The Adult Education Budget funding level of £1.5 billion should be reviewed in light of Brexit and be used to guarantee a Citizen’s Skills Entitlement aligned with new personal learning accounts to stimulate learning demand from adults.
The decision to fix the adult skills participation budget outside apprenticeships at £1.5 billion was designed to support employer and individual investment in education and training at a time of considerable change. Government needs to provide support to courses taken by adults because apprenticeships are not always suitable and student loans will not be sufficient. Apprenticeships are focused on an individual’s current job so are not suitable for those wishing to change career. Apprenticeships are also confined to those in full-time work. As for student loans, they are only available for those taking courses at Level 3. There are nevertheless, a number of sectors which require a sufficient number of people with Level 2 skills.
Courses funded from the Adult Education Budget help individuals acquire basic and intermediate skills to get them into work. A key task in the next 12 months will be for colleges to work with LEPs, local government and others to work out the best way to use available funds. Planning should also start now on supporting workforce development in disadvantaged areas.
There is also a case for a more imaginative approach to adult education and skills. A recent report identifies six core capabilities needed for life and work: literacy, numeracy, digital, financial, citizenship and health. It describes them as a Citizen’s Skills Entitlement and estimates that an investment of £200 million a year could double the number of people accessing similar provision. The return would be an additional 280,000 people into work by 2030 compared to current approaches.
 Learning and Work Institute “Skills and Poverty” September 2016.