From education to employment

Bill Rammell announces free tuition for level 3 qualifications

Adults under the age of 25 who have missed out on education and training opportunities will be able to get free tuition to obtain a first, full level 3 qualification, equivalent to 2 A levels, from this August.

The new entitlement for the key intermediate technician level skills employers say they need, will provide routes back for those who left education early and want to return to improve their qualifications and job prospects.

Announcing the new entitlement Bill Rammell, Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education said: “The entitlement will encourage young adults to continue studying until they achieve the equivalent of 2 A levels and make sure they can get the qualifications to improve their life chances, social mobility and contribute to the economy.

“We need to recognise that many young people continue their initial education into their early twenties. It is important that we support them and help them succeed and progress on to higher education where they can.

“The Leitch Review of skills recognised the importance of raising the number of people qualified to A level equivalent. Higher intermediate skills are increasingly critical to the success of business and productive employment. We lag behind France and Germany in the proportion of our young adults achieving A level equivalent qualifications in their early twenties. Introducing a free entitlement up to A Level will help address this problem and bring us closer to a coherent package of support for learners up to the age of 25.”

Mark Haysom, Chef Executive of the Learning and Skills Council, said: “The introduction of the new entitlement will undoubtedly play an important role in helping young adults upgrade and develop their skills. Removing financial barriers will allow them to take the opportunity to prepare themselves for success in life through the education and training system, providing routes back for those who left education early and want to return in order to improve their qualifications and job prospects”.

The new entitlement will be available from August 07 through colleges of further education and other providers of high quality education and training who have satisfied the Learning and Skills Council quality assurance process and is expected to benefit some 60,000 learners in the next academic year.

Industry Reaction

The announcement was welcomed in some areas of the industry. An ALP spokesperson said: “This is excellent news to complement Gordon Brown’s commitment to funding 500,000 apprenticeship places. The challenge now is to construct a Foundation Learning Tier which enables more young people and young adults to go on and take advantage of the higher level entitlements, with work based learning being an integral part of the opportunities on offer.”

Others have questioned the budget to cover the new entitlement. Julian Gravatt, director of funding and development at the Association of Colleges, said “While we welcome the Government’s announcement to raise the age limit for free tuition for a level 3 qualification from 18 to 25, some colleges have expressed concern that the funding is not adequate to cover the entitlement. Because of the overall trend in the adult budget, it will leave some colleges having to cut other courses. AoC is currently collating information from a member college funding survey in order to build up a more comprehensive picture.”

Lawrence Miles of the IVA also welcomed the announcement with reservations: “I am pleased to see that Bill Rammell has started to embrace the mantra of our sector, Lifelong learning, lifelong learning, lifelong learning.

“Free tuition opportunities for adults who have missed out on training and education sounds like excellent news. There are many of us who would agree with Oscar Wilde who said,education is wasted on the young. Certainly the examples of those who have had a late flowering as a result of being able to access training and education for the first time in adulthood are innumerable.

However, it’s not a good day to find yourself 25 or over which I suspect is a statistically significant number of workers and seekers after work in our society. It might be a good starting point for Bill to build his case and empire for Lifelong Learning After 24.”

The scheme will be implemented in conjunction with the national roll-out of the Adult Learners Grant from August 2007.

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