Budget boost for education and training
In addition to the new jobs and training package for unemployed under-25s, the Budget included two other welcome initiatives that will help to counter unemployment by increasing education and training opportunities for young people.
The Chancellor announced that that the Government will be providing additional funding over the next two years (£250M this year and £400M next year) to ensure that it delivers on its guarantee of an education or training place for all 16- and 17-year-olds. This will account for an additional 54,000 places in FE colleges and sixth forms in England over the coming academic year, which will more than compensate for a funding shortfall that had arisen due to a previous under-estimate of the impact of the recession on rising student numbers.
In his speech the Chancellor also announced that the Government will be allocating ‘over £260M of new money’ on training and subsidies to help young people get training and work experience in sectors where there is likely to be strong jobs growth over the longer-term.
There were no substantive announcements in the Budget on new skills initiatives aimed at adult employees. However, this was hardly surprising considering that the Government has recently announced a number of changes to its Train to Gain programme – as a result of this and an extensive marketing campaign the budget for the programme is coming under severe pressure. It is crucial that the importance of safeguarding adult skills remains at the forefront of government policy alongside the new support for young people.
It is also welcome that the Budget included some partial respite for the problems arising out of the major shortfalls in the budgeting of the Government’s college building and renovation programme. An additional £300M has been allocated which will allow the Learning and Skills Council to fund a limited number of the college construction projects that had been mothballed.