The Open University has joined forces with the Institute of Directors (IoD) to call on the Government to use the upcoming Budget announcement to "jumpstart" support for lifelong learning in the UK.
In a joint letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond, OU Vice-Chancellor Peter Horrocks and the IoD’s Director General Stephen Martin, urged him to recognise that improved skills training is key to future economic prosperity, and called for tax breaks for those “learning while earning” to be included in the UK Budget. They argued that a new system of Personalised Learning Accounts would be a constructive first step in helping to steer potential students from school to Further Education and on to Higher Education.
Joint letter to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond:
"Technological, demographic, political and economic changes are revolutionising the nature of employment and work. Some industries will inevitably decline while others are likely to grow and prosper, and the skills demands of employers will consequently change. We need to prepare our education and training system for these coming changes.
"Improving lifelong access to skills and education provision must therefore be a key priority for Government and should be front and centre of the upcoming industrial strategy. However, many of the current routes for accessing lifelong learning opportunities are expensive and difficult.
We urgently need to develop better pathways for individuals to continue in and to re-enter education and training. To do so, we should also recognise that the principal barrier to establishing a culture of lifelong learning in England is finance.
"We urge you to use the upcoming budget to jumpstart a change in the landscape for lifelong learning, in particular through developing practical criteria to enable employers and individuals to obtain an enhanced tax deduction for qualifying lifelong learning courses from accredited providers. These Personalised Learning Accounts (PLAs) would help support HE, FE and technical routes, increase competition, grow student choice and ensure that people and employers can get the right skills they need, at the right time.
"These changes should be a first step towards helping individuals across all sectors and skill-sets to safeguard their livelihoods against the pressures that our evolving economy are bringing to bear, whilst also equipping them with the tools to harness the immense potential of many of these changes."
Interview on BBC News
Vice-Chancellor Peter Horrocks was interviewed by the BBC, and called for a change in attitudes towards lifelong learning:
The UK Budget takes place on Wednesday 22 November 2017.