From education to employment

Shadow Minister for Lifelong Learning, Higher and Further Education mulls over the last 12 months.

What has been the most welcome development or announcement affecting FE and WBL in 2007?

What has given me the most personal satisfaction this year was persuading the Government to back down and amend the FE and Training Bill so that the LSC was not granted draconian new powers to intervene in FE colleges. As a result of the amendments, the powers of the LSC go no further than those currently held by Ministers who will continue to be accountable to Parliament for any action taken. I also celebrate the fact that FE colleges will be able to award Foundation Degrees.

And the worst?

The most dispiriting news has been the sharp fall in the number of young people in work based learning. Average numbers in apprenticeships have fallen by over 13 thousand, from 252.3 thousand to 239.1 thousand in just one year. Numbers for both apprenticeships and advanced apprenticeships are in decline. There are now over 25 thousand fewer advanced apprentices than there were at the turn of the decade.These shocking figures stand in stark contrast to the extravagant claims made by the Prime Minister. There are now far fewer than the 250 thousand apprentices the Government claim and the number is falling sharply, raising fundamental doubts about whether the Government can meet its target of 400 thousand apprenticeships by 2010/11.

What would be on your Christmas list for FE?

My Christmas wish for FE colleges is that they are finally given the freedom they need to innovate and excel. More than two years ago the Foster review advocated a cull of what it described as the “galaxy” of bodies that oversee FE the Government has yet to take any real action. It seems bizarre that the Government rightly trusts FE colleges to award Foundation Degrees but not to manage their own affairs.

What would your New Year resolutions be?

In the spirit of Socrates my resolution is to spend less time thinking about what I do know and more time thinking about what I don”t.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the readers of FE News and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

John Hayes MPShadow Minister for Lifelong Learning, Higher and Further Education

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