New OECD adult education figures should worry people: AoC Response to new OECD report

13 Feb 2019

Statement from David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges on the new OCED report Getting Skills Right: Future-Ready Adult Learning Systems, published Thursday 13 February 2019:

“We should all be worried about the latest report showing that we fall behind other OECD countries when it comes to the future readiness of our adult education system. Without a concerted effort by government, business, colleges and universities working together, we risk fewer nurses, fewer engineers, fewer builders and plumbers, and fewer opportunities for people to get on in life.

The UK has a fragmented post-18 system with apprenticeships, technical skills, retraining, adult education and higher education being too separate at national level and very difficult to bring together locally. Skills devolution is partial, and will not help with that joining up. For us to compete on a global scale, we need to focus on a system that trains and educates people so that they have resilience, curiosity, problem-solving and other skills that are fundamental in a modern economy.

The adult education budget has been decimated over the last decade, with 68% fewer adults enrolled on health and social care, and engineering, including plumbing courses, and a 37% drop in adults on construction courses. If government is serious about competing on a global scale, with no person left behind then they need to urgently invest in adult education before we fall even further behind the rest of the OECD.”

- David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges

Some useful context:

  • 2.2 million people study and train in colleges in England each year, including 1.4 million adults

  • 1.02 million people studying or training in colleges in England are over the age of 25

  • In the last ten years we have seen total enrolments for adults drop from 5.1m to 1.9m. A drop of 62%. Including:

    • Qualifications for health and social care workers drop by 473k. From 692k to 219k. A drop of 68%.
    • Qualifications for construction workers drop by 36k. From 98k to 62k. A drop of 37%.
    • Qualifications for engineers (including plumbers and electricians) drop by 98k. From 145k to 46k. A drop of 68%.
    • Qualifications in IT have drop by 790k from 885k to 179k. A drop of 89%.
    • Qualifications in business/admin have drop by 107k, from 246k to 139k. A drop of 44%.