Simon Bartley is chief executive of UK Skills

The National Training Awards give us an insight into what is working best in the UK vocational learning system. Encouragingly, further education invariably plays an important part in this. Colleges have either won an award directly for developing their own people or they have collaborated with local employers to meet their evolving skill needs.

What these experiences show us is that within the FE system there is an immense amount of talent and know-how which is potentially on tap for employers. The big question is whether it is being made available to employers in a way which works for them.

Quality of provision

One of the themes that comes through powerfully in the recent Government White Paper Skills for Growth is the need to get a better fit between how colleges operate and the needs of employers. Indeed one of the White Paper’s priorities was to address the question: "How can we further improve the quality of provision at further education colleges?"

A number of proposals are made ranging from the simplification of the skills landscape to the way the Skills Funding Agency contracts with colleges. What we can see, from our perspective at UK Skills, is that there is already some very effective practice in place linked to a real spirit of co-operation between colleges and employers. It is just a matter of finding it.

Take the example of the relationship between Ridgeons Ltd (one of the largest independently owned timber and Builders Merchant in the country) and Cambridge Regional College which was the basis of one of our winning entries this year. Ridgeons wanted to become a leader in the supply of building materials which would combat climate change - but it needed an informed workforce which could guide, advise and inform builders and developers on the appropriate materials. Fortunately, Cambridge Regional College had extensive expertise in the area of modern methods of construction and was ideally positioned to help Ridgeons. But what made the relationship work effectively was a genuine co-operative spirit between the company and college operating on a two way basis. While courses were organised at the college for the Ridgeons staff, the CRC tutors attended manufacturers’ product events organised by Ridgeons. As a result CRC was able to adapt the construction curriculum specifically to meet the employer’s needs.

This sense of learning and working together was at the heart of the collaboration and demonstrated to the employer that the college was serious in its desire to understand what its ‘client’ wanted. A system of regular meetings, student feedback sheets and joint course reviews then provided the infrastructure to ensure that it was all kept on track.

Listen up

What is important about this kind of relationship is that it is tailor-made. Obviously it is natural that colleges will run a lot of standard courses. But if there is to be a real flourishing in co-operation between colleges and employers then it will need imaginative, individually-focused initiatives.

A good example of this came from another of our 2009 winning partnerships - and in a rather unexpected field. Luminar Leisure operates almost one hundred late night entertainment venues. It was becoming concerned about the high staff turn-over and lack of training for its managers. So it turned to Loughborough College for help.

What resulted was a truly ground-breaking exercise in which the college created a Management Development Programme (MDP) which exactly mirrored the job roles of each level of management within the Luminar operation. As Luminar pointed out to us, however, the basis of the relationship was that the college provided a real "fit with our values and business philosophy". The college listened to what Luminar wanted and tailored its offer accordingly. It then built up a close, honest working relationship to ensure that the delivery worked out.

So without question there is plenty of scope for the further education system to adapt to the demands of employers for the benefit of the companies, the individual learners and themselves. But it does require flexibility in outlook and a real desire to respond to exactly what employers want.

Simon Bartley is chief executive of UK Skills, which champions learning through competitions and awards

Read other FE News articles by Simon Bartley: 

Simon Bartley's Christmas FE message from UK Skills

Simon Bartley on the role businesses should play in shaping the skills of young people

Your country needs you!

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

AELP Webinar Team added a new event 14 hours

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy

Overview Rumelt lays bare an uncomfortable truth: Most companies have strategies that are quixotic, muddled, and undifferentiated. This is hardly...

  • Tuesday, 03 August 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page