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Careers of the future without the courses

25 March 2015

In December last year, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills published an interesting report, ‘Careers of the Future’. This identified the 40 top jobs, within 10 occupation areas, that will be crucial for the UK over the next decade and into the future. Amongst them are health and care and information technology. Not very surprising, you may say – what with an aging population, and a global market that is now heavily reliant on IT solutions for effective working. The problem, however, is that our research has found that these are the areas that will be hardest hit by the decimation of the adult skills budget. We’ve found that over the next year alone 190,000 adult learning places will be lost because of the 24% funding cut announced a couple of weeks ago. Health, public services and care courses could see a reduction of over 40,000 places and ICT courses could lose over 10,500 places. This can’t go on. Without the contribution that colleges make to retraining individuals, or ensuring that existing employees are up to date with the latest innovations in their sector, this country would not have made it out of the recession as well as it has. Instead of funding cuts, improving skills provision should be at the top of the political agenda – beyond simply increasing the numbers of apprentices. In our manifesto, we are calling for the Government to build greater equality into the education system, by introducing education accounts for all students aged 19 or over. These will include contributions from the Government, individuals and their employers and would ensure that all adult students, whether at college or university, have equal access to loans and grants. Over the past few years, the college sector has been hit disproportionately hard by the funding cuts imposed – both to 16-18 funding and for 19+, and it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Colleges have met these challenges head on and have overcome the initial difficulties but even this most resilient and resourceful sector is having difficulty in coping with an aggregate cut in adult education of over five years of 40% in cash terms, and more in real terms. But this can’t go on forever. Our message to the politicians of whatever colour, or combination of colours that make up the next Government, is simple – if you want a thriving UK economy in the future, you cannot keep cutting the funding of those who are responsible for building the skills of the employees. Adult education and training is too important to be lost.