8 March 2017 - Spring Budget - areas particularly relevant to CEIAG

This week’s spring Budget (8 March 2017) included a number of points that are relevant to the provision of careers education, information, advice and guidance. You can see the full spring Budget document on the .gov.uk website.

Here are some of the points from the Budget that we think are particularly relevant to us in providing CEIAG. The biggest of the issues as we see it is the emphasis on new “T-levels”, including allocating funding for them.

trianglesThe UK employment rate (the proportion of people who could work and are in work) reached a new record high of 74.6% in the three months to December 2016. The unemployment rate in that period was 4.8%, which is the lowest in 11 years. (See section 2.3 of the Budget.)

This is against a background of the UK’s ‘productivity gap’ problem. Workers in many other industrialised nations (including Germany, the Netherlands, France, and the US) produce a lot more value per hour than we do in the UK. And while other countries’ productivity on this measure is improving, the UK’s is in danger of flat-lining. (For details, see the Office of National Statistics reports on productivity.) Where productivity per hour is lower than in other industrialised nations, that puts downward pressure on pay per hour.

Improved training is important in forging our way out of this problem, and in particular, training in technical disciplines. Upskilling the UK workforce, to be more productive. So it is against this background that the Budget includes significant announcements on ‘T-levels’. For more about this, and the recommendations of the Lord Sainsbury panel behind it, see the DfE and BIS Post-16 Skills Plan of July 2016. This includes an implementation and delivery timeline on page 44. Standards are being developed now for first delivery of courses in September 2019. The document also details how The Institute for Apprenticeships is to become the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, with a remit to encompass all technical education.

trianglesIn Wednesday’s Budget, the Chancellor pointed out that employers consistently cite a lack of skills as a major concern, and was a bit rude about the current provision: “England’s technical education system is confusing for students, with around 13,000 qualifications available – many of them of little value.” (section 5.3) Hammond’s budget goes on to make this announcement:

“T-levels: 16-19 Technical education – The government will deliver the recommendations of Lord Sainsbury’s panel. The government will increase the number of programme hours of training for 16-19 year olds on technical routes by more than 50%, to over 900 hours a year on average, including the completion of a high quality industry work placement during the programme. To ensure the routes are well-designed and colleges properly prepared, they will be introduced from 2019-20, increasing funding in line with this roll out, with over £500 million of additional funding invested per year once routes are fully implemented.”

There is a lot of devil to be seen in the further details and practical implementation, which we await. If it turns out as expected, this programme represents a significant reversal of the cuts to Further Education seen in recent years.

Other funding changes announced (or re-announced) in the Budget that are relevant to training and education include:

  • Maintenance loans to be available to Further Education students. “From 2019-20, the government will provide maintenance loans, like those available to university students, to students on technical education courses at levels 4 to 6 in National Colleges and Institutes of Technology. This will also support adults to retrain at these institutions.” (Section 5.3)
  • More detail on the previously-announced policy of making maintenance loans available to part-time Higher Education students. “To promote equality with full-time undergraduate study and support lifelong learning, the government confirms the terms of maintenance loans for part-time undergraduates, previously announced at Spending Review 2015. These loans will become available for degree level study in 2018-19, with an extension to distance learning and sub-degree study in 2019-20.” (Section 5.3)
  • Confirmation of the previously-announced policy of loans for study at PhD level. “The government confirms the terms of doctoral loans for 2018-19, previously announced at Budget 2016. These new loans will provide up to £25,000 for doctoral study and have the potential to reach a wider range of students and research than before.” (Section 5.3)
  • An announcement of £90m for “...an additional 1,000 PhD places in areas aligned with the Industrial Strategy. Around 85% will be in STEM disciplines, and 40% will directly help strengthen collaboration between business and academia through industrial partnerships. A further £160 million will support new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers in areas aligned to the Industrial Strategy.” (Section 5.5) Details awaited as to how exactly this money will be allocated.

As ever, the Budget includes a lot of aspirational statements, and paints in broad strokes rounded to the nearest ten million. It also includes some re-statement of policies from previous statements and budgets. We expect implementation details in the coming weeks and months. Meanwhile ‘T-levels’ are the ones to watch (14-19 Diplomas re-visited?), with potential for widespread impact on CEIAG.

For more about options for training routes and funding, see the factsheets in Jed, Higher Ideas, and businessmaker+.  We review and update these throughout the year.

That’s our take on the parts of this week’s Budget that we think are particularly relevant to CEIAG, and hope that may be helpful in your work in this vital area. We welcome any comments or feedback you may have.

Last updated 12 March, 2017