Further education boosts the economy, states report

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Further-education participants generate an additional £75bn for the economy over their lifetimes, with apprenticeships generating around £40 for each pound of government investment, according to new research.

The study, commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) examined the economic value generated by government-funded post-19 qualifications — including apprenticeships, National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) undertaken in college and workplace settings and Basic Skills qualifications.

The estimates were calculated using data from the cohort of learners that started qualifications in 2008–09.

Key findings include increased wages and improved employment prospects for individuals, as well as benefits to employers stemming from increased productivity; with apprenticeships adding the most value on average, compared to other learning streams.

Vince Cable, secretary of state for Business, Innovation & Skills, said: ‘Further education is a fundamental part of this government’s growth strategy. We have committed to funding at least 250,000 more adult apprentices over the next four years… We have also freed the sector from a number of unnecessary bureaucratic burdens so it can better respond to the needs of learners and businesses.’

Ann Watson, managing director of awarding organisation EAL (EMTA Awards Limited), said: ‘The report states that, compared to other learning streams, an apprenticeship adds the most value of all FE qualifications, which is a case in point for the government increasing funding for apprenticeship places.

‘In order to maximise its investment, it must ensure that training is linked to higher level skills, particularly in the engineering and manufacturing/building services sectors, and tailored to the needs of employers.’

Separately, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network (STEMNET) is said to be uniting with representatives from a range of businesses to appeal for more employers to put resources into engaging young people with STEM subjects.

Executives from companies including Drallim, ARM, AstraZeneca, Jee, RWE npower, GlaxoSmithKline and Siemens have all joined STEMNET in stressing how important it is that employers get directly involved in supporting and developing tomorrow’s workforce.

According to STEMNET, there is a consensus from employers and government that skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) are essential to securing the future success of UK industries.

‘It’s clear that the big growth areas in the coming decades are going to be those that require proficiency in STEM skills,’ said STEMNET’s chief executive Kirsten Bodley. ‘Whether that’s building giant wind turbines or microscopic electronic components, we will need a highly qualified and STEM-literate workforce. However, unless STEM-reliant industries play their part, we will struggle to reach the required level.’

STEMNET is currently calling for companies to get involved in The Big Bang London and South East, which will take place on 22 June at the Science Museum.