Speech at Debate on Education: Autumn Conference!#LifeLongLearning

F19: Education is for Everyone: Investing in Further Education and Learning Throughout Life

Investment in education and training for skills development is essential to boost growth and competitiveness: skills determine our capacity to increase productivity and act in an increasingly globalized world.

In the long-term, skills can trigger innovation and growth, move production up the value chain, stimulate the concentration of higher-level skills and shape the future of our labour market.

The quality of education and supply of skills has increased worldwide but in the UK, as we learned, annual funding for a student in 16-19 education has fallen by 18 per cent in real terms since 2010 and two in five further education colleges are in deficit.

The Adult Education Budget has been cut in real terms since 2015 and less than two per cent of the Government’s education spending is for adult learners. This is unacceptable.

In consequence, our education and training systems continue to fall short in providing the right skills for employability. Our education systems are not working adequately with business or employers to bring the learning experience closer to the reality of the working environment.

Our call is to:
 – Introduce a universal Personal Education and Skills Account (PESA) for adults in England.
 – Make three payments into an individual’s PESA when the account holder turns 25, 40 and 55.
 – Make additional payments in response to certain life events (e.g. redundancy), to combat socio-economic inequality, and to encourage workers to retrain into shortage occupations.
 – Offer tax relief or match funding to incentivise account holders and their employers to pay into their PESA.
 – Encourage local authorities and city regions to make discretionary payments into PESAs to incentivise education and training in their areas.
 – Enable account holders aged 25 or over to use the money saved in their PESAs to pay for any accredited education or training course.
  – Provide free careers guidance to anyone wishing to use the money in their PESA to support them to choose a course that will help them achieve their personal or career development aims.

This is just a beginning. Much more needs to be done if we want to shape a competitive global economy.

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