To meet the demands of a changing labour market, a greater effort to devise an effective UK adult learning system to tackle inequality is essential.
Rapidly changing developments in new technology have considerably changed the nature of work. The extent to which economies can reap the benefits from these changes will depend on the ability of institutions to provide the right conditions for investment in knowledge and skills. Yet, the current structure of the adult learning system in the UK is fostering social fragmentation.
Using data from the European Statistical System we provide a deeper understanding of adult learning and identify opportunities to improve the UK adult learning system. Here are our key findings:
- The rise of the service economy has led to a marked concentration of economic activity in particular regions, worsening regional inequalities and increasing the importance of lifelong learning.
- There are huge disparities in adult learning across the UK and between different social and economic groups. London and the South West stood out from the other regions, reporting higher participation levels. The huge differences in participation across the country are most keenly felt within individual regions. London has the greatest variation in participation of any region.
- Participation in adult education and training is mostly non-formal, job-related and employer-sponsored. The training efforts of many employers remain focused on young and highly skilled employees, increasing existing inequalities across individuals.
The inequality that is being reinforced by the current system needs to be addressed. The UK Government, training providers and industry can only do this if they work collaboratively.
This report calls for far greater investment in a strong national and regional adult learning system, aligned with the labour market.