From education to employment

Partnerships Across Education Required for FE Success – but Is It Enough?

In February, the government published plans to reform further education in Britain. The overall focus of the reforms is on tuning FE students to workplace, and strengthening the relationship between businesses and FE learning providers.

Amongst the reforms mentioned in the paper, the government plans to make vocational training free up to the age of 25, in order to attract more young students to further education and training after they leave school. In a bid to reinvigorate Britain’s skills base there are plans to bring successful “high-fliers” into the FE community to give it a boost, but also cuts in funding for failing colleges.

In order to strengthen business links, the government has invited businesses to become involved in the design and contents of college courses in order to tailor them to the needs of the workplace. It is hoped that this business-inclined development of the workforce will help Britain’s skills base to grow at a time when it is not fulfilling its potential. Other plans include the dissolution of the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI), which monitors the skills development and preparation of the workforce for the government, and a new inspectorate, merged with Ofsted, replacing it.

ALP Respond

Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Learning Providers (ALP), gave the organisation’s response to the white paper. He comments that the introduction of diplomas that mix academic and vocational provision is welcomed by the ALP, but warns that the success of these courses will rely on “the availability of collaborative partnerships between schools, colleges and independent work-based learning providers”. He states that he ALP is already active on such collaborations, and that they “need assurances that the new legislation will enable these to continue and flourish”.

The merging of the ALI with Ofsted is however, not as warmly welcomed. Hoyle states that the ALP is “reasonably happy” with the chief inspector’s new powers, but adds that it would perhaps be better to retain a body that specializes in checking the quality of training and information for over 16’s. There is further discomfort with the government’s “Youth Matters” proposals, which the ALP believes will “further institutionalize bias against work-based learning at a time when ministers are trying to promote vocational learning”.

The response from the ALP does not mention the provision of free vocational training for students between the ages of 19 and 25, or the implications of increased focusing of further education to business needs. Also, it does not comment on the extra pressure placed on failing colleges or those that do not establish good business links, who could find their funding being cut by the government.

Daniel Wallis

To read the commentary on the response, stay right here at FE News!

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