One million lost opportunities

26 February 2015

Commenting on today’s announcement on cuts to education funding for working age adults, NIACE Chief Executive, David Hughes, said:

“There are one million fewer adults in our classrooms and workshops now than in 2010. That’s the reality for the country of the announcement today of the Adult Skills Budget. That’s one million people without access to an Apprenticeship and one million lost opportunities for people who want to work hard to improve their prospects for work and life.

“It is staggering that there is not more outcry about this drastic and sustained reduction in funding, particularly given the clear consensus about the genuine threat that crippling skills gaps and shortages pose for UK economic growth. A whole range of organisations including the CBI, the OECD and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills have pointed to skills as a major constraint on the success of businesses, and urged the Government to support hard working people to improve their skills in the workplace. The very real consequences on people’s lives mean that access to training to get new or better qualifications will be much harder and, for many, unaffordable. Today’s figures show a 25 per cent cut to the budget for these kinds of courses.

“We have 5 million people in low pay and we have significant productivity gaps with our competitors. This funding announcement provides no hope for people and employers to use skills training to improve productivity and thus improve pay. The Apprenticeship programme will help people entering new jobs, but does little for those already in work. Compounding all of this is the unsuccessful loans programme for people aged over 24 who want intermediate and higher level skills. These loans are not being taken up now and the growth set out in today’s announcement is unlikely to result in more people actually learning. More needs to be done to stimulate demand to make the loans regime work.

“My fear is that these cuts mean people’s ability to get on in life and work continues to be hampered despite the obvious return on investment to the tax-payer. It’s not fair for people, it’s not right for businesses and it doesn’t support the inclusive growth that politicians say they are seeking.”