From education to employment

Competition and Privatisation in FE Would “Do More Harm Than Good” Says TUC

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) have criticised a controversial report published this week by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which calls for wider competition to strengthen the FE market.

Brendan Barber, the General Secretary for the TUC, said: “Privatising Further Education services would do more harm than good for Britain’s skills base”. Commenting on the report, which claims that: “Competition is already delivering more responsive training and innovation”, Mr Barber countered with the TUC’s own argument: “All the evidence is that the public sector often outperforms the private sector, and that chipping away at public provision may put the whole system in jeopardy.”


The report, released recently, targets areas of concern in FE amidst the recent furore in light of the “Skills deficit” and “Globalisation” threats. It outlines key proposals in vitalising the sector. Entitled “Transforming Further Education”, it boldly states that “by harnessing the benefits of competition, we can deliver continuous improvement in education.”

Concerning the area of responsibility for the TUC and the emphasis on workplace learning, the report states: “Employers, as customers of further education colleges, are also not well served. Employers invest a huge amount in employee development, but many FE colleges see little of this because businesses do not consider colleges to be the best providers for their needs.”

Cut the Carping

It continues: “CBI members believe that establishing a level playing field between all colleges and PVI providers in delivering further education and training will improve the quality of service.” However, Mr Barber sees otherwise: “Instead of constantly carping, the CBI should congratulate FE colleges and their staff for performance improvements that would be the envy of many businesses.”

Aiming squarely at employers, he says: “While the TUC welcomes the fact that more employers are now working with Union Learning Representatives to boost opportunities, one in three still fail to give their staff any training at work. This is the real skills and productivity challenge, and the sooner we work together to crack it, the better.”

Vijay Pattni

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