From education to employment

Research commissioned by LSC finds positive local perception but confusion over the system remains.

Research conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the LSC has found that those working within FE recognise the system to be key to meeting the government’s wider goals on economic competitiveness, social inclusion and community cohesion. Three in five (57%) of those canvassed regard the FE system to be well respected and 64% believe that the activities of the FE System have a major impact on the national economy and productivity.

The survey canvassed a wide range of those working both directly and indirectly with FE including MPs, local authorities, Sector Skills Councils, trade unions, sixth form colleges and training providers.

The majority of those questioned feel that the System has made good progress in recent years in quality of provision (63%), and general estate and buildings (61%) with the quality of leadership and choice of provision also being cited as improved by half of all stakeholders.

The research found that the respondents were more positive about local provision (69%) than national (54%). In addition, those canvassed appeared to reinforce the notion of FE largely being delivered in colleges. Training providers in particular are not yet seen as part of the FE system. The survey found that there is a need for training providers and employers to be better engaged with the system as 36% of employers responding said they had little or no understanding of the system

Mark Haysom, Chief Executive, Learning and Skills Council said: “All of us in the sector must work together to develop the reputation and understanding of FE amongst our key stakeholders. The work of the steering group is essential in highlighting the reforms taking place that will further meet the needs of learners and employers. This research helps us identify areas of concern, allows us to agree, with our partners, the direction of travel, and gives us the evidence we need to establish plans for the future.”

In January the FE Reputation Steering Group was set up by the LSC and Government with the aim of raising awareness, increasing understanding and enhancing the reputation of the FE system amongst key stakeholders. Its members include sixth form colleges, the Association of Learning Providers, the Association of Colleges and independent and work-based learning providers

Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, John Brennan said: “Advancing the reputation of the FE sector is critical if we are to demonstrate to both external and internal audiences the value of FE and the contribution it makes to the economic and social success of this country. The strong base revealed by the survey is encouraging but much remains to be done.”

“It is very encouraging that this important research recognises the key role of the FE sector in meeting the skills needs of employers.” said Alison Birkinshaw, Principal of Nelson and Colne College, Lancashire, (a member of the FE Reputation Steering Group)

“We know that the vast majority of Colleges provide high quality training for employers. Moving forward, we must continue to enhance the reputation of the sector as a whole, to make sure that everyone is aware of the real impact education and training makes to individuals, employers and communities.”

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