New Tricks: Innovative approaches to lifelong learning

Cameron Tait

Big cuts to adult skills budgets since 2010 mean UK workers are falling behind their European counterparts when it comes to building new skills for the changing world of work.

A new report from the Changing Work Centre (a joint initiative between the Fabian Society and Community union) and the German think tank the FES shows:

  • The UK plunged to ninth place in the EU lifelong learning league table in 2016, five places lower than 2010
  • The proportion of adults aged 25-64 participating in adult skills training fell from 20 per cent to 14 per cent between 2010 and 2016
  • The adult skills budget in England was cut by more than 30 per cent between 2010 and 2015

The report argues that the end of free movement of labour following Brexit could expose this underinvestment as employers will be less able to use foreign labour to fill skills gaps. Other countries are already making major investments in adult skills and without UK investment, the gap could widen.

New Tricks sets out five ways the UK can establish a genuine lifelong learning culture and rise up the league table. These lessons are inspired by innovative approaches to lifelong learning in Singapore, Germany, Australia, Austria and France. The report argues the UK government should:

  1. Extend its national retraining scheme to include every sector
  2. Look again at individual learning accounts after abandoning them sixteen years ago
  3. Establish a new employment insurance to cover living costs during training
  4. Introduce a right to request training leave after a year of employment and a mandatory career interview every two years
  5. Invite the Labour party to take part in cross-party talks on establishing a lifelong learning strategy for the next two decades

The research report says the government must act now to prepare the whole workforce for industrial change and ensure the UK remains globally competitive.

Source: data from Eurostat ‘Participation rate in education and training (last 4 weeks) [trng_lfse_01]’ 2010 to 2016



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