Skills provision must not be forgotten in the Spring Budget

Posted by Beth Anderson

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, will deliver his Spring Budget on 15th March 2023, setting out his spending priorities for the year ahead. At Tribal, we understand that education providers struggle to reach objectives given the challenge of supporting learners, staff, and the broader team through the cost-of-living crisis.

Apprenticeships are key to the economy’s growth, aiding local employers to achieve their goals and supporting local and wider initiatives. We contacted Chief Executive, Jane Hickie from the Association of the Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) to understand what she hopes to see from the budget and the importance of supporting apprenticeships. 

"The good news is that – according to Resolution Foundation figures – improvements in the economy mean that government borrowing should come in at £30bn lower than expected over this financial year. Yet with inflation still running high, his main concerns will be to ensure people are protected from the harshest extremes of the cost-of-living crisis without adding further inflationary pressures.

Extra skills investment needed in the Spring Budget

No doubt that will see some support for families, and possibly even an attempt to resolve public sector pay disputes. However, the Chancellor must not fall into the trap of short term thinking, and forget to invest in areas of public spending that will result in faster growing economy later down the line. After all, it is growth in the economy that will allow us to ultimately escape the cost-of-living crisis – and that means finding ways to close the skills gap.

At the start of the month, we joined the Future Skills Coalition day of action in Parliament to highlight the need for the Chancellor to “Mind the Skills Gap”. The Future Skills Coalition is a group of organisations working together to highlight how properly investing in our skills system can help to resolve the skills shortages we see across the country. The day saw us join with the Association of Colleges and City & Guilds to bring together politicians, college leaders, learners, employers and providers to re-emphasise the coalition’s three policy aims: the need for a national strategy supporting local, inclusive growth; a right to lifelong learning free from restrictive constraints; and fair, accessible and effective funding.

Apprenticeships are a great way to close the skills gap

Apprenticeships remain a crucial element of upskilling and reskilling the workforce, and increasing their uptake should be a central plank of any strategy to close the skills gap. Not only do they help to generate economic growth; they’re valued by employers; and they’re good for the individual undertaking an apprenticeship too. But to increase the number of people taking on an apprenticeship, we need a strong, sustainable apprenticeship system. That requires action in this week’s budget.

We’re calling on the Chancellor to use his Spring Budget to set in motion moves to deliver that sustainable system. That will require extra funding – for example we need to see a minimum funding baseline for apprenticeships. This could be done by bringing forward the planned increase to the apprenticeship programme budget, and using some of that increase to implement a minimum annual funding baseline across apprenticeships between level 2 and level 7. We would also like to see targeted incentives for young people by funding 16-18 provision from the DfE 16-19 Budget, so there is no longer any need for employer co-investment.

Ultimately though, high inflation rates are putting pressure on providers at a time we need a really strong skills sector. The time it takes to review government funding rates is still causing major issues – timelier funding reviews must be put in place. We should speed up the capacity and process of reviewing all funding bands, and all apprenticeship funding bands should be reviewed at least once every two years.

Extra funding will help to address the problems providers are having recruiting and retaining staff. Currently, providers are seeing experienced staff return to industry where they can earn more. But in addition to extra funding, we also need to ensure the FE workforce have the right skills to deliver high-quality training too. That’s why we would like to see mandatory participation for all apprenticeship training providers on the new Apprenticeship Workforce Development Programme.

There aren’t many people who’d want to be in the Chancellor’s shoes delivering a budget in such tricky circumstances, but this week is an opportunity to set Britain on a path towards delivering long-term sustainable growth. That will, of course, mean supporting families through tough times but the Chancellor must not forget the role of skills provision in delivering growth.”

If you’re a provider looking to maximise your investment in technology to help support your apprentices’ learner journey, Tribal can help.

Tribal partners with apprenticeship providers to deliver programmes that drive positive outcomes and support the learner journey through our apprenticeship management solutions. We have built on our sector-leading regulatory capabilities and comprehensive student management solutions to enhance how we can empower your users to deliver apprenticeship programmes with a specific focus on engagement and progression tracking.

Get in touch with our team to find out more.


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