Dr Sam Parrett OBE, London South East Colleges

The Independent Commission on the College of the Future (@CollegeComm) report shines a light on the crucial role FE colleges have to play in a skills-led recovery of our economy.

 It is right to acknowledge the role of colleges as anchor institutions and the need for education systems to be more connected locally, creating strong partnerships with local, regional and national employers. Equipping students with the skills and knowledge that employers need is something we have focused on at London South East Colleges for many years and this has never been more relevant than it is now, in the current economic landscape.

The report also highlights the importance of lifelong learning opportunities, which must be expanded for the many adults who now need to re-skill. Ensuring high quality vocational and technical skills training is accessible to all will have a clear economic and social impact – transforming lives.

Colleges need to be recognised and supported via a cohesive national strategy, yet we must maintain the ability to innovate and flex to meet our local and community needs. Closer working with employers and other educators is clearly key to developing relevant curricula and valuable provision for students and it is encouraging to see this theme coming out so strongly in the Commission’s report.

This report highlights the need for our sector to continue the drive to equip people with the skills they need, which will empower them to succeed personally and help the economy to thrive. Like many colleges, we are already operating at the heart of our local communities and are strongly networked with employers as we work in partnership to achieve these overarching aims.

Our latest Group strategy focuses on transforming our organisation from ‘just a college’ to a social enterprise, adding quantifiable social value to the communities we support. This mission is intrinsic to the sustainable growth of our economy and as an enabler of social mobility.

Our hope is that both the Commission and the Government’s impending white paper recognise that there are many good colleges already meeting expectations and fulfilling the ambitions set out in this report. These organisations could (and indeed should) be used as a blueprint for the sector going forward.

Dr Sam Parrett OBE, Principal, London South East Colleges

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