Insight from Laura Rowan, Director of Adult Education at The City of Liverpool College
Adult education remains as fundamental a part of further education (FE) as ever, with over 1.5 million adults enrolled into FE or skilled training in the UK in 2021/22. Whether people are looking to upskill in their current career, start a new venture or change direction entirely, adult education is more popular than ever.
In 2020, the adult education sector was labelled ‘the crown’ and community learning its ‘jewel’ by the Education Select Committee. But despite this and its growing demand, government spending on adult and community education by councils in England fell from £395 million to £311 million per year between 2013-14 and 2019-20, representing in a drop of 21%.
At The City of Liverpool College, we believe everyone should have access to quality education and training, whatever stage of life they are at. The benefits of adult learning are plentiful, not only for people, but for communities, businesses, and the economy. The world in which we live and work is changing all the time, impacted by advancements in technology, the research and guidance of practices, professional guidelines, societal changes and the culture of work.
Education plays a vital role in improving an individual’s outlook and their overall life chances, as well as enhancing a business’s workforce and skillset. Here are just a few reasons why investing in adult education is so important.
Helps build a solid career
Demand in the UK’s labour market is growing. Businesses now require more than a university degree from their employees. Employees are now expected to know a little bit about a lot of things relating to their industry and workplace. Adult education is a great way to achieve that.
At the College, we have a real laser focus on developing our curricular around sustainable careers, not courses, embedding the development of wider skills, knowledge and behaviours into teachings to support successful entry into maintained employment.
FE and training courses allow employees to evolve, produce better results, and increase their employability and promotion opportunities, all while accommodating adult learners needs and existing commitments. The opportunity to join short courses with flexible delivery means more adults can take advantage of such training and education despite external factors which prevent full time being an option, such as other work and family.
Essential to developing new skills or retraining
One of the key roles of adult education is to enable workers to develop their skills and acquire new ones. In the wake of the economic crisis, it gives people aged 18+ a chance to retrain, gain new skills and knowledge and stay up to date with industry needs.
Being able to access FE is particularly important for adults in disadvantaged groups, and those who may not have had access to the best quality education at a younger age.
When attempting to build a solid career, sometimes retraining is not just an option worth considering, it’s an essential. Due to the evolution of technology, many jobs require individuals to be tech-savvy; those who aren’t will either need to learn, or train into a different route.
Enables people to keep up with changes
With new technologies emerging almost daily, the world of work and the skills required to thrive in it continue to change. Understandably, it can be hard to keep up, especially for those who were not brought up in the digital age.
With the population getting older and tech playing a significant role in most, if not all, industries, adult courses offer a highly effective way of learning and staying up to date with the latest developments, giving adults the opportunity to keep informed of trends and remain in tune with the forever changing working world. This offers ample business benefits, as it enables employers to grow their own talent and workers will always have the up-to-date skills they need to be innovative and bring new ideas to the table.
Addresses skills shortages
The UK has a growing problem with adult skills shortages, which are more apparent in technical areas. Access to Higher Education, apprenticeships and vocational courses for adults provide a fruitful resource for upskilling, retraining and creating skilled workers who are prepared for a smooth transition into industry.
Adult education courses are designed to offer an answer to both current and future skill shortages by equipping the ageing workforce with the skills and knowledge to adapt to the ever-changing nature of business. This also broadens the job prospects and opportunities available to workers, providing access to lifelong learning and valuable qualifications which will ultimately lead to better quality jobs with higher salaries.
Supports social mobility
The 2021 Social Mobility Commission (SMC)’s State of the Nation report stated that “across the UK there are already signs that attainment gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged children are getting wider”. It also noted that “good quality training can help adults escape low paid jobs”.
To increase social mobility, we need to look beyond schools and universities, and invest properly into adult education. Adult learning and apprenticeships can help address low levels of social mobility by supporting adults to upskill.
Adult education plays a vital role in raising productivity, strengthening community cohesion, increasing social mobility, reducing unemployment and inactivity, enhancing progression into well-paid jobs, extending working lives, tackling health and mental health issues, and attracting inward investment.
An investment in adult education is an investment in transformative change in the UK. If the labour market is to work for everyone, those with lower skills and qualifications need to be able to improve their career prospects and realise their ambitions through access to FE and training opportunities. Colleges and educators must be enabled to continue to provide high quality education and skills training for adults.
To find out how your business can benefit from adult education at The City of Liverpool College, visit: https://www.liv-coll.ac.uk/course-finder/adults/