Investing heavily in adult education could help the UK to bounce back from the economic challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic and help the country deal with the unemployment crisis.
This is the finding of the Social Market Foundation think tank, which stated that cuts to adult education budgets over the past decade have resulted in many of those who are working in low-paid jobs being unprepared for the pace of workplace change.
FE News reported on the findings, noting that the think tank is calling on the government to invest £1.3 billion per year in adult education.
According to its research, workers who have undertaken adult education courses are much less likely to be unemployed than those who don’t carry out training once they are working.
With unemployment rates in the UK rising to 4.8 per cent as the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be felt, the Social Market Foundation stressed that without providing better training options to those who have lost their jobs, many will struggle to find future employment.
This is because many of the job losses have been in the hospitality and retail sectors, where workers tend to have lower skill levels.
As well as calling for a cash injection for adult education, the think tank also recommended an overhaul of the current system, stating that any changes should “give workers control over funds for learning, simplify training options”. It also added that the government should “launch a major publicity campaign to explain the benefits of improving skills”.
Helen Barnard, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which sponsored the research, commented: “With redundancies reaching a record high, we need to urgently invest in large-scale skills and retraining programmes to help adults who have lost their jobs access new opportunities.”
The news provider noted that a record 314,000 redundancies were recorded in the UK between July and September this year, with more expected to follow before 2020 is out.
According to the Social Market Foundation’s report, the government may also need to do more work with employers themselves, after it found that some employers see little benefit in providing training to their workers, with some of them even believing it could result in employees going elsewhere.
Adult education and further education providers themselves have faced significant disruption during the pandemic, with FE Week reporting that some are now submitting a business case to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to avoid having to repay some of their funding due to being unable to deliver courses this year.
In order to retain their full funding for the 2019/20 year, colleges must show they were able to deliver at least 68 per cent of their activity across the 12 months.
Those that have been unable to meet this will have to submit a business case to the ESFA to explain why they should be allowed to retain their full adult education budget (AEB) at this time.
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