NIACE Summer Budget response
Responding to today’s Summer Budget, David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:
“The Chancellor made a great start to his speech today when he admitted that as a country, ‘we do not train enough’. However, despite all the emphasis and rhetoric on a low tax, higher wage and low welfare economy, he is clearly leaving the detail on skills and learning until the publication of his Productivity Plan on Friday. This will, we hope, recognise the invaluable contribution the FE sector must play in transforming our economy.
“Securing investment from employers through the Apprenticeship Levy is a great move if it leads to increased employer investment in skills and more employers taking on apprentices but quality of, and access to, Apprenticeships have to improve at the same time.
“Apprenticeships are not enough though to fill skills gaps and drive productivity. People already at work need training and for those in low pay many need basic and digital skills. We need to address low-level productivity in retail and care as much as we do in engineering and manufacturing. For the 5 million people in low pay the Productivity Plan will need to a new offer of training and support because an apprenticeship will not be available to them.
“The plans for further devolution to Greater Manchester and the ambition towards devolution deals to further areas across the North are vital if we are to achieve the truly joined up local commissioning that’s needed on employment support and employer engagement in skills.
“Funding maintenance support for full-time higher education students through loans underlines the need to safeguard the student opportunities fund to ensure that rising student debt doesn’t start to impact on opportunities for disadvantaged students. We strongly urge the Chancellor to use this opportunity to extend maintenance support to part-time students and for those in FE, arresting the dramatic decline in part time learning over recent years.
“Despite some eye-catching (new national living wage for over 25s, for instance) and detailed (cuts to tax credits for instance) announcements, we will have to wait until Friday to find out what he plans to do about the ‘failing skills system’. We will soon learn how the in-year cuts of £900m to DfE and BIS will be achieved – 16-19, 19+ further education and higher education are all in line for more tough news.”