From education to employment

The sector’s response to the budget

Experts have deemed Wednesday’s budget as a ‘missed opportunity’ by the government in dealing with problems within the current education system.

The comments come after the Chancellor George Osborne announced the budget declaring: “This country borrowed its way into trouble. Now we’re going to earn our way out.”

The budget includes plans to significantly cut corporation tax for businesses over the next two years and to expand upon the enterprise guarantee scheme which facilitates bank lending to Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs).

CEO and Director General of awarding body City & Guilds, Chris Jones, said: “Whilst we welcome measures to give businesses the support they need to create additional jobs for our economy, yesterday’s Budget marks a missed opportunity for the Government.

“In the midst of the largest youth unemployment crisis we have faced in decades, the Chancellor’s budget neglected to tackle the root causes of the problems within the current education system and the impact of this on the growing UK skills gap.”

Osborne highlighted the importance of continued investment in apprenticeships and their benefits for both employers and young people during his speech.

Mr Jones however, believes that apprenticeships are being seen as a ‘fix all solution for getting young people into work.’

He added: “It was right to highlight the importance of continued investment in apprenticeships and their benefits for both employers and young people.  However, there’s a real danger in seeing them as the fix all solution for getting young people into work. The enterprise loan scheme for young people is also all very well but we lack an education system that can help nurture these budding entrepreneurs. The Government should be focusing instead on addressing the failing national curriculum as a matter of urgency to improve learners’ skills and give them the relevant tools to ensure they’re prepared for the world of work.”

Following on from the National Audit Office’s report on adult apprenticeships in February, which highlighted an increase of 151,500 new adult apprenticeships in 2010/11, Osborne announced the government’s plans to stand by its commitment to the current programme through to 2014-15.

CEO Association of Employment and Learning Providers Graham Hoyle welcomed the announcement and said that it was interesting that the government had made this decision before the Commons Public Accounts Committee had given its verdict on whether the recent growth in adult apprenticeships justifies the state’s investment.

Mr Hoyle said: “This welcome announcement implies general recognition within government that apprenticeships are about improving the skills of all the workforce as opposed to simply a jobs creation programme for young people, however important that contribution may be.

“We are having a good debate about ensuring that apprenticeship training is of good quality but we might have been in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater when the scale of identified poor provision has been shown to be so small.”

Linsey Humphries

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