ASL0012

Written evidence submitted by the Department for Education

 

Further written evidence for the Education Select Committee Inquiry into Adult Skills and Lifelong Learning

What are the benefits of adult skills and lifelong learning for productivity and upskilling the workforce?

Our adult skills system seeks to improve social inclusion, employment and productivity. It supports people who are starting out in their careers, those who want to upskill and those who want or need to change careers.

There are some adults who lack the English, Maths or Digital skills they need to thrive in work and life. Securing good standards of these skills helps adults to find employment and improve their earnings over time[1], facilitates progression to further leaning, and helps individuals to fully contribute economically, socially and politically. The Government currently funds English, Maths and Digital provision so that adults can access learning to develop these essential skills.

People are working longer: the retirement age has gone up and the OECD reported that ‘the average age of exit from the labour market is at its highest since before 1970’ (OECD, Fuller Working Lives). Moreover, automation and technological change will increasingly change sectors and occupations. As people work longer and jobs change, they need to be able to adapt to changes in the labour market to stay and progress in employment. In addition, Covid-19 is going to have wide impacts on the economy with unemployment set to rise. Adult education will be vital to ensure that we can support those adults who face losing their jobs through upskilling and retraining.

This means that the adult skills and lifelong learning education and training that people undertake once they leave formal full-time education becomes more important. We have undertaken extensive user research and testing whilst developing the National Retraining Scheme. The research and the pilots we have conducted are providing valuable evidence about how we can support adults and employers, helping to inform the design of initiatives such as the Skills Toolkit launched during COVID lockdown, as well as the forthcoming National Skills Fund investment and other reforms to adult skills training and provision.

Skilled people can do tasks more quickly or to a higher quality, do more complex and demanding tasks, and they can help develop smarter ways of working and drive innovation.  Therefore, adult skills and lifelong learning can also be an important driver of productivity.[2]  We have a range of provision available to help adults to increase their skills, including apprenticeships, further education and higher education. 

Adult skills and lifelong learning provision is education, advice and training for adults (19+) who want to upskill, reskill or move into employment. Adult skills and lifelong learning provision includes:

 

 

 

Improvements in adult skills have positive productivity benefits for their employers. Estimates suggest that the productivity gains from training are around twice the size of the wage gains.[7]

Through the provision of all these different initiatives, adult skills and lifelong learning also has significant positive labour market impacts for its learners. Estimates of the labour market impacts of different types of qualifications for adult learners are summarised below. [8][9][10]

 

Age 19-24

Age 25+

 

Increase in earnings

Increase in probability of being employed

Change in probability of being in receipt of active benefits

Increase in earnings

Increase in probability of being employed

Change in probability of being in receipt of active benefits

Below level 2

5%

0pp

0pp

1%

0pp

0pp

Level 2

5%

2pp

-1pp

1%

1pp

0pp

Full Level 2

10%

0pp

-2pp

8%

2pp

-1pp

Level 3

6%

2pp

-1pp

3%

1pp

-1pp

Full level 3

10%

1pp

-2pp

10%

2pp

-1pp

 

Apprenticeship level

Increase in earnings

Increase in probability of being employed

Change in probability of being in receipt of active benefits

Level 2

11%

0pp

-3pp

Level 3

16%

0pp

-2pp

Within these averages there is a significant variation, for example by subject of study (Construction typically results in higher wage returns than Hair and Beauty) and learner characteristics (men and younger learners tend to get higher wage returns than women and older learners). [11]

 

As well as the positive labour market impacts for learners, a high number also go on to progress to further learning. Of the 1 million learners that completed an eligible learning aim in academic year 2016/17, 24% were in sustained learning in the following year, 14% were in sustained learning and employment.[12]

 

We have recently published the Further Education (FE) Skills Index to show how the aggregate value of the skills supplied by the FE system each year has changed over time. The Index takes an estimated ‘value add’ for all adult learners in England who have successfully completed their training : [13]

We have recently published the Further Education (FE) Skills Index to show how the aggregate value of the skills supplied by the FE system each year has changed over time: 12 The index, covering both apprenticeships and classroom-based learning, decreased each year from 2012/13 to 2016/17, with a slight rise in 2017/18 followed by a steeper fall in 2018/19. Within this: 

 

 


What are the benefits of adult skills and lifelong learning for social justice, health and well-being? 

 

Adult skills and lifelong learning is an important opportunity for learners to build character and resilience, improve well-being, and for some, to engage with education and training for the first time after school. There is good evidence of wider benefits of adult skills and lifelong learning (health, employment, social life, community), some of which support significant fiscal savings across Government.

 

A BIS review and update of research into the wider benefits of adult learning (beyond financial benefits such as increase in wage premia and productivity) [14] found that adult learning has its greatest impacts in the domain of health and wellbeing, while the impacts on civic participation and attitudes are less pronounced. Some of the findings of the review included that there were:

 

Econometric analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing[15] estimated that informal learning or gaining a qualification had an equivalent impact on wellbeing as moving from the bottom to the middle quintile of the wealth distribution.

 

Another study[16] estimated that the life satisfaction increase from taking one work related part-time course was equivalent to an increase in income of £754 per year.

 

The Learning & Work Institute’s survey of adult learners[1] (2018) surveyed over 5,000 adult learners across the UK. Some of the most common benefits of learning reported by respondents included improved skills needed to do job (31%), improved confidence at work (23%), improved self-confidence (24%), and increased productivity at work / their work is of a higher quality(17%).

 

 

 

Who currently participates in and benefits from lifelong learning? 

 

Data on participation in any adult learning from the Adult Participation in Learning Survey

 

For over 20 years, Learning and Work Institute (L&W) has undertaken an annual survey of adult participation in learning. The Adult Participation in Learning Survey 2017[17] found that 19% of adults were currently participating in some learning activity and a further 17% had done some learning in the last three years. However, the proportion of respondents who had engaged in learning in the last three years (37%) was the lowest since the survey began36% of adults who took part in the survey said that they had not engaged in learning since they left full time education. These can be broken down into the following demographics:

 

 

Participation in government funded adult Further Education (FE) and Skills

 

Government funded adult Further Education and Skills provision supports learners of all ages to engage in learning through both accredited and unaccredited learning.  Whilst those from higher socio-economic groups are more likely to engage in adult learning in general, those engaging in government funded adult Further Education and Skills provision are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2018/19, 31.1% of learners engaged in government funded adult Further Education and Skills provision were from the 20% most deprived local areas.[18] Learners are also more likely than the general population to have an ethnic minority background and 17.8% had disabilities or learning difficulties.

 

In 2018/19, 2,068,200 adults aged 19+ engaged in Further Education and Skills provision.[19] Of these: [20]

 

Demographics

 

 

Type of learning

 

 

Levels

 

In 2018/19, there were 295,700 apprenticeship starts by apprentices aged 19+.[24] Apprenticeship starts are more likely to be by learners living in the most deprived areas - in 2018/19, 22.0 per cent of apprenticeship starts came from the most deprived fifth (20%) of areas[25]

 

Higher education

 

 

Government has made a number of changes to support part-time and mature learners. These include:

 

Postgraduate study benefits individuals and the UK as a whole. In addition to the personal, social and cultural benefits of a postgraduate degree, this level of education boosts earnings, contributes to higher employment, provides a well-educated and highly-skilled labour force that attracts employers, and increases tax revenues for the Exchequer.

 

 

What role can local authorities/combined authority areas play in adult skills and lifelong learning provision?

 

Local authorities can play a key role in delivering adult skills provision and received a significant proportion of Adult Education Budget funding in the 2018/19 academic year.[33] 

 

From academic year 2020 to 2021, the 7 mayoral authorities and the GLA, to whom AEB is has been devolved, have to ensure that learners aged 19 and over in their area who are eligible for funding have access to appropriate education and training.

 

Government is committed to ensuring local areas have an active role in shaping the skills provision that is available in their area in order to meet their specific local economic challenges. Local and combined authorities have a significant role in the provision of adult skills and lifelong learning due to their ability to have a greater understanding of local needs.

 

DfE has supported local areas to create Skills Advisory Panels (SAPs), which bring together local employers, skills providers, and other key local actors (e.g. Job Centre Plus) to influence local skills provision by providing high quality intelligence on local labour markets and skills needs. SAPs will address both immediate needs and challenges and look at what is required to help local areas adapt to future labour market changes and to grasp future opportunities. Each SAP has been allocated £75,000 per annum to build their analytical capability and build their influence through sharing their analysis locally, including in 20-21 through the publication of their first Local Skills Reports.

 

 

To what extent is the range, balance and quality of formal and informal adult skills and lifelong learning education adequate?

 

As detailed in earlier questions, there is a good range of adult skills and lifelong learning education available to adults. However, we recognise that adult participation has decreased in recent years as funding pressures have increased on the AEB and on wider FE funding.  There are also some differences within particular groups: for example, younger adults are more likely to engage in learning than older adults; women are more likely than men to have participated in learning in the previous three years; and white adults are more likely to have not engaged in any learning since leaving full-time education.[34]

 

We want to make certain that the funding system supports providers to deliver excellent provision for people of all ages.  We are reviewing the range of adult skills provision, including how these are best funded

 

We recognise the impact of coronavirus will increase unemployment and there is an opportunity to increase our online and blended skills offer.

 

The Skills Toolkit: In April, we launched The Skills Toolkit – a new online learning platform to help people boost their skills while staying at home. The 17 courses on The Skills Toolkit give people access to free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses – covering everything from everyday maths to an introduction to data science. The platform brings together great materials from leading providers such as the Open University and Microsoft. These materials help people build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects. We will shortly be expanding the platform to add a wider range of courses and reach a greater range of learners.

 

We are also working to address this by introducing the legal entitlement to fully funded specified digital qualifications.

 

Over the course of this Parliament, we are providing £2.5 billion for the National Skills Fund to help people learn new skills and prepare for the economy of the future. The fund aims to boost productivity and it presents a great opportunity to use the evidence we have gathered so far, to create a more coherent and less complex system that learners, providers, local areas and employers can more easily understand and navigate.

 

We are developing detailed proposals for the fund at pace, including considering how it could link to wider departmental COVID-19 recovery. We have looked to build on our existing evidence base and explore the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown has had on the online training market and adult participants.

 

As part of the coordinated government approach to the significant issues we could face, we will continue to review how this situation develops and work across government to understand how the National Skills Fund can best meet the needs of the adults and businesses.

Building on what we have learned from extensive user research and engagement through the National Retraining Scheme, we will look to test different delivery models as we develop, to ensure the fund meets the needs of both businesses and individuals.

 

Funding for individuals in receipt of a low wage

 

Learners in receipt of low wage (£17,004 annual gross salary or less) who would otherwise be co-funded, are eligible for full funding through the ESFA AEB, following the earlier low wage trial that operated in 2018/19 and 2019/20. This directly supports social mobility by enabling those that have been motivated to move out of unemployment and are low paid/skilled, to further progress.


Retraining Scheme

 

We have taken a user-centred, test and learn approach to developing the National Retraining Scheme, starting small and developing products iteratively. Through this approach we have been exploring online training and in-work technical training alongside testing the first part of the scheme, Get Help to Retrain.

 

To date, over 2,700 users have accessed Get Help to Retrain. The digital service helps users to understand their current skills, explore alternative occupations that they could do and find and sign up to the training they need to access opportunities for a broad range of good jobs.

 

The extensive user research and testing we have undertaken whilst developing the National Retraining Scheme provide valuable evidence about how we can support adults and employers and will help inform the design of future adult skills provision.

 

Learning from previous Government interventions in this complex space, our test and learn approach to developing the National Retraining Scheme has meant starting small and developing products iteratively. This approach allows us to pivot and adapt to changing needs.

 

Adult English, maths and digital entitlements

 

The Government provides full funding for specified qualifications in a range of English and maths courses up to GCSE level through the Adult Education Budget. In 2018/19 the Government provided full funding for 360,300 adults to participate in English courses up to Level 2, and for 364,000 to participate in maths courses up to Level 2[35]. We have improved our qualifications offer through Functional Skills reform in English and maths. This has ensured these qualifications are more rigorous and better recognised by employers.

 

We have also introduced the new digital skills entitlement. Digital skills are as important to employability and participation in society as English and maths, yet an estimated one in five adults lack essential digital skills. Lloyds Banking Group UK Consumer Digital Index 2020 estimates that 11.7 million adults (22%) do not have the essential digital skills they need for life, and 17.1 million (52%) of working age adults do not have the essential digital skills they need for work.[36]

 

To address this, from August 2020, alongside the existing legal entitlements to English and maths, the Department for Education introduced an entitlement to fully funded digital qualifications. Adults with no or low digital skills will have the opportunity to undertake new improved digital qualifications free of charge. The digital offer will comprise new essential digital skills qualifications, available from 2020, from entry level to level 1.

 

These will be based on new national standards, published in April 2019, which set out the digital skills people need to get on in life and work. The standards are based on the Essential Digital Skills Framework and were subject to extensive consultation and input from a wide range of education, industry and digital inclusion stakeholders. Examples of new topics include using different devices, navigating the internet and protecting privacy online.

 

 

What lessons can the UK learn from abroad?

 

Empowering people with the skills they need for the changing world of work is a global challenge. There are disparities between how the wider skills systems work in different countries and no country has entirely solved the best approach to lifelong learning.

 

However, we have sought to understand how other countries are addressing this challenge, and where there has been any evidence of success. Although this is not an exhaustive list, these are some examples of different approaches from abroad:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As part of the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, the department commissioned a research report comparing different systems of international post-compulsory education.[37] The report evaluated provision of post-compulsory education in ten countries, synthesising and critically evaluating information on topics including the educational choices offered to individuals after they complete compulsory education, how these are funded, the financial support systems available to students, student satisfaction, institutional performance, adult learning, and others. The independent panel drew on this research and other international comparators in preparing their report. For example, the panel’s report makes references to the flexible lifetime loan entitlements in Australia and New Zealand and the ‘skills account’ offered to adults in Singapore; the system of FE college funding in Ontario, Canada; international approaches to maintenance support; and differences in drop-out rates in England compared to other countries.[38] 

 

September 2020

16

 


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-education-qualifications-in-maths-and-english-returns-and-benefits

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-skills-and-productivity-in-an-international-context

[3] An explanation of the different qualification levels can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/what-different-qualification-levels-mean/list-of-qualification-levels

[4] These mayoral authorities are Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands and West of England

[5] The low wage trial enables providers in receipt of ESFA funded AEB to fully fund learners, who are employed and in receipt of a low wage and cannot contribute towards the cost of co-funding fees. The low-wage threshold is £16,009.50 in 2019/20. 

[6] https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/

[7] https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/3409

[8]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/383646/Estimation_of_the_labour_market_returns_to_qualifications_gained_in_English_Further_Education_-_Final_-_November_2014.pdf

[9] A full level 2 qualification is equivalent to 5 or more GCSEs at grades 4-9. A fully level 3 qualification is equivalent to 2 or more A levels.

[10] Increase in earning, increase in probability of being employed and change in probability of being in receipt of active benefits are the average impact 3 to 5 years following the course of study.

[11]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/480627/BIS-15-652-FE-analysis-further-disaggregation-employment-and-earnings-returns-by-sector-group.pdf and https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/481777/BIS-15-661-impact-of-skills-and-training-interventions-on-the-unemployed-phase_II.pdf

[12]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/856797/FE_OBSM_Main_Text.pdf

[13] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-education-skills-index

 

[14] BIS, 2012, Review and Update of Research into the Wider Benefits of Adult Learning

[15] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/learning-and-wellbeing-outcomes-among-older-adults-in-england

[16] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/valuing-adult-learning-comparing-wellbeing-valuation-and-contingent-valuation

Further education: outcome-based success measures 2016/17 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/further-education-outcome-based-success-measures-2016-to-2017

[17] https://www.learningandwork.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Adult-Participation-in-Learning-Survey-2017.pdf

[18] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fe-data-library-further-education-and-skills

[19] This includes: Apprenticeships, Workplace Learning, Community Learning, and Education and Training provision (including the Offenders’ Learning and Skills Service) taken at General Further Education Colleges (including Tertiary), Sixth Form Colleges, Special Colleges (Agricultural and Horticultural Colleges, and Art and Design Colleges), Specialist Colleges and External Institutions.

[20] Numbers of learners in each type and level of provision add up to more than the total number of learners engaged in Further Education and Skills provision because some learners engaged in more than one type or level of learning in 2018/19.

[21] Education and training covers further education learning delivered mainly in a classroom, workshop, or through distance or e-learning. It includes traineeships and offender learning. It does not include apprenticeships or community learning.

[22] A full level 2 qualification is equivalent to 5 or more GCSEs at grades 4-9. A fully level 3 qualification is equivalent to 2 or more A levels.

[23]  https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/further-education-and-skills-november-2019

[24] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/further-education-and-skills-november-2019

[25]https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fe-data-library-further-education-and-skills

[26]Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2018/19, Figure 4https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/sb255/figure-4

[27] “Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2017/18, Figure 4 https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/sb255/figure-4

[28] “Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2018/19, Figure 13 https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/sb255/figure-13

 

[29] Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2018/19, Figure 4 https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/sb255/figure-4.  2010/11 data has been calculated to include English centres of the Open University for comparability purposes.

 

[30] Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2018/19, Figure 4https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/sb255/figure-4

[31] Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2018/19, Figure 3 https://www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/sb255/figure-3

[32] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/student-support-for-higher-education-in-england-2019 Table 6A (i)

[33] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/funding-allocations-to-training-providers-2018-to-2019

[34] https://www.learningandwork.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Adult-Participation-in-Learning-Survey-2017.pdf

 

 

[35] Table 6: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/848350/Further-education-and-skills-November-2019-main-tables-final.xlsx

[36] https://www.lloydsbank.com/banking-with-us/whats-happening/consumer-digital-index.asp

[37] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/international-comparison-of-post-compulsory-education-systems

[38] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/post-18-review-of-education-and-funding-independent-panel-report