From education to employment

Chief Executive of ALP Calls for Bolder Approach After CBI Report

The report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on the FE sector made for uncomfortable reading for many in the FE sector, and has resulted in much comment.

The report highlighted the concerns that the CBI note their members hold concerning the attitude and approach of the FE sector. The CBI, obviously catering to their members” best interests as one would expect, comment on the lack of “employer facing” and “demand led” approach in practice. The CBI observed, for instance, that many of their members feel that colleges do not engage sufficiently with the industrial partners and that provision ““ both poor and coasting ““ is not being sufficiently addressed. Both of these claims were hotly refuted by the Association of Colleges” (AoC’s) Chief Executive, Dr. John Brennan.


One of the arguments presented in the CBI report harks back to the findings of the Sir Andrew Foster review of Further Education, which was released at the time of the AoC’s Annual Conference in November 2005. In this report, Sir Andrew Foster stated that the procedures for altering ineffective or “failing” management structures in FE colleges were too slow. He advised in his report that the re-inspection process be accelerated and that, should FE colleges be adjudged to be “poor” and fail to improve within the time frame, the management and leadership should be replaced with the provision being open to private tender.

The CBI report seized on this, and praised the Government’s ratification of this in their FE White Paper from March 2006. However, they believe that there should be much wider implementation of this; indeed, they argue for the opening up of the FE market for competition. They argue that competition would provide the impetus towards success required to meet the skills requirements of industry and employers, and the skills challenges of the future. Unsurprisingly, this suggestion for the removal of “ring fenced funding” did not meet with unqualified approval from FE colleges.

Training Providers

However much criticism the CBI report on FE may have received, it has been welcomed by the Association of Learning Providers (ALP). The Chief Executive of the ALP, Graham Hoyle, praised the CBI report’s forward thinking approach, saying: “The CBI’s call for more open competition in the Further Education market is entirely consistent with ALP’s proposals for a national skills strategy that responds to global economic forces.”

The Leitch Review on Skills, which was set up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown MP to establish the skills that will be required in 2020 for a successful and competitive workforce, was also drawn into the debate. Mr. Hoyle continued: “While we too welcome the proposals in the FE white paper, we believe that the Government could be much bolder in advancing its timetable for reform and we hope that Lord Leitch will advocate greater ambition when his Review of Skills is published in the autumn.

“Good providers, whether colleges or independents, have nothing to fear from greater competition in the learning supply market,” continued Mr. Hoyle. “Four years after the Success for All initiative, no provider of any type should benefit from artificial mechanisms of protectionism and ALP is perfectly happy for past performance and quality criteria to be built into a new regime for awarding Learning and Skills Council (LSC) contracts.

“As the CBI says, the criteria should be fair to all and transparent,” concluded Mr. Hoyle.

Jethro Marsh

Look through the FE window in From the FE Trenches!

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