Think Tank the Centre for Social Justice released their 92 page report this week: THE LONG GAME How to reboot skills training for disadvantaged adults. This has 14 recommendations, which are listed below. We understand that the ‘new normal’ often translates as you are either working the hardest you ever have in your life, or you have more time on your hands than ever before.
If you are time poor, we have listed the 14 recommendations below. If you have a bit of time on your hands, here is the link to the 92 page report.
In the Centre for Social Justice report they have outlined several major barriers faced by disadvantaged individuals in the context of adult learning. However, this is not an exhaustive list of the issues at hand. In particular, the CSJ chose not to include an analysis of Apprenticeship policy, an increasingly important tool for adult training. With the reason for doing so, because they will soon publish a separate paper that focuses solely on apprenticeships policy.
Interestingly the report was originally drafted before the Covid Crisis. CSJ highlight that the jobs market will not resemble the one we previously occupied. Some furloughed employees will not go back to stable jobs and will need to retrain; between 18 May 2020 and 31 May 2020, 30 per cent of the workforce had been furloughed. Meanwhile, some others sectors have grown and individuals could retrain to seize new opportunities.
James Scales, Head of Education, Centre for Social Justice, frames the report in a blog: "As we emerge from lockdown, our jobs market will not resemble the one we previously occupied. Some sectors will take time to recover; some may never fully recover at all. But others will expand or evolve over time, and many people will need to retrain.
"In the medium term, replacement demand will drive new vacancies. And adults will need to adapt as we hurtle towards a tech-driven labour market: 1.5 million people are already employed in jobs that are at high risk of automation, the majority of whom are in lower-skilled positions.
"A strong training offer would also drive up living standards. The labour market is unforgiving for those who arrived underqualified. Yet a third of working aged adults in England are only qualified to full level 2 (GCSE equivalent) or below, and 11.3 million adults do not have the full set of basic digital skills.
"Despite the clear need for adult training – to navigate our way out of the pandemic; to profit from, rather than be supplanted by, technological change; and to raise people’s living standards – our current offer is stagnating.
"The overall number of adult learners dropped from 4.4 million to 1.5 million between 2003/04 and 2017/18. Community learning fell by 23 per cent between 2011/12 and 2018/19. And adult learning at the lower end of the skills spectrum has plummeted.
"But there is more still. In 2017, almost half of employers in England wanted to provide more training than they were able to offer. Employers also often struggle to find higher-level technicians. And the number of adults enrolling in part-time higher education has fallen dramatically.
"While this is bad for us all, it is particularly destructive for disadvantaged adults. These individuals stand to benefit most from skills development, but are the least likely to be training".
The 14 recommendations in the CSJ report - The Long Game:
Invest in community learning where there is unmet need; develop a stronger strategic approach to community learning; and simplify funding streams
Reinstate fee grants for employed 24+ learners who are studying towards their first full level 2 qualification; employed 24+ learners who are studying towards their first full level 3 qualification (restricted to qualifications that meet skills needs); and 19–23-year-old learners who hold full level 3 qualifications (restricted to qualifications that meet skills needs).
We strongly support the government’s pledge to offer people with low digital skills the chance to undertake entry level/level 1 skills training. However, to avoid crowding out other adult learning, this offer should be fully funded.
Consult employers, sector experts and labour market information to identify existing level 4 and 5 courses that are high quality, and formally recognise these as such. Give employers a greater role in formulating new qualifications.
Once the government has identified and accredited higher value level 4 and 5 courses, it should allow students enrolled on these courses to access the same student finance system that is available for ‘prescribed’ courses.
We strongly welcome the government’s election manifesto pledge to invest in FE colleges’ capital bases – it should ensure that a sufficient portion of these funds is allocated to capacity building at levels 4 and 5, specifically.
Introduce a ‘learning and skills tax rebate’ for employers who invest in low-skilled workers.
Reinstate tuition fee grants for disadvantaged part-time HE learners who study qualifications that meet skills needs.
Leverage access and participation plans to better support part-time HE learners.
Improve information flows for part-time HE learning and build a single UCAS application portal for part-time courses.
Focus part-time HE providers’ minds on childcare requirements where relevant.
Publish return on investment data for a broader range of courses and levels, including technical and vocational routes at all levels, and formulate a value-added metric for part-time, mature learning.
Update, and continue to refine, previous labour market analyses to provide cutting-edge data on current and likely future skills demands, and hardwire outcomes data into careers advice.
Offer workers at high-risk of losing their jobs, including those on furlough, the chance to assess their options and retrain where suitable.
The report has a really interesting foreward from Robert Halfon, Chair of the Education Select Committee:
"It is a sobering thought that, even before the problems hurled at our jobs market by Covid-19, so many adults struggled with basic skills. Astonishingly, over six million working aged adults in England are not qualified to level 2 (GCSE level). And yet our adult learning offer is fragile. This is one of the most pressing social issues of our time. Why? Because, as this CSJ report shows, adult training is a lifeline for people who left school under-qualified. More often than not, a poor start in school means a tough ride in life; millions end up in low-paid jobs, their prospects dragged into the quick-sand. Between 2006–2016, just 17 per cent of low-paid workers moved permanently out of low pay.
"As this report also highlights, things could get a whole lot worse. Covid-19 is already reshaping the labour market, and many people will need to retrain. And pandemic or no pandemic, the jobs market was already going to change radically: the march of the robots is coming. 1.5 million people are employed in jobs that are at high risk of automation, and low-skilled jobs are particularly exposed. With the destruction there will also be creation, but people will need to have the means to adapt.
"Despite the clear need for world-class adult learning, we’re letting our adult offer slide into disrepair. Take part-time higher education, where the number of adults enrolling has fallen by 70 per cent since 2009/10. Employer investment in training, too, is not what it once was – the proportion of employees who receive job-related training was lower in the last four years than at any point since the mid-1990s.
"But worst of all, we are not doing enough specifically for disadvantaged individuals. Adult training, it seems, is a higher earner’s game. Those who might benefit most from training are the least likely to be doing it. Almost half of adults from the lowest socioeconomic groups have not received any training at all since they left education. Even worse, this doesn’t look like it will change much anytime soon: only 12 per cent of adults with no qualifications say they are very likely to be given job-related learning in the next two to three years.
"So how can we make sure that those who are most vulnerable in the jobs market of today, and tomorrow, are able to thrive? The CSJ’s timely report is packed full of important ideas, at a time when, more than ever, people are going to need to reskill as we recover from Covid-19. I’d like to echo three in particular.
"First, we need to start small. Community learning centres are the local lifeblood of adult learning. They give low qualified people with tough personal challenges a platform to progress. Ofsted ratings are high; many learners build skills and move into better jobs; and there are well documented health benefits. You should see the centre in my Harlow constituency – it’s remarkable. However, we lack a helicopter view of the need for community learning; when I was skills minister, we didn’t even know how many centres 4 The Centre for Social Justice there were. And worryingly, the number of learners has dropped. We need a better steer on what exists, and whether it meets local need. I’d like to see an adult community learning school, working closely with local FE provision, in every town in the country that needs one.
"We must also re-energise employer-led training. This is a crucial engine for adult learning, and yet it has declined over the years. The government must find a way to support employers to invest in the development of their workers, and it can do that through the tax system. The government already gives employers R&D tax credits; it should introduce an equivalent skills tax credit for businesses (particularly SMEs) that are genuinely investing in skills and lifelong learning. This would have social justice right at its core: it would focus on training people with lower level skills, and would link the offer to emerging skills needs.
"And the government should nurse part-time higher learning back to health. Access to this flexible learning, which includes many technical options, has dropped at a frightening pace. This undermines organisations like the Open University and Birkbeck – bastions of social justice that make learning possible for many disadvantaged adults. Part-time learners are often more mature and tend to have financial commitments. Over a third have dependents to think about. And many are from modest backgrounds. We should reinstate fee grants for disadvantaged part-time learners who meet our skills needs.
"Ultimately, what we have to ask ourselves is this: do we want to live in a society in which today’s divisions escalate because people who have the most to gain from adult learning continue to be the least likely to access it? Or do we want to build something else? A society in which people have the tools to adapt and prosper in the face of adversity – whether that comes from a tricky past or an uncertain future. I know where I stand. And that’s why my colleagues and I in the Education Committee have launched an inquiry into adult learning."
Fiona Aldridge, Director of Policy and Research at the Learning and Work Institute said:
"The Long Game, rightly highlights the critical importance of ensuring that we all have opportunities to develop new skills and to retrain throughout adult life. Learning and Work Institute’s annual survey of adult participation in learning shows that we are a considerable way from achieving this. After a decade of decline in which we have seen the number of adult learners plummet by nearly 4 million, we agree that there is an urgent need for government to put lifelong learning and skills at the heart of its plan to rebuild and renew our economy.
"We are pleased to see a broad range of recommendations spanning basic skills & community learning to degrees & higher technical education. The report is clear that we need to do more to stimulate employer investment in learning, whilst ensuring that provision helps address skills needs within our economy. We welcome too consideration of how adult learners can be better supported through more flexible provision and financial support, removing those barriers that all too often prevent them from taking part.
"Even before the current crisis, our research showed that investment of £1.9bn per year could help another £200k people into work and boost our economy by £20bn per year. As we face an even more perilous set of challenges, the need for such investment is even more vital."