Latest figures “damaging” for individuals, employers and economy

16 October 2014

NIACE is calling the latest figures on provisional further education and skills data for the full 2013/14 academic year “damaging” for individuals, employers and economy.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“Today’s provisional figures highlight many of our concerns, especially the impact that Advanced Learning Loans have had on participation at Level 3 and 4. In 2012/13 over 400,000 people aged 25 and over participated in learning at these levels. However, in 2013/14 only 57,100 adults have paid for their Level 3 and 4 learning with a loan.

“Loans have also had a significant impact on Apprenticeship starts, where there has been a fall in the last year of more than 66,000 in Advanced Apprenticeships and 900 in Higher Apprenticeships.  While more younger  people starting Apprenticeships is good news, the fact that 72,600 fewer people aged 25 and over have started Apprenticeships, will have serious implications for the economy.

“This fall in Apprenticeship starts could also be having an impact on English and maths participation, which shows an almost 10 per cent fall of 99,000 fewer learners.  Coming so soon after the BIS Select Committee report, which recognised the ability of everyone to gain literacy and numeracy skills as a ‘fundamental right’, it is vital that urgent action is taken now to address this. We are keen to support BIS and SFA to consider actions that will overcome this drop in participation.

“As we have set out in our Manifesto, it is absolutely critical that people have the right opportunities to learn at all ages and stages to help them get on in life as well as at work. We need more social mobility, rather than people stagnating in their careers and not progressing to higher paid jobs.

“Employers are currently facing acute skills shortages at a time when the economy is picking up and recovering from one of the longest recessions in living memory. These skills shortages are one of the biggest threats to a sustainable and vibrant economic recovery.

“And the future for our economy depends on older people progressing in work. Over the next ten years there are expected to be 13.5 million job vacancies, but only 7 million new entrants to the labour market.

“More than anything these figures are damaging to individuals who want to get on, damaging to employers who are facing skills shortages and damaging to economic growth. We anxiously await next month’s full figures, which will allow us to assess the impact on different sectors of the economy, on different groups of people and on different parts of the economy.”