From education to employment

The system of adult education in the UK is in urgent need of reform

Ian Pretty, CEO at Collab Group

@CBItweets recent report Learning for life: funding world class adult education, shows that – based on analysis by @McKinsey & Company – nine in ten employees will need to reskill by 2030 at an additional cost of £13 billion a year: 

The system of adult education in the UK is in urgent need of reform and the CBI highlight some thought-provoking recommendations to address this.

In the current economic climate, focussing on retraining and upskilling will be crucial.

We agree with the CBI that a focus on supporting providers to develop “more flexible, bite-sized learning” will be important. Collab Group has advocated for the adoption of more flexible modular provision to support people to retrain.

Such an approach will not be relevant in all cases where retraining is required. But we do urgently need to think differently about how incentives and funding streams can better enable short, sharp training interventions that recognise transferable skills and their relevance within different occupations and economic contexts. 

Government needs also to urgently look at how it funds company certified training courses in sectors with high labour demand to retool people and get them back into work.

We are also very supportive of the recommendations to turn Job Centres into Jobs and Skills Hubs.

These proposals align with our thinking about how the FE Sector can think differently about the support provided to job seekers in the current labour market. The focus needs to shift away from focussing on indiscriminate job progression towards a much more supportive and holistic model in which people are offered a range of services and support.

Such support should include skills diagnostic and triage services, careers information and advice and signposting to relevant training opportunities to boost skills and employment prospects.

Collab Group colleges are keen to work with stakeholders locally, as well as government and employers to develop these concepts further.

We are less convinced that a move from the apprenticeship levy to a broader skills and training would be the right approach at this time.

The overall point the report makes that employer investment in training since the levy was introduced has declined is well made.

The issue around how employers are able to support the reskilling of their workforce needs a clear policy response. However, it is our view that a move to dilute the focus of the levy would have a negative impact on the apprenticeship brand and the provision of apprenticeship opportunities for young people at levels 2-3.

The levy does need urgent reform, and many of the issues identified in the report are correct. However, we would need to ensure a policy response that increases the flexibility that business has to invest in their people while at the same time enhancing the opportunities that apprenticeships provide for early careers opportunities.

Ian Pretty, CEO at Collab Group

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