Heseltine Institute report calls for new approach to adult skills

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A new, localised approach to adult skills is needed to grow our economy, according to a new report by the University of Liverpool’s Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place.

The report, Place-Based Adult Skills and Training, published today, Friday 11 November, sets out how the current national approach to adult skills is too fragmented and limits the engagement of adult learners and employers.

Commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), the report found that although government investment has focused on level 3 Free Courses for Jobs provision (A-level or equivalent), there are millions of adults who are locked out of progressing to higher level training because they do not have a Level 2 (GCSE or equivalent).

Although increasing numbers of people have gained qualifications over the past two decades, the UK still faces a major challenge of low skills, with 16.2% of working age adults with no qualifications and 10 million adults lacking essential computer skills.

Lack of funding has also hampered adult skill levels, with the Adult Education budget halved in recent years and a 1.9 billion in real terms cut between 2009/10 and 2019/20.

To address this, the Heseltine Institute report makes the following recommendations.

  • Councils and combined authorities should fill the gaps in adult skills locally, with the Government devolving more powers to allow local partners to respond quickly to new labour market trends including digital, net zero and automation.
  • A greater focus needs to be placed on level 1 and level 2 qualifications through a new community skills function and funding available to councils to identify and encourage more adults into learning and onto good jobs fit for the future.
  • More in-work learning opportunities should be made avaliable to close the skills gap at work by providing increased financial incentives for employers to invest in skills and translate new skills into productivity growth.

Sue Jarvis, Co-Director of the Heseltine Institute and one of the co-authors of the report said: “If we want to our economy to grow, we need to equip workers with the skills they need to secure the jobs of the future.

“Our report has identified that to improve adult learning going forward, the government should take a local approach – devolving funding to allow councils to manage adult education budgets in their areas.

“Every area is unique and by adopting a place-based approach to adult learning, where local councils can target their resources and address local skills gaps accordingly, this will help boost prosperity and kick-start growth across the country.”

You can read the report from the Heseltine Institute in full, online here.