recognition of the value of skills amongst organisations working to support unemployed people could cause an increased demand on the already under-pressure Adult Skills Budget, following the publication of a survey of almost two thousand former learners.

The survey recently published by BIS – The economic and social benefits associated with Further Education and Skills: Learning for those not in employment – states that:

  • 30% of men and 35% of women were in employment following the completion of their course
  • Over 80% of former learners said they were more likely to undertake further learning
  • 75% of former learners indicated that they now had a better idea of what to do with their lives
  • 66% of former learners stated that their quality of life had improved as a result of undertaking education and training
  • 30% mentioned that the course had enabled them to assist their children with school work

The report’s findings will further increase recognition of the value of skills amongst organisations working to support unemployed people. This is useful as this kind of recognition has sometimes been lacking, however, increased recognition is also likely to generate increased demand on the already under pressure Adult Skills Budget.

Recognition of the value of skills has greatly increased amongst Work Programme providers, partly in response to NIACE’s 2012 publication called The Work Programme: What is the role of skills? Before this, relatively small numbers of Work Programme participants had been referred to skills providers, but now these numbers have increased. However, with well over a million people having started the Work Programme since it began in 2011, even a small increase in the proportion of Work Programme participants referred, could prove difficult for skills providers to supply. Housing providers have also recently increased their referrals to skills providers in response to welfare reforms that make it increasingly important for their tenants to secure employment.

Since the advent of freedoms and flexibilities, providers are expected to flex their internal distribution of their Adult Skills Budget allocation to accommodate increased demand from a particular group of learners. But what if demand is stable or increasing amongst all learner groups within every locality in England? What could be needed then is an increase in the total Adult Skills Budget.

However, rather than funding being increased, it was acknowledged in the Skills Funding Statement 2012 – 2015, that as a contribution to the Government’s deficit reduction requirements there has been a top line real term reduction in funding of 25.1% for FE and Skills and a year on year decline in the total Adult Skills budget since it began in 2011/12. Skills spending in the UK at 1.3% of GDP is already below the average 1.6 % of GDP spend on skills in OECD countries, which NIACE called for in our submission to June’s Spending Review.

Rob Gray, NIACE Project Officer, said:

“NIACE would find it really helpful to be able to gauge the extent of any demand providers cannot meet through their Adult Skills Budget allocation. This would help us in our work to inform the development of a more comprehensive future analysis of supply and demand. If you are a provider, does demand outstrip your ability to supply through your Adult Skills Budget allocation? If so, what type of learning tends not to happen despite demand for it? You can let us know by emailing me:”