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Government needs a ‘cross-departmental strategy’ on college staffing crisis

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A Tory MP has urged the Government to publish a “cross-departmental strategy” on the staffing crisis in colleges.

The chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Further Education and Lifelong Learning Peter Aldous made the call during PMQs on Wednesday 29 June urging ministers to address staff pay in colleges so as not to “undermine the levelling-up agenda”.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who was standing in at the despatch box for the Prime Minister who is at a NATO summit in Spain, said Mr Aldous was “absolutely right” adding that the government wants to “support the sector in recruiting and retaining excellent staff”.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes has called for emergency funds for college staff pay from the Treasury to help deal with the staffing crisis. 

During PMQs, Waveney MP Peter Aldous told the Commons:

“There are great opportunities to create exciting new jobs in low-carbon energy along the East Anglian coast and East Coast College is up for the challenge of providing local people with the necessary skills.

“However, they and other colleges are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain teachers in such work as fabrication, engineering and construction. Will my right honourable friend ensure that the Government come up with a cross-departmental strategy to address this staffing crisis in our further education colleges which could undermine the levelling-up agenda.”

Responding, Mr Raab said: “My honourable friend is absolutely right and that is why we are investing nearly £52 million to support the sector in recruiting and retaining excellent staff and in particular looking and focussing on the experience and the skills that we can often find in industry to train the next generation of technical experts.”

David Hughes, AoC chief executive said:

“It is good to hear the Deputy Prime Minister recognise the enormous impact colleges face in struggling to recruit skilled and experienced staff to teach the skills the economy and businesses need. I want to thank the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Further Education and Lifelong Learning Peter Aldous for raising it in the Commons.

“Pay in colleges lags behind what staff could earn in industry or even schools. This is leading to a growing staffing crisis and forcing some courses to be cancelled altogether. This will hinder the Government’s ambitious skills agenda and damage plans to boost productivity and fill job vacancies in low carbon growth sectors and we will continue to work with them on these issues.

“I have written to Nadhim Zahawi seeking emergency funding to boost staff pay and I appreciate the engagement I have had with the Education Secretary and his officials on this vital matter.”

Stuart Rimmer, chief executive and principal at East Coast College said:

“It’s great that our MPs are asking searching and important questions about staff shortages in colleges. This recruitment crisis is the precursor to a government flagship policy failing if we do not respond swiftly.”

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