From education to employment

LSC Black Country Area Director Andy Brown speaks exclusively to FE News

The Learning and Skills Council have defended their decision to advertise for vocational providers in the West Midlands, following the University and College Union’s (UCU) publicised disappointment.

Further to a story published on FE News on Wednesday, the LSC’s Area Director for the Black Country, Andy Brown, clarified their position. In an exclusive statement for FE News, he said: “Currently 43% of the working population of Walsall has no qualification at all and one in ten 16-18 year olds is neither working nor in training or education”.

The statement comes as the UCU fear that the LSC advertisement constitutes a “competition” to privatise the FE sector. The Association of Learning Providers yesterday moved to support the proposition, noting that a “mixed market of providers” was working well.

“Against this backdrop, there is a real determination in the borough to provide a broader range of learning for young people coming through the education system over the coming years than has been available historically to break this cycle of education failure experienced by so many”, Mr Brown continued.

“The LSC views 16-19 competitions as one of a range of mechanisms by which it carries out its statutory duty to plan for post-16 provision in an area and to address challenges such as these in Walsall. It reflects three key 16-19 measures as set out in the Government’s Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners, published in July 2004.

“These are to encourage increased choice and diversity with opportunities for greater autonomy for institutions in serving their local communities. One of these measures included competitions, decided at local level, where substantial new 16-19 provision is needed.

“The LSC, working with key stakeholders in Walsall, is committed to provision that offers a full range of learning opportunities, vocational and academic, at Levels 2 & 3 for 16-18 year olds in the borough so that far more can engage and be successful. No single provider, however, whether a school, college, or work-based learning organisation, can meet the needs of the whole of this client group and that is why a 16-19 Competition was launched in July.

“The “competition” process – which is in fact about encouraging better collaboration between a full range of partner institutions and organisations for the benefit of Walsalls young people ““ will undoubtedly help more young people achieve qualifications and get employment.

“Walsall’s is not the first competition of its kind. Since their launch, competition notices have been published in six areas across the country in order to meet a range of needs, including the need for new places and reconfiguration of provision in an area.

“Competitions are open to existing and prospective public and private sector providers. Only one of these competitions to date has come to the end of the process so it is really too early to fully access the implications of this policy”.

Vijay Pattni.

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