From education to employment

AoC: Reform tertiary education to kickstart the great British recovery: New report

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A groundbreaking new report from Association of Colleges, ‘Opportunity England’, has called on whoever wins the next general election to create a new system for lifelong learning from the age of 16 to make sure that the country can rise to the challenges of a sluggish economy, flat-lined productivity with widening skills gaps, and the prospect of millions of people being left behind as technology takes over our lives and work.

The report suggests that colleges, universities and other providers should be regulated through one tertiary system to avoid excess regulation and unnecessary competition and to enable a clear strategy to support all adults get the skills they need throughout life.  The new national post-16 education and skills strategy should be developed in partnership with learning organisations and a range of other institutions including local government, employer groups, unions and community organisations. Devolution will play a vital role in this overhaul, with devolved authorities having the opportunity to push local priorities to help bolster communities as well as regional and national economies.

Colleges are clear that this is not about pitting themselves against universities or training providers, instead it’s about them working better together so that all parts of the post-16 skills eco-system thrive to deliver for the country. They urge the focusing on five central elements:

  • A new statutory right to lifelong learning
  • An apprenticeships system that works
  • A curriculum for all
  • A workforce strategy
  • Investing in our future

 ‘Opportunity England’ also shows how with a proper commitment, government can:

  • Drive economic growth and improving productivity
  • Overcome regional inequalities
  • Offer better life and work opportunities for all
  • Bring about the green transition
  • Deliver the health and social care workforce revolution
  • Build safe, cohesive and integrated communities

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges said:

“The challenges the country faces are numerous and well-known. What we need to focus more on are the opportunities. The next Government has the chance to unleash the power of colleges to re-balance the country, grow the economy, become world leaders in green technology, harness the potential of people of all ages and make sure that millions of people are not left behind as technology takes over our lives and work. But that requires a boldness and clarity of vision which our report outlines.

Whoever holds the keys to Number 10 will need to do things differently – business as usual is not working. We need a new approach to education and skills and we need a revolution in lifelong learning. If colleges did not exist, the government would have to invent them, to upskill the next generation, to re-train existing workers, and to drive forward innovation in business and technology. Now is the opportunity to use them and kickstart the great British recovery.”

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