Industry leaders have been asked how they would spend the £10 (now £11) billion LSC FE budget. As Chief Officer of the IVA my industry is the assessment and verification industry so if I was in charge of spending the money I would want to spend wisely and efficiently and target areas where spending or the lack of it can make a difference to vocational training.
My first port of call would be “Train to Gain”, which I like the idea of. It is a way of saying “sorry” to the hundreds of thousands of unqualified workers who had a school experience that labelled them as failures and have steered clear of education, training and qualifications ever since. The FE sector has a good track record of reaching the anticipated target group.
However, I would seriously question why £800m of public funds have to be bunged straight to employers to offload their training costs while beseeching them to spend on training. So there’s a short billion saved.
I would be keen to spend more of the budget on reducing the 16-19 funding gap, still at 13% or so in favour of middle class sixth forms as opposed to kids from poorer backgrounds who attend colleges.
I”d spend more on FE staff updating and industrial secondments. Staff are the precious resource; they know so much and have so many skills, that just a top-up investment would make them razor-sharp. I might make it an offence not to issue all staff members with a laptop; it doesn”t look like ICT is going to go out of fashion any time soon. Besides if you give a lecturer or trainer a computer they give you an extra free two days a week of work while they”re hunched over it at the weekend, and in consequence their professional standards are raised. Worth the investment.
Some of the cash should go on the vertical integration of the curriculum. Too many of those labouring in the FE sector feel they”re doing stuff that should have been covered before in school such as reading, writing and arithmetic. Again, there are those in the Schools sector who feel that the world of work and further education and training are the booby prizes for those who didn”t get that good clutch of GCSEs and A Levels that gets you into HE. Employers like bright 16-18 year olds and some cash should be spent on a positive re-branding of “Leave School Early: Work with Training is Cool”.
The creation of more Further and Higher Education initiatives would help foster advanced courses with an industrial/commercial relevance.
Do we need more or less adult education? I say: “Yes”. They need cheering up at a time when the Treasury is asking them to go back to work until they drop and solve the pensions crisis.
I”d like to develop eFE and pump prime more of the local imaginative and creative initiatives that I see around the country.
Finally, how about saving £1b by cutting out the LSC?
Lawrence Miles, Chief Officer, IVA.
Tomorrow: Claire Donovan, Education and Skills Policy Adviser with the EEF, continues the debate, exclusively on FE News
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