From education to employment

Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the Trade Unions Congress (TUC), Talks Exclus

The festivities are a fading memory, and the Further Education sector returns to the work of tackling skills shortages and providing better access to education and training for the nation in 2006.

One year has ended and another begins; but how much has changed for FE? The challenges faced and tackled in the year before often provide valuable lessons for the year ahead, and in FE, the long term strategic view demands a long term strategic memory. Skills issues are not resolved overnight, and this is one instance when the possession of twenty ““ twenty hindsight can be put to good use!

Everybody at FE News are delighted that Brendan Barber, the General Secretary of the TUC, has agreed to answer a few questions about the year passed.

Mergers and Recoveries

Question: “What was the most significant development for FE in your opinion in 2005?”

Brendan Barber: “On the policy front, the Foster Review quite rightly dominated matters and the general thrust of its recommendations offer a historic opportunity for colleges to be the major player in developing workforce skills over the coming years.

“A significant development in the union world was the agreed merger between the University and College Lecturers” Union (NATFHE) and the Higher Education Union (AUT) and all parts of the sector have warmly welcomed Paul Mackneys return following his heart attack in the summer.”

Neglect and Pride

Question: “What was the area of FE that you feel has been neglected this year?”

Brendan Barber: “There continues to be an urgent need to recruit more young people to work in colleges and also to retain committed FE staff, many of whom leave because of disillusionment with their pay and conditions. And over the past year two sticking points have continued to hinder progress on this front – the problems around national pay bargaining and the continuing funding gap between colleges and schools, including a significant pay disparity.

“However, one gleam of light is the commitment in the Foster Review to give a high priority to workforce development in colleges and to address the consequences of an ageing casualised workforce.”

Question: “What has been your proudest moment of the year?”

Brendan Barber: “My proudest moment of the year has been the clear recognition by the Government that unions are playing an increasingly important role in promoting learning at work, in particular through the work of union learning representatives. And the announcement in the Budget that the Government would invest in the development of a union learning academy also showed that this support is more than just warm words.”

FE News would like to thank Mr. Barber for his contribution and wish him all the best for 2006.

Jethro Marsh

Read Mr. Barber’s thoughts for the future right here at FE News!

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