Dramatic falls in learning require radical action

26th November 2014

The introduction of adult learning loans for those aged 24 and over has led to a dramatic fall in the numbers participating in learning. This, alongside fewer adults participating in other learning, will severely impact the prospects for long-term economic growth and for people’s ability to progress in their careers and in life.


According to the latest figures published today, the number of adults participating in Government funded learning in 2013/14, when compared with 2012/13, show:


  • an overall decrease in adults learning of 10.7 per cent;
  • a 17.9 per cent decrease in adults on level 3 provision – including 27.2 per cent fewer of those aged 25 and over;
  • a 27.3 per cent decline in adults on level 4+ provision – including 34.2 per cent fewer of those aged 25 and over;
  • a 13.7 per cent decrease in Apprenticeship starts – including 19 per cent fewer of those aged 19 and over; and a 29.8 per cent fall of those aged 25 and over;
  • a 9.3 per cent decrease in adults (19+) on English and maths (7.6 per cent drop in English; 10.1 per cent drop in maths; 4.8 per cent in ESOL);
  • an 8.7 per cent decrease in adults (19+) on level 2 provision; and
  • an increase of 6 per cent in OLASS (offender) learners.

Responding to these latest figures, David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:


“The situation is stark. There is a growing and powerful consensus emerging on the enormous skills challenge UK industry faces, supported by the CBI, OECD, UKCES, the British Chambers Commerce, the Skills Commission, CAVTL and more. Today’s overwhelmingly disappointing figures reinforce our call for urgent and radical action to address skills gaps and skills shortages.


“Our warnings about the impact of loans for those aged 24 and over learning at Levels 3 and 4 have so far gone unheeded. I want to repeat again that opportunities are reducing for people to get on in work and in life. And the impact for employers means that skills gaps and skills shortages will remain, because there are not nearly enough young people entering the labour market in the next 10 years to fill the anticipated vacancies. There needs to be urgent action from Government to address this serious decline and we call on them to delay, indefinitely, any plans to extend loans to other provision and other age-groups.


“We need a major, independent review into the long-term skills needs and funding issues facing the UK over the next 20 years. This has to be an urgent priority for the next Government. Aswell as skills gaps and skills shortages that employers are desperate to fill, we have low productivity, an ageing population and poor social mobility.


“Ensuring people stay in work longer and progress in their roles is absolutely critical. We need a whole range of opportunities from Traineeships and Apprenticeships, up to Level 4 and beyond. The solution to this is to support, encourage and incentivise people and employers to see skills training as the solution to long-term, secure and thriving careers and businesses.”