From the TUC

CSR 2010 and skills – adults take the hit

20 Oct 2010, by in Working Life

The announcements on further education and skills in the comprehensive spending review indicate that, by and large, adult students and older employees will feel the brunt of cuts to provision. The apprenticeship programme aimed at young people is the clear winner with a commitment to fund an additional 75,000 places for people aged 19-25 at an extra annual cost of £250M by the end of the spending review (i.e. compared with the long-term plans of the previous government).

There is also a more general commitment to fund an increase in all kinds of education and training provision for 16-19 year-olds, which includes those staying on at school and others attending college or taking up apprenticeships.  However, there is a sting in the tail for young people with the announcement that Education Maintenance Allowances, which provide means-tested financial support for 16-19 year-olds, will be replaced with ‘more targeted support’ that will result in a cut of half a billion pounds. 

It is estimated that the FE and skills budget will be cut by around 25% and in light of the commitment to increase spending on young people, it does not take a trained economist to conclude that the over-25s will more than bear the brunt of the cuts. Some of the main cuts include the ending of the so-called “Level 2 entitlement” for those aged over 25 which in recent years supported large numbers of employees to achieve the vocational equivalent of 5 GCSEs.  This entitlement had been largely delivered in the workplace via the Train to Gain programme, which as anticipated will be abolished.

The TUC had been calling on the government to retain this individual entitlement even if Train to Gain was abolished on the grounds that the state had some responsibility to support employees to achieve this skill standard if their employer refused to do so. However, we do recognise that there was evidence that the Train to Gain programme was afflicted by a degree of deadweight (i.e. it was funding some employers who would have delivered this training in any case) and that this had to be tackled.

On a more positive note, it does look like the government remains committed to the principle of providing an entitlement to training for adults lacking basic skills, an area where union learning representatives have played a pioneering role.

Other major announcements in the spending review include requiring all FE students aged 24 and over to pay fees for any level 3 courses (i.e. A-level equivalent) and introducing HE-style student loans to try and deal with the disincentives that would arise out of asking young adults to pay these fees upfront. 

According to the Association of Colleges this radical change to the funding system for college students will not be implemented until around 2013. The clear message in the spending review is that individuals and employers will have to contribute much more for training courses in the future to compensate for cuts to state provision.  However, it is hugely disappointing that there is much less detail about how employers will be forced to make a larger contribution beyond the rather vague proposal that the government will explore “mechanisms to increase employer contributions such as voluntary [our emphasis] training levies”.

4 Responses to CSR 2010 and skills – adults take the hit

  1. Dom
    Oct 21st 2010, 11:10 am

    Unless I’m mistaken, the first two paragraphs are mostly incorrect/mistaken. The £250m is for Adult Apprenticeships – i.e. over 25s.
    And while there there is some funding towards the (previous govt’s) commitment to Raising the Participation Age, there will be “unit cost reductions in the 16 to 19 participation budget”. So young people are by no means the victors here (which is not to imply that adult learners are either).

  2. Iain Murray

    Iain Murray
    Oct 21st 2010, 12:43 pm

    The term “adult apprenticeships’ is misleading as it does imply provision for the over 25s. In reality it refers to apprenticeships for 19-25 year-olds that are funded by DBIS which is responsible for “adult skills” (i.e. post 19). DfE funds apprenticeships for 16-19 year-olds and related provision for this age group. There is little or no state funding now for post-25 apprenticeships although the previous government did provide some small-scale funding in this area. The Association of Colleges concurs with our analysis (see footnote in their press release, available at http://www.aoc.co.uk/en/newsroom).
    I agree that the overall announcement on increasing places for 16-19 year-olds is not a case of them being “victors”, as changes to unit funding and the ending of EMAs demonstrate. However, on balance, skills funding for the over-25s will be reduced to a greater degree than the funding provided for people aged 16-25. This is partly due to the decision to abolish Train to Gain provision, which benefitted older employees, and to redirect some of the savings to fund additional 19-25 apprenticeships.

  3. Dom
    Oct 21st 2010, 1:44 pm

    Thanks for your reply. I have been pretty confused by the ‘Adult Apprenticeship’ term, so a colleague phoned the National Apprenticeship Service, who confirmed that the new additional 75,000 adult apprentice places are for adults aged 25 and over.

  4. Iain Murray

    Iain Murray
    Oct 21st 2010, 5:18 pm

    I have approached DBIS officials asking for further clarification on the definition of ‘adult apprenticeships’. Their response was that the additional funding for adult apprenticeships announced yesterday refers to all apprentices aged 19+ but this does include those aged over 25 as well. So I was wrong (as was AoC) to say that the additional spending on apprenticeships was restricted to those aged 19-25. The official said that in the past the government had capped the numbers of apprentices aged over 25 that received state subsidy to ensure that the largest proportion of state funding went to the 19-25 cohort. He was unable to confirm the funding breakdown over the coming years but said that more detail will be published by DBIS next month.