Government needs to invest in adult learning now more than ever

26th September 2013

Adult learning supports a stronger economy, promotes social mobility and is vital for the UK’s prosperity and wellbeing. These are the arguments NIACE is making to politicians and delegates during the party conference season.


David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:


“Our current economic challenges combined with an ageing population mean people will have extended working lives, learning throughout which has never been more important. However, the UK spends less on tertiary-level education than most other competitor nations. We are calling on Government to increase investment, both public and private, from the current 1.3% of GDP to the OECD average of 1.6% by the end of the next Parliament.”


NIACE’s policy asks for the party conferences detail the role of adult learning for learners, families, employers, localities and a changing society. NIACE asks that:


  • For learners – those with the greatest needs continue to be supported to learn in order to contribute and participate in all aspects of society.
  • For families – family learning integrated into policies and strategies across Government to allow both children and adults to learn and thrive.
  • For employers – a shared responsibility between government, employers, providers and learners for gaining and utilising workplace skills.
  • For localities – strategies for learning and skills based on a local area assessment of the skills needs of all adult learners, including those outside the labour market.
  • For a changing society – greater recognition across government of the on-going learning needs of adults created by longer working lives, changing job roles and new technologies.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, continued:


“We made the case for increased investment in learning for adults as a contribution to the 2013 Spending Review, whilst acknowledging that investment in learning for adults is a shared responsibility with individual learners and employers contributing as well as government. The NIACE message is simple: Government investment in adult learning has fallen, but its benefits are needed more than ever.


“The learning needs of adults must get more recognition as learning will help people adapt to longer working lives, change job roles and learn to use new technologies. This will not only assist a sustained economic recovery, but will also help to create a just and more tolerant society. We look to Government, both as a funder of adult learning opportunities and as an enabler, to support and encourage employers and learners to invest and participate in learning.


“A particular focus for us this autumn is around families. The NIACE Family Learning Inquiry, which will report in mid-October, will set out the contribution that family learning has on both the parents and significantly on the success and achievement of their children. Our Inquiry will make specific recommendations for both policy and practice to ensure that all children have the best start in life and that the inter-generational legacies of poor literacy and numeracy are eradicated.


“What’s certain is that adults who take part in learning can take control of change rather than simply being subject to it. This is better for them as individuals and for their families, their workplaces and the communities they live in.”