Mr Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Well in the upcoming Assembly budgets, nothing can be said to be certain except cuts, cuts and yet more cuts.
The Department for Employment and Learning has published its draft Departmental Savings Plan in relation to the 2015/16 budget. Personally, I have been working in education for the last seven years, at Higher Education level, in the community, with adults and young people, and, most recently, for a local Further Education college. So, the piece on BBC Newsline yesterday from outside BMC Millfield is obviously of concern to me. The question, I imagine, is if it should be of much concern to anyone else.
The Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, had this to say:
“The level of cuts being proposed for the Department is unprecedented and this will have far reaching and deep implications across all of the Department’s provision. The potential measures will impact on the universities, colleges and other sectoral training providers and will almost certainly result in a reduction in places offered to train and educate our young people. I am asking the public to respond by 29 December 2014.”
These cuts mean that young people leaving school will have limited places at universities, colleges and training providers to progress on to, and, as a result, many will fall through the net, not qualifying for a place or not getting a space on an over subscribed course, leaving them cast adrift in a labour market which is low on jobs and high in graduates filling everything from retail and service level positions upwards. The cuts mean that the quality of the training and education on offer will inevitably be negatively impacted on both for people leaving school or adults who want to return to education and training to up-skill and develop their prospects for employment.