Sector leaders warn that funding cuts will hinder apprenticeships

Sector leaders have warned that the government will fail to meet its target of 3 million apprenticeships if it goes ahead with significant cuts to the adult skills budget.

In 2015-16, the adult skills budget is to be cut by 24%. Chancellor George Osborne has also announced two further cuts, each amounting to £450 million, from the budgets of the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “It is not enough to say we care about further education and we want to protect it. What we need, as of today, are positive, substantial commitments from… MPs to say they will do everything they can in the chamber, with this government and with the relevant [government] departments to lobby on our behalf to protect [colleges].

“Unless we have that success, we are going to find that we have people who are unable to have the life chances that every single person in this country has the right to expect. We are not going to be able, if we do not succeed, to pull this back in a way that will allow people in even six month’s time to have the same chances that people do now.”

Niace chief executive David Hughes said: “We have to have opportunities for people to come back into learning. The cuts, we think, mean that, increasingly, lifelong learning will just be the preserve of the privileged few.”

ATL deputy general secretary Peter Pendle said: “FE has already been battered by excessive cuts, and these further budget reductions look like nothing less than a deliberate attempt to destroy the sector.

“The government should get its priorities right and help vulnerable young adults to get into work. It needs to stop wasting money on school places where they are not needed and focus attention on a sector that increases productivity otherwise 400,000 learners will lose out.”