The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) has used this party conference season to highlight the role of adult learning in today’s society, calling upon the government to increase their funding to this area in the 2013 Spending Review. According to NIACE, the UK spends less on F.E level education than many other nations do – just 1.3% of our GDP compared to the OECD average of 1.6%. NIACE claims that now more than ever, the benefits of adult education are needed, and cites the following reasons as justification for the increase in funding:
A) Our Longer Working Lives: as people adapt to longer working lives, the idea of continuous education becomes more pertinent. The old adage of a ‘job for life’ is no longer relevant to the working situation of most of us – we will need to retrain and learn new skills in order to maintain a positive contribution to the workplace. Adult education is a vital part of this process.
B) The changing face of technology: as technology becomes an integral part of so many aspects of the workplace, it is of utmost importance that the working population stay on top of the changes and developments in technology.
C) The Current Economic Climate: supporting adults in their learning, and therefore enabling them to adapt to the changes in the workplace (both at home and internationally), will help sustain an economic recovery.
D) The Impact on Families: NIACE is soon to report on the impact of adult learning on the family as a whole, making clear the positive contribution that adult learning can have not only on the adult themselves, but on their children. An investment in adult learning would help to improve living conditions for whole families at a time, giving children the start in life that they deserve.
The responsibility for adult learning is not, however, placed entirely on the government’s shoulders. NIACE, an independent, non-governmental organisation, recognises that the responsibility for gaining and utilising workplace skills is also shared between the adult learners, their employers, and the education providers. But an increase in funding would send a clear message that adult learning is a priority, and would provide support for the employers and providers who, in turn, would then support the learners to reap the benefits that further education can bring.