This report explores the extent to which London's further education system is enabling all Londoners to thrive in the city's competitive job market at a time of profound economic change.
Further education plays a vital role in the capital: it helps Londoners into better paid and more fulfilling work, and provides employers with the skilled workforce they need.
In the face of a looming recession, and social and economic disruption from coronavirus, Brexit and technological change, it is more crucial than ever.
But London is entering the recession with a weakened further education system…
- It is underfunded: spending on adult education, apprenticeships and other work-based learning for over 18s has fallen by 37 per cent since 2009/10.
- There are not enough learners: the proportion of working age Londoners in further education has fallen by 40 per cent since 2014.
- There are not enough new apprentices: London has half as many apprenticeship starts as the rest of the UK.
- It has not responded to employers’ needs: the number of learners and apprentices in areas with persistent skills shortages has not increased in line with employer demand.
Principles for reform
Without investment and strategic long-term thinking, the further education sector will not be able to support London’s recovery. The government can no longer afford to neglect it.
To respond to this, the government must:
- Introduce a support package for the further education sector, bringing funding closer to the higher education offer. This should include boosting teaching grants for subjects relevant to skills shortages.
- Make learning more affordable by offering free tuition for students studying for their first level 2 or level 3 qualification and a lifelong learning allowance for higher-level courses, available for adults without a publicly funded degree.
- Devolve the further education budget in full to London government, including funding for apprenticeships and 16-18 learning, to enable strategic oversight of the city’s skills provision and allow City Hall to set priorities that match London’s economic needs.