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Government urged to boost funding for further education

19/10/2015

Calls have been made for up to half a billion pounds from the budget for universities to be ploughed into improving further education.

Think-tank Policy Exchange says the move would help to provide more opportunities for workers to learn the technical and professional skills needed in sectors such as construction.

Its report – called Higher, Further, Faster, More – was funded by the CITB and Wates Construction.

According to the research, funding for higher education (HE) has risen by 26% since 2009/10, meaning universities are sitting on £13.3 billion of unrestricted reserves.

Meanwhile, further education (FE) has seen a significant reduction in investment over the same period, with the adult skills budget falling by 24%.

The report suggests that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills could take £532 million from the budget for the Higher Education Council for England and use it to boost the FE sector.

Such a move could improve the quality of technical courses at FE colleges, national colleges and institutes of technology, and help to strengthen the workforce in industries including construction.

Steve Radley, Director of Policy at the CITB, says: “This report offers a radical rethink of the way education funding is allocated.

“The UK lags behind the rest of the world in terms of how many of us undertake vocational education after secondary school.

“Just 10% of 25-40 year olds in the UK have a post-secondary vocational qualification, which pales in comparison to the US where 22% of the labour force has similar qualifications.

“Industry needs a reformed FE sector to provide the skills needed for productivity and growth. It is vital that we find the most effective way for FE to deliver this.”

Policy Exchange’s report highlights that in London and the South East alone, a fifth more construction staff will be required by 2017 compared with 2010-13, with skilled workers in particular demand.

It also cites research from the Royal Academy of Engineering stating that the UK needs some 830,000 more engineers by 2020 to keep the economy moving.

Further proposals to stimulate the FE sector include extending the student loan system and maintenance support so they can be used by young people heading into institutions like FE colleges.

The think-tank points out that this would mean all students having equal access to financial support, whether they go to university or choose a high-quality technical pathway.

Jonathan Simons, head of education at Policy Exchange, said: “The case for training and for skills has never been more important – to help create three million apprenticeships, to fuel the Northern Powerhouse, to boost social mobility and to drive economic growth.”

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