From education to employment

Further Education ‘a constructive alternative to unemployment’

This is the view put forth by John Cridland CBE, the director-general of the CBI, in the 157 Group policy paper published recently to correspond with their annual forum in Bristol.

The paper, entitled Tackling Unemployment: The College Contribution, outlines several recommendations for increasing the popularity of FE colleges as a realistic and ‘constructive’ alternative to employment. The paper promotes Further Education as a way to gain and improve employability skills ready ‘for when the economy picks up.’

In light of this, Cridland believes the promotion of FE should not only be provided by the government but should also equal that given to Apprenticeships.

“Given the recent news that the number of young people not in employment, education or training is on the rise again, this policy paper is timely,” said Lynne Sedgmore CBE, executive director of the 157 Group.

“We need to continue to acknowledge and reinforce the vital role that colleges have to play in upskilling and reskilling people to harness their potential, ensuring that young people have good skills, including literacy and numeracy, and the competencies they need to succeed at work.”

To increase popularity, and to ensure the success of FE as an alternative to entering employment at this time, the paper suggests giving colleges the permission to tailor courses to fit the requirements of individuals and of communities, allowing students to realistically work towards their employment goal, while not actually in employment. Colleges are also keen to increase this opportunity to those over 19.

Marilyn Hawkins, chair of the 157 Group, commented on the benefits of tailored programmes.

“The policy paper includes examples of good practice in our member colleges,” said Hawkins.

“Colleges are already adept at delivering forward-thinking programmes that help equip learners with the skills they need to enter the world of work, and we want business and industry to be aware of this.”

The paper calls for a review of college funding to make these courses possible. It asks for flexibility in the way funding is provided, to enable colleges the freedom to provide the skills and knowledge that businesses really want from employees.

Neil Carberry, CBI’s director of employment and skills, agrees that facilitating the relationship between colleges and businesses to deliver specific skills would be beneficial for students.

“The focus must be on ensuring that colleges are freed up to work with businesses at the local level, and this report includes a number of important ideas that will spark debate about the best way to achieve this shared goal,” said Carberry.

The paper finally discusses the need to review maintenance support, and other existing funding, such as the jobseeker’s allowance, in order to make further education a realistic and financially viable alternative to employment. Hawkins believes with the right financial support for students of FE, colleges could ‘boost the UK’s economy’ and provide ‘equal life chances for all.’

Daisy Atkinson

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