The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has announced that funding rates for its adult education budget (AEB) programmes will increase by 10 per cent this year.
Colleges and providers will see the increase “throughout the 2022/23 academic year” the combined authority has said.
The move, estimated to cost around £10 million, will be welcomed by colleges and training providers battling increasing running costs due to soaring inflation, sky high energy bills and staffing pressures.
This will add to pressure on the government to increase adult education funding rates nationally, as well as other mayors with devolved budgets.
Non-devolved adult education funding rates have not increased for over a decade.
Proposals to reform adult education funding in non-devolved areas, administered by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, have been delayed to 2024/25. Those reforms promised boosting funding rates for “priority” courses.
The rise in the West Midlands is more than double the increase announced by the Mayor of London earlier this year for some adult education programmes serving Londoners.
In a statement today, the WMCA has said it is increasing AEB funding rates to “strengthen the financial resilience of providers, ensuring they can continue to design and deliver new training programmes that help residents gain the skills needed to find a new or better job”.
There are currently 27 colleges and local authorities in receipt of AEB grants through the WMCA, with a combined pre-increase total of £101.7 million. A further £21 million is allocated to 40 training providers through contracts for services.
The mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, Andy Steet, is currently locked in negotiations with the government for even further devolved powers over skills. New “trailblazer” deals for the West Midlands and Greater Manchester are expected to be revealed in January 2023.
Speaking to FE Week last month, the West Midlands Combined Authority said they were in negotiations for “greater influence over post-16 technical and vocational education and over careers, as well as joint working with DWP in shaping employment support”.
Street said today’s announcement to increase AEB funding rates will be a boost to the region:
“By supporting our education providers in this way, we’re backing the valuable work they do to equip our residents with the skills they need to be able to access high quality employment.
“Given cost pressures providers have been facing in recent months – for materials, wages, utilities and facilities management – I’m glad that we’ve been able to extend a helping hand at this time as we continue in our efforts to build a brighter future for local people.”
The West Midlands was one of the first combined authorities to receive powers over a devolved adult education budget for its residents in August 2019.