Budget ‘missed opportunity’ to boost skills


Skills bodies have attacked today’s budget as a “missed opportunity” to address the country’s “low-skills crisis”.

Chancellor George Osborne’s last budget before the general election contained only one specific skills announcement – a voucher payment system for apprenticeships that was revealed yesterday.

David Hughes, chief executive of adult skills body Niace, said: “This budget is completely blind to Britain’s low-skills crisis and was the coalition’s last opportunity to reverse the damage done to adults participating in further and higher education.”

Mr Hughes said the decision to raise the tax threshold – from £10,600 this year to £10,800 next year – would do nothing to help the lowest-paid.

“With the adult skills budget being cut by 24 per cent this year, putting a million learning opportunities at risk, the prospects for people escaping low pay are even worse,” he added.

Mr Hughes questioned whether giving people more control of their pensions was a good idea when around one in four adults lacks everyday maths skills.

He also warned that the impact of the chancellor’s planned cuts could be “devastating”.

“The cuts since 2010 have already led to a loss of 1 million learning opportunities for adults, with another 400,000 to come next year,” he said. “I believe that we are in a skills crisis now, but those looming cuts really are frightening.”

Chris Jones, chief executive of vocational body City & Guilds, said that although the budget emphasised job creation, the growing skills gap would make it difficult to fill new jobs.

“The government has already invested significantly in apprenticeships, and that’s great, but they are only part of the solution,” he said.

“We need to go further to bridge the gap between education and employment.”

 Better careers advice based on market data on skills gaps was urgently needed, he said.

“Unless we do more to help young people develop the right workplace skills, vacancies will remain unfilled and skills gaps will deepen.”

Related stories:

New voucher scheme aims to ‘simplify’ apprenticeship funding for employers – 17 March, 2015

Adult skills budget cut by 11 per cent – 26 February, 2015

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