From education to employment

Change firmly on the agenda at NCFE’s MoG conference

Change, opportunity, upheaval, challenges and transformation were the buzzwords of choice at the NCFE’s Machinery of Government Change (MoG) conference last week.

Keynote speaker Iain Wright MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for 14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships, addressed more than 120 FE sector leaders on the machinations of the governmental changes to the education sector that will take effect from 1 April.

Mr Wright acknowledged the evident concern amongst the gathered masses about whether Local Authorities are ready to take responsibility for the education and training of young people up to the age of 19 from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

“I can understand the anxiety over whether Local Authorities are geared up, but I am convinced they will be ready for a smooth landing,” he said.

His optimism was somewhat tempered by Dr Elaine McMahon, chief executive and principal of Hull College and a Director of the 157 Group, which represents 28 colleges, who demanded “we give the power to the learner”, a perspective that was embraced by a crowd consisting of college representatives and training providers.

Whilst the forthcoming changes to the provision of FE are predominantly designed to reduce the layers of bureaucracy and to increase the efficiency of the sector, there has been understandable uncertainty surrounding the restructure. Questions from the floor generally concerned funding issues and clarification on how the inevitable teething problems will be dealt with.

A panel, hosted by David Grailey, chief executive of NCFE, acknowledged the apprehensions of delegates, whilst introducing the “transformation agenda” and “huge opportunities” that the changes will usher in.

However, whether this optimism will be so apparent come April 1 remains to be seen.

Alex Beattie

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