Word Cloud

So, the Chancellor has presented the Autumn Statement to Parliament. The UK has the fastest growth in the G7, stamp duty will be cut for 98% of people, the health service will receive £2 billion and business rates will be cut and capped, but what does the Autumn Statement mean for employment and skills? Here we look at some of the responses from educators, policy institutes, unions and industry.

The big problem has been the pressure on income tax receipts from weak wage growth, which is in turn due to the large number of low-paying jobs in the economy and a sharp increase in self-employment. A rise in the income tax personal allowance to £10,000 has further cut receipts by taking more people out of paying income tax – a lot of the recent rise in employment has been at the low end of the pay scale. The (predominantly minimum wage) services industry in the UK accounts for roughly 78% of overall GDP, and about three-quarters of all jobs.

Bristol is one of the few regions that actually contributes more to the Exchequer than it gets back. Managing director at Business West, Phil Smith, said closing the skills gap, particularly among young people, was key to achieving long-term growth: “Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high despite total unemployment at its lowest since 2008,” he said. “Firms consistently tell us about skills shortages and we are working hard to ensure better links between education and business. We urge the Chancellor to use tax cuts to incentivise this.”

To encourage more firms to take on young apprentices, the Chancellor has exempted employers from national insurance contributions when they hire apprentices under 25. “Encouraging more employers to offer apprenticeships is important but the Government must work with colleges to ensure that employers are ready to take on apprentices. Colleges already work with an average of 700 employers in their local area and they are keen to do more” said the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) Chief Executive Martin Doel. On Careers Advice, he said: “In announcing the investment of £20 million to improve careers advice and support for young people the Government must now ensure that careers education is part of the curriculum” also pointing out thatAoC’s “Careers Guidance Guaranteed campaign calls for the establishment of careers hubs in every local area involving schools, colleges, local councils and others. We look forward to hearing the detail of how the Government will take this forward”.

An offer of loans of up to £10,000 to students taking taught postgraduate degrees has been greeted with enthusiasm by the education sector. The Chancellor said it would “revolutionise” access to postgraduate university courses, as the cost of postgraduate courses “deters bright students from poorer backgrounds”. The National Union of Students’ vice president, Megan Dunn, described the move as a “major step in the right direction”. “Creating a government-backed postgraduate loans scheme will make a fundamental difference to the lives and opportunities of students”, she said.

HEFCE welcomed the proposal to begin to address the gap in taught postgraduate finance through a three-stage plan. “I am delighted that the Government has announced a wide-ranging loan scheme for masters students and that we can build upon the Postgraduate Support Scheme by allocating 10,000 taught postgraduate bursaries to students who will be graduating with higher levels of undergraduate debt this year. This will provide a much-needed bridge to the wider postgraduate student loan proposals announced by the Chancellor” said HEFCE Chief Executive Madeleine Atkins.

The University and College Union (UCU) suggested bolder measures are needed to encourage more people into postgraduate study recommending that additional support, such as the restoration of grants for postgraduate study or a partial write-off of undergraduate debt for those completing postgraduate courses, would be more helpful

Incidentally, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) published a detailed study on the electoral power of full-time students, Do students swing elections? Registration, turnout and voting behaviour among full-time students, on the morning of 1st December 2014 – the deadline for the first electoral roll under Individual Electoral Registration. The research confirms that the student vote responds to political parties’ policies on tuition fees. The student vote swung towards the Liberal Democrats in 2001, 2005 and 2010 and is set to swing towards Labour at the 2015 election. This could affect the result in around 10 seats.

The Autumn Statement also includes £5.9 billion sustained investment in science, including £89 million to support the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and a new National Formulation Centre. Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said: “We also welcome the announcement of £200 million to be allocated through the Research Partnership Investment Fund and the additional funding for the High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centres which work closely and successfully with our universities. We look forward to more detail on the Science and Innovation Strategy in the coming days.” In relation to this, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) welcomed a parliamentary report into collaboration between universities and business.

The Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD) also welcomed the Chancellor’s pledges on skills and productivity to continue the process of “lower inflation, lower unemployment and higher growth” in line with the government’s long-term economic plan.

The National Institute for Continuing Adult Learning (NIACE) welcomed announcements including £20 million in 2015-16 and 2016-17 to fund courses to help adults experiencing mild to moderate depression, anxiety and sleep disorders in England; £5 million for the Behavioural Research Centre for Adult Skills and Knowledge (ASK) to conduct pilots using Children’s Centres to provide employment support and access to basic skills training; and a pilot program on career-change work experience and training opportunities for older benefit claimants to help them gain the experience and training they need to re-skill and get back to work. However, NIACE also believes the plans for long-term economic growth, as detailed by the Chancellor, require significant improvements in our skills base. However investment in – and learning by – adults over 25 is falling the Autumn Statement has fallen short in addressing that challenge: “by making young people a priority there is a danger that the impending adult skills crisis – identified recently by NIACE, the CBI, OECD and UKCES – will continue to threaten future economic prospects and limit social mobility.”, adding “What the Chancellor didn’t mention was the overall collapse in adult skills participation, particularly at the technical and professional levels – where employers are already saying they have the highest skills shortages – which has been a consequence of the introduction of 24+ adult learning loans.”

Trade Unions Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady responded to the announcement, saying “Nothing in today’s Autumn Statement will give Britain a pay rise, and Conservative plans to effectively outlaw strikes will help make Britain permanently low-paid.”

The Gfirst Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) welcomed the announcement that Government will commit a further £1 billion to the country’s Local Enterprise Partnerships, to support the second round of Growth Deals. This builds on Gfirst LEP’s success in the first round of Growth Deals announced in July, where Gloucestershire were the only county to receive the full amount of funding that was asked, £62.5 million.

The Heart of the South West LEP have endorsed ‘Greater Connected’, an independent, business-led report to identify common strategic goals for greater connectivity across the five LEPs in the South West – all to enable transformational economic growth. The report has been endorsed by the CBI and all five Local Enterprise Partnerships in South West England: Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly LEP; Dorset LEP; Heart of the South West LEP; Swindon & Wiltshire LEP; West of England LEP and can be viewed here.

…and finally, survey! Survey! Survey!!!

I hope you find this information useful.




Higher Education

Government loans for postgrads are welcome, but universities must play their part
Postgraduate students under 30 will be eligible for an income-contingent loan of up to £10,000 from 2016-17, it was announced in the autumn statement. But state-backed loans are only part of the solution.

Government’s flagship postgraduate loan plan will leave students with 50 percent tax rate
Students who take out a new loan to fund a master’s degree will effectively be paying a 50% tax rate, said the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) today. UCU said the findings demonstrated the pitfalls of increasing students’ debt to fund an expansion of postgraduate education and called for a rethink.

Select committee endorses importance of HEFCE knowledge exchange funding
HEFCE welcome the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee’s endorsement of the importance of HEFCE’s support for higher education knowledge exchange through Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF).

Students could tip the balance of power at the 2015 election – so long as they register to vote
HEPI published a detailed study on the electoral power of full-time students, Do students swing elections? Registration, turnout and voting behaviour among full-time students, on the morning of 1st December 2014 – the deadline for the first electoral roll under Individual Electoral Registration.

Further Education & Skills

Association of Colleges Response to latest National Audit Office report on FE and skills
Martin Doel, Chief Executive at the Association of Colleges, responds to the National Audit Office’s latest report Further Education and skills sector: implementing the Simplification Plan.

Edward Timpson – supporting SEND students in further education
How colleges can help young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) into work and independence.

Commemorating 100 years of apprenticeships – new historical research
New historical research released today to tie in with the centenary apprenticeship commemorations reveals how employers’ relationships with apprenticeships have changed over the last 100 years.


Energy and Utility Skills – Apprenticeships, a Paradigm Shift
When it comes to developing the current and future skills of the UK workforce, the policy focus increasingly seems to be looking to employers to take the lead.

CITB – Autumn Statement projects ‘must be delivered’
The construction industry has grounds for cautious optimism following a series of headline-grabbing Government announcements about infrastructure and apprenticeships.

South West Manufacturers Answer Call for Greater Productivity
A drive in productivity is helping to sustain growth among small to medium sized (SME) manufacturers in the South West.


Qualitative study of welfare reform shows those affected find it harder to find and keep jobs
The charity Community Links have published the third report in their longitudinal study of the cumulative impact of welfare reform in the London borough of Newham.

George Osborne’s plan may not be set in stone, but it still spells deep cuts
The chancellor has accused his critics of hyperbole, but his autumn statement leaves him little room for manoeuvre.

CIPD – Spending cuts risk one million public sector jobs, figures suggest
Up to one million public sector jobs could be cut by 2020 under dramatic plans to move Britain “out of the red and into the black”, outlined in yesterday’s Autumn Statement.

Trade Unions

TUC – OBR forecast signals dramatic public service cuts and longer living standards squeeze
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady comments on the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts published on Wednesday.

TUC – IFS analysis digs up the bad news George Osborne tried to bury
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady comments on Thursday’s analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) of the Autumn Statement and the forecasts by the Office for Budgetary Responsibility.

TUC – Pregnancy and motherhood still hurt career progress
Thousands of new mothers are still being “shunned” by employers despite increased legal protection and new flexible working legislation, according to a report.

UK Research Publications

What works? Evidence for decision makers
An overview of the What Works Centres, bringing together a selection of findings from the Centres’ work to date.

Access to finance – evidence review 4
This review covers three policy strands: 1) Public loans on subsidised loans – where the public sector directly lends all or part of the money to the firm, whether this is on commercial or subsidised rates; 2) Government loan guarantees – The government guarantees or partly guarantees the loan; and, 3) Facilitating alternative forms of lending – creating networks, incentivising or match-making for Business Angels, micro-finance, venture capital, P2P lending and crowdfunding, self-financing groups, group lending and so on.

11/2014 – #AutumnStatement measures
Business rates information letters are issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government at regular intervals throughout the year.

Economic and fiscal outlook – December 2014
This is the OBR’s December 2014 Economic and fiscal outlook.

#AutumnStatement – Supporting Documents
This is the Autumn Statement in full. You can find supporting and related documents below.
Autumn Statement 2014
Impact on households: distributional analysis to accompany Autumn Statement 2014
Autumn Statement 2014 policy costings
Autumn Statement 2014 data sources
Policy decisions table: Autumn Statement 2014
Policy decisions within the welfare cap: Autumn Statement 2014

Budget and #AutumnStatement representations – guidance
Guidance for submitting Budget and Autumn Statement representations.

Local Enterprise Partnership – Intelligence

Infographic – the Labour Market in the Heart of the South West LEP
Infographic illustrating the Labour Market in the Heart of the South West LEP benchmarked against the South West region and England in terms of percentage change.

Click image to enlarge, or download the full spreadsheet.

UK Labour Market, November 2014

Key Points for July to September 2014

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  • Comparing the estimates for July to September 2014 with those for April to June 2014, employment continued to rise and unemployment continued to fall. These changes maintain the general direction of movement since late 2011/early 2012.
  • There were 30.79 million people in work. This was 112,000 more than for April to June 2014 and 694,000 more than for a year earlier.
  • The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate), was 73.0%, higher than for April to June 2014 (72.8%) and higher than for a year earlier (71.6%).
  • There were 22.52 million people working full-time, 589,000 more than for a year earlier. There were 8.27 million people working part-time, 105,000 more than for a year earlier.
  • There were 1.96 million unemployed people, 115,000 fewer than for April to June 2014 and 529,000 fewer than for a year earlier.
  • The unemployment rate was 6.0%, lower than for April to June 2014 (6.3%) and lower than for a year earlier (7.6%). The unemployment rate is the proportion of the economically active population (those in work plus those seeking and available to work) who were unemployed.
  • There were 9.03 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were out of work and not seeking or available to work (known as economically inactive). This was 38,000 more than for April to June 2014 but 16,000 fewer than for a year earlier.
  • The economic inactivity rate was 22.2%, little changed compared to April to June 2014 (22.1%) and compared to a year earlier (22.3%).
  • Pay including bonuses for employees in Great Britain was 1.0% higher than a year earlier. Pay excluding bonuses for employees in Great Britain was 1.3% higher than a year earlier.
  • Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication.

Regional Labour Market, November 2014

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  • The employment rate in Great Britain was highest in the East of England and the South East (76.5%) and lowest in the North East (69.0%).
  • The unemployment rate in Great Britain was highest in the North East (9.2%) and lowest in the South East (4.6%).
  • The inactivity rate in Great Britain was highest in Wales (25.8%) and lowest in the East of England (19.4%).
  • The Claimant Count rate in Great Britain was highest in the North East (4.7%) and lowest in the South East (1.6%).
  • Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication.

Changing attitudes to vocational education
Argues for a fundamental change to the way we view vocational education. Changing attitudes is the next key step in transforming our education system into the inclusive and productive one we need to prosper in the global market place. Proposes some actions for policymakers to raise awareness and understanding among teachers, parents and employers that will help bring about real change for young people.

European Programmes – Latest

England 2014 to 2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth programme handbook
Detailed information on the England European Growth programme, who is involved, how it is managed and how to apply for funding.

European Structural and Investment Funds – UK proposals
Sets out how the UK proposes to use the European Structural and Investment Funds across the UK from 2014 to 2020.

European Structural and Investment Funds – UK Partnership Agreement
Sets out how the European Structural and Investment Funds will be used across the UK from 2014 to 2020.

Occupational regulation in the EU and UK – prevalence and labour market impacts
Research on the prevalence of occupational regulation in the UK and EU, and an examination of labour market impacts in the UK.

Sector Skills Publications

A map of social enterprises and their eco-systems in Europe – country report, United Kingdom
Outlines the main features of social enterprises in 28 EU Member States and Switzerland using a common definition and approach. Gives an overview of social enterprise eco-systems across countries, including factors constraining their development.


Semta Skills Awards – Engineering Skills for the Future
24 February 2015, Park Plaza Riverbank hotel, London

24/02/2015 – Turn on the spotlights, dust off the red carpet – the hunt is on to find the very Best of British Engineering – which is to be celebrated at the second Semta Skills Awards. The backing of some of the biggest engineering brands in Britain have made the awards night one of the most important dates in the sector’s diary.

Welfare reform – creating effective local delivery partnerships
20 December 2014, Prospero House, Borough High Street, London SE1

20/12/2014 – This one day conference will provide an early opportunity to consider the updated Local Support Services Framework and will feature examples of best practice in the planning and delivery of services sharing learning from the Local Authority led pilots as well as drawing on the experience of housing associations, and third sector organisations in the delivery of budgeting support, debt advice, and financial inclusion inititatives, local welfare schemes, and digitial inclusion projects.

Next steps for the Research Excellence Framework
23 April 2015, central London

23/04/2015 – David Sweeney, Director, HEFCE will be speaking at this seminar, which is scheduled to follow publication of this year’s Research Excellence Framework (REF), the system by which the quality of research from UK HEIs is assessed – with significant implications.