As levels of unemployment increase, there is a real surge of interest from the 19-25 age group in terms of reskilling and gaining qualifications to enter employment. The interest in apprenticeships is much greater than has ever been seen, but for many colleges enrolments for traditional adult courses fell dramatically until the recent announcement from Government regarding recognition of certain benefits for fee remission.

One can appreciate that the picture may vary from one geographical region to another, but in many areas of the country there is a real reluctance on the part of potential learners to consider loans or large fees to undertake study. Therefore, plans for the academic year 2012/13 surely need to be considered carefully. If we get it wrong, then I fear for the viability of courses such as Access provision, which provide a real gateway for the progression to both Higher Education and Employment.

So are we adopting a blinkered approach in Further Education? Quite the opposite I suggest. We have great flexibility and entrepreneurial skills to meet the skills needs of the UK. Our approaches are many and diverse, but the learners must have a motivating influence and high levels of incurred debt are unlikely to be the solution. The real solution must be a partnership between colleges, employers and Job Centre Plus, and it is impressive to see the work that is being done by the Skills Funding Agency and the Association of Colleges in meeting such a need. Equally, the work of the Local Enterprise Partnership in the West of England in advancing the skills agenda is both focused and making an impact.

So what am I proposing? A re-examination of fees for vocational training, more linkages with key partners and, on top of that, planning of learning in an economic/commercial environment. We are also nearing the time when Further Education colleges will have the opportunity to bid for direct HE numbers. There is NO doubt that the cost of delivering such a course will be paramount but equally, I hope that real attention is given to the whole issue of quality assurance. Parameters such as the available resources for delivery, the results of IQER and the proportion of first class honours will hopefully be paramount in the decision making.

As we re-examine the Adult environment, one can see many pitfalls, but equally many opportunities. If we are to truly put the learner first, then we will need to ensure our adult offer is both diverse, reflective of skills demand and affordable. Perhaps also we should consider this issue of 19-25 year olds, or rather what is left. What is the Skills Agenda for age 25+? My experience of adult learners (either returning to study or entering learning officially for the first time) is that they are in the age 25-50 bracket, yet the opportunities for this age range seem somewhat vague. Saying that, I went to a meeting this week to look at an "Older Persons Strategy" where old was defined as 50 years plus. At this point in the meeting I felt decidedly ancient! Equally there is no shortage of learners in the "old" bracket.

Well I am going to sit in front of the fire now, put on my slippers and take the cup of hot chocolate. I certainly don't feel old but actually I am over 25 and over 50. Is there hope for me?

Paul Phillips is principal and chief executive of Weston College, Weston-super-Mare

Read other FE News articles by Paul Phillips:

Will the real teacher please step forward 

Weston College principal on coping with change 

An evolving FE requires continuous clarity

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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