The government’s aim to boost economic growth is at variance with steep cuts to the Adults Skills budget. The Skills Funding Agency adult skills budget, which funds both apprenticeships and other kinds of adult learning courses, stands at just over £2billion in 2015/16; this is an 11% reduction in funding from 2014/15, and a 35% reduction since 2009. Because the government has chosen to protect the apprenticeships budget (£770m), actual funding for non-apprenticeship adult learning in 2015/16 will fall by around 24%.
At the same time, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) talks of a ‘skills emergency which could starve growth.’According to their 2015 survey,The demand for higher-level skills in British industry is set to grow in the years ahead, with sectors central to future growth, including manufacturing and construction, particularly hard-pressed.
Despite that budget cuts have lead to reductions in the number of students aged 19 to 24 taking courses such as construction, engineering and in the creative arts as a result of recent cuts. They argue that these areas are crucial for economic growth, so it is vital that these courses are not lost. Education for adults is particularly important in the context of longer working lifetimes and an ageing population where people may take on multiple careers or need to cope with technological change. And yet the number participating in full Level 2 courses fell by 11.2%, in Level 3 courses by 17.9% and in Level 4+ by 27.2% between 2012/13 and 2013/14