The Association of Colleges has called on the government to “re-shape” adult education in England to place equal emphasis on higher-level technical and vocational routes.
Martin Doel, chief executive of the AoC, said colleges are “perfectly placed” to train adults to help solve the skills shortage, but need more money to do so.
He spoke out after a debate in the House of Commons yesterday in which MPs challenged skills minister Nick Boles on the significant cuts made to adult learning.
Funding cuts have led to a 35 per cent reduction in the adult skills budget over the past five years and the introduction of FE loans for students aged 24 and over has seen numbers of enrolments onto advanced and higher level courses decline by 20 per cent.
Mr Doel said: “The government needs to look at reshaping post-18 education to place equal emphasis on higher technical and vocational education, to ensure there are alternatives to the full-time, three-year academic route.
“The lack of budget already means that despite the efforts of colleges to sustain participation…fewer adults are now coming back to study.
“Colleges have expert teachers and state-of-the-art facilities and are highly regarded by employers; they need the tools to do this job which is so vital to economic regeneration, to individual prosperity and to community coherence.”
Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, called the Westminster Hall debate after becoming concerned about the situation in her own constituency.
She said funding had been “catastrophically reduced” and called on the minister to recognise the “vital role” of the FE sector for many adults.
“For many FE is a second chance at education,” she said. “Too often it is the Cinderella of education; it needs to be on a more stable footing.”
Mr Boles said the “substantial” cuts in the skills budget were a “sacrifice” for protecting the schools system.
But he said despite the reduced budget, funding for apprenticeships had been maintained.
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