The headlines this week focus on skills shortages and education funding cuts.

With Gross Domestic Product having increased by 0.7% in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared with Q3 2013, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has joined forces with the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) to launch Reshore UK, a new 1-stop-shop service to help companies bring production back to the UK.

However, new research from UKCES finds that the number of job vacancies in England has returned to pre-recession levels. While the rise in job vacancies is welcome, the report finds that a sharp rise in skills shortages could be holding back the UK’s economic recovery.

Indeed, 17% of employers said they found it difficult to fill vacancies due to a lack of foreign language skills, according a recent survey, whilst NIACE report that unemployed people are increasingly likely to access English and Maths training.

The TUC’s Frances O’Grady said: “It’s great that more businesses want to recruit. But with jobseekers outnumbering vacancies by four to one, it’s hugely frustrating that across the UK a large number of jobs go unfilled because of local skills shortages.”.

It was announced that UK university applications have risen by 4% while Graduate job vacancies are predicted to ‘rise by 10%’. Meanwhile, universities are bracing themselves for significant cuts to teaching budgets totalling around £160m next year, while welcoming efforts to shield poorer students and high-cost courses from the worst of the cutbacks. The delayed announcement of the cash available for higher education in 2014-15 and beyond represents a less bleak picture than many in the sector had feared, amid rumours last month of £200m cuts including the axing of the Student Opportunity Allocation, a fund supporting widening participation.

The Institute for Learning (IfL) responded, expressing concerns about the cuts: “We know from research recently published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) that a sharp rise in skills shortages could be holding back the UK’s economic recovery, so a significant reduction in the adult skills budget makes little sense” …”IfL is also concerned about the potential far-reaching impact of the budget cuts on the range and quality of teaching and on the sector’s ability to attract the best from business and industry to teach and train in the sector. On top of the funding cuts for 18-year-olds, the net reductions in the adult skills budget, after taking into account income from loans, are set to have unfair and undesirable consequences for a substantial group of adults and young people” said Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the IfL.

NIACE’s Chief Executive, David Hughes, responded to the HE settlement calling upon the Deputy Prime Minister to ensure that opportunities for those who had benefitted least from their initial education should be protected at all levels, from literacy and numeracy all the way to higher education.” Labour’s spokesman on higher education commented, stating that “the damage being done to universities is frankly alarming.

On a lighter note, I received an email from an primary school English teacher based in North Carolina. Michelle has a student, David, who wants to be a teacher. David has been using the internet to teach himself about becoming an educator, and wanted to write to us to say thanks as he had found our website so useful. We found the story so inspiring, we are hoping to feature David in our Research Gateway later this year. Go David!

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