Alun Francis, Oldham College Principal and Chief Executive

@OldhamCollege has given a “warm welcome” to new plans for the future of skills, jobs and training that could significantly transform the prospects of thousands of local adults, young people and employers.

The Government’s ‘Skills for Jobs’ White Paper (published yesterday) is the Department for Education’s new blueprint for a post-16 education system it says is designed to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives.

It calls for employers to be "put at the heart of post-16 education and skills" designing "almost all" technical qualifications, and for business and FE providers to work together on “local skills improvement plans”. It also proposes that FE funding be "streamlined and simplified", with a promise to consider a 'multi-year' funding plan for the sector.

The White Paper sets out a total of 35 different sector reforms including a new Lifetime Skills Guarantee, giving adults the chance to retrain in later life and gain in-demand skills, a Lifelong Loan Entitlement making it easier for adults and young people to study more flexibly over their lifetime, plus the funding of new Business Centres based in FE colleges. 

The DfE says the proposals will “put an end to the illusion that a degree is the only route to success and a good job” by aiming to “supercharge further and technical education, realigning the whole system around the needs of employers, so that people are trained for the skills gaps that exist now, and in the future, in sectors the economy needs, including construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing.” 

Alun Francis, Oldham College Principal and Chief Executive, gave the White Paper a “warm welcome” and sees it as a vital response to the changing labour market that can open a lifetime of new opportunities enabling people to secure high-skilled work opportunities through access to high quality, flexible learning opportunities.

“We’ve long argued that the education system needs to be reformed to align closer with the economy – and that means strengthening the Further Education sector,” he said.

“Oldham College is now established with excellent teaching, a strong curriculum and great facilities, but these reforms will allow us to go much further as we look to meet the new needs, realities and priorities of the post-COVID economy and beyond.

“In the short-term what Oldham learners of all ages – and businesses – need to know is that this will bring greater choice to all those adults who have not yet achieved higher skills qualifications to retrain and upskill: including those who are already employed.

“The longer-term and bigger ambition is to re-establish technical education training – including college-based and apprenticeship pathways – as the best routes to getting high-skilled and fulfilling jobs.

“This White Paper is exciting for us because a huge amount of its proposals match the aspirations and plans already contained in Oldham College’s Strategic Plan, and we’re now looking forward to making those a reality. 

“We’ll be working hard with local and national partners to ensure that Oldham is at the forefront of driving these reforms forward so that this borough gets the maximum social and economic benefits from these significant changes.”

Oldham College is holding its next online Open Day (Saturday January 30 from 10am to 1pm) where young people and adults can find out more about the current and future offer. You can pre-register for this free event here.

Oldham College has around 6,500 students and staff across two sites. Founded in 1893, it specialises in technical and professional education and training for hundreds of learners aged 16 and above. It offers an extensive range of courses, including apprenticeships and T Levels, and has its own Higher Education faculty at University Campus Oldham. The next phase of its regeneration – a £9m Construction Centre where students will learn the building skills of the future – opens in summer 2021. 

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