I’m delighted the Chancellor has faced up to skills challenges of Brexit

In the AoC’s pre-Budget evidence (Spring 2017 Budget submission) we said “…..the Government needs to properly resource education both for young people making the transition into work and also for adults in the workforce who deserve skills support to aid their progression and success.”

We asked for fair funding for colleges. So, I am delighted that the Chancellor has listened; for too long, technical skills and education have been overlooked when investment in education is being considered; this announcement will make a significant and positive difference.

Over the next few years there will be an injection of £500m per year in supporting young people to learn the technical skills they need to be successful in work. There is also welcome support, in the form of maintenance loans, for adults wanting to re-train and a pilot scheme to test new approaches to lifelong learning.

It would be all too easy to see this as jam tomorrow, to meet the needs of the JAMs (just about managing), but that would be churlish.

The fact is, this investment is a vote of confidence in colleges who are ready to work with employers to co-design the new routes, deliver the 900 hours per year and help more young people make a smooth and successful transition to work and to higher level learning.

Of course, colleges would prefer funding increases immediately, but the Government’s finances will result in very few new funding commitments this week or even this year. That means we should welcome the investment and continue to work closely with DfE officials to get this change right so that it delivers for young people and adults.

The announcement certainly signals a step-change in thinking, backed thankfully by proper  investment  which will put us on a par with our international competitors. The current offer to 16-19 year old in academic as well as technical education falls far short of the offer in other countries – 600 hours rather than 900 – 1000 hours in many others.

I am delighted that the Chancellor has listened

We also know that many young people become motivated by experiencing the world of work, so the funding to support work placements is critical to the success of this investment. We will be working hard with our partners to secure the 180,000 work placements of 1 to 3 months which are needed to ensure that technical education is truly occupation focused.

I have seen so many young people learn from a work placement why good literacy, numeracy and communication skills are important, and it does motivate them to achieve and progress in learning.

The Chancellor is right to highlight the need to improve productivity, address regional inequalities and help adults re-train and learn new skills. There will not be enough young people entering the labour market to meet the potentially widening skills gaps and shortages. Finding ways to support adults is a crucial component of our education system and it is a woefully under-funded and overlooked need.

The extension of maintenance loans to adults on pre-degree part-time skills courses is essential to widen access and I look forward to helping the Government design and deliver the pilots for lifelong learning.

Our collective challenge is to find ways to stimulate demand for learning amongst adults and then be creative about how we can offer opportunities in ways which fit in with peoples’ lives and work.

Post-Brexit Britain will need more self-sufficiency in developing skills and people will need the confidence, support and opportunities to adapt and change over 50+ year careers. This announcement is a good down-payment to help develop a new and better system over the next decade.

We will be working with Government to help design that system and implement the changes needed over the next couple of years. We will also keep reminding them of the funding challenges colleges face and the need to address fair funding for academic routes and for adult learning.

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