Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn spells out his vision for FE, which would include a 2 per cent increase in corporation tax to expand lifelong learning.
Further education has a vital role to play in creating a good economy.
Education is not only about personal development, it is also a collective good that benefits our society and economy.
We all benefit from a more educated and skilled workforce. That is why I set out how we could scrap university fees and restore grants, and why I have set out a plan to move towards a National Education Service that sees education as an investment.
We start a long way from where we want to be: George Osborne is taking us in entirely the wrong direction.
The adult skills budget has been slashed by 40 per cent since 2010 and more cuts are coming this year. The cuts are staggering not only in their scale, but also in their gross irresponsibility.
Cuts to FE courses also narrow the opportunities of those currently awaiting their GCSE results.
A country that doesn’t invest in its people has taken the path of managed decline. The only global race we will win is to the bottom.
In a fast-changing world where new technology is making new industries and making others obsolete, we need lifelong learning that offers new skills and understanding throughout our working lives.
The UK already lags behind countries like the US, Germany, Japan and France on productivity.
How can we build and expand the sectors of the future, with the skilled workforce that requires, if we cut back on opportunities for lifelong learning?
In 2020 we should start by reversing the cuts to the adult skills budget and expand it into a lifelong learning service by adding 2 per cent to corporation tax (still comfortably the lowest in the G7).
This funding would be hypothecated to expand adult learning into a lifelong learning education resource.
The best employers understand the business case for investing in staff — in increased employee productivity and staff retention — and that’s why it is right to ask business to pay slightly more in corporation tax to fund it.
The extra tax revenues brought by a high skill, high productivity and high pay economy will fund further expansion.
This will give working age people access throughout their lives to learn new skills or to re-train.
In a return to ambitious joined-up government, Jobcentre Plus needs to work with colleges to offer claimants opportunities to improve their skills, rather than face the carousel of workfare placements, sanctions and despair.
While slashing college funding, George Osborne boasts of increasing apprenticeships.
Yet too many are low quality, failing to give young people the transferable skills they need to get on.
So colleges should work in partnership with employers to accredit apprenticeships and courses that offer high quality transferable skills.
Reversing further education cuts is the first stage in developing a lifelong learning service for a lifetime of opportunity.
Investing in education is key to a more prosperous future for all.
We must also value the staff who deliver that future, by ending the public sector pay cap and fairly rewarding staff.