Budget misses opportunities to address skills shortages

19 March 2014

Responding to the Budget, David Hughes, NIACE Chief Executive, said:

“As the economy picks up and despite some mention of skills, we were disappointed the Chancellor didn’t take more opportunities to boost ways for adults to increase their skills. The recent UKCES Employer Survey showed employer concerns about skills shortages and there are people, in work and unemployed, who need skills training to help fill those jobs. Apprenticeships will go some way to help address this but they are not the complete solution.

“This is why we are pleased to see the extra funding in the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers, but it is crucial that Apprenticeships remain available for people of all ages. We know many employers benefit from fantastic Apprentices aged over 24 and they need to be incentivised as well. 

“It is also good to see investment in the additional Centres for Doctoral Training and in some new Apprenticeship funding up to post-graduate level. The work we are doing with employers and providers on Higher Level Apprenticeships has shown us that there is huge enthusiasm, demand and need to make the Apprenticeship programme go all the way up to degree and masters levels. The investment, £20million over 2 years, is modest given the enormous economic impact postgraduate-level Apprenticeships could have as the economy starts to grow again.

“We’re pleased to see the Government acknowledging the need to break down barriers and increase participation in post-graduate study. However for the last few years we have been urging the Government to ensure that there is a more comprehensive offer of flexible learning for part-time higher education learners, and little progress seems to have been made on that so far. Flexible learning for adults at undergraduate and postgraduate levels is vital and needs addressing now. We want to see urgent action on both and will be writing to Government soon to offer support in its options appraisal on this key agenda.”  

David Hughes was responding to the following statements in today’s Budget.

  • Apprenticeships play a vital role in equipping young people with the skills they need to compete in the labour market, and that employers need to grow their businesses. The government is building on the success of the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers (AGE) scheme, by providing an extra £85 million in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 for over 100,000 grants to employers. The government will ensure that grants are targeted where they are most effective.
  • The changing nature of the labour market is demanding higher skilled workers. There are however potential barriers in the postgraduate system that may be restricting the supply of these higher skills. To ensure the UK can compete successfully in the global economy, the government will investigate options to support increasing participation in postgraduate studies and will put forward its ideas at Autumn Statement 2014.
  • Degree and masters level apprenticeships – The government will provide £20 million over 2 years to support apprenticeships up to postgraduate level.
  • Provide £106 million over 5 years for around 20 additional Centres for Doctoral Training – partnerships between universities, businesses and government to research new technologies and train postgraduate students.