From education to employment

Welsh Colleges ready for Learning Country 2 Challenge says Fforwm

Fforwm, the national organisation representing all 25 FE colleges and institutions in Wales, says that Welsh colleges are already punching above their weight but are ready to take on further challenges.

This was announced at the launch of the Welsh Assembly Government’s consultation document, The Learning Country 2. Welsh colleges are outperforming colleges in England, according to the government inspection services. In 2005, they won 20% of the prestigious UK Beacon Awards, although Wales contains only 5% of the UK’s FE colleges. However, fforwm and the Further Education Institutions (FEIs) are already addressing a number of the key points that The Learning Country 2 seeks to address.

Issues in Learning Country 2

Firstly, fforwm welcomes the emphasis on Learning Country 2 bringing about parity between academic and vocational qualifications, but recognises that it will be a significant task to get the message across to learners, parents, carers and employers. Secondly, fforwm fully supports the Welsh Assembly Government’s emphasis on the importance of continuing to raise standards. All colleges in Wales are committed to improving quality in a rigorous, thorough and learner-centred way.

Under the co-ordination of fforwm, three initiatives are already underway, covering self-regulation, work-based learning and engaging with employers. Over half the middle managers in FEIs in Wales are either studying for a postgraduate management qualification or are participating in a tailor-made management training programme run by fforwm. fforwm also welcomes the continued commitment to delivering one national system of funding all post-16 provision outside higher education.

The Welsh Assembly Government will, of course, need to demonstrate that the level of funding provided will be sufficient for FEIs to meet their commitments, and that the national system of funding will be clear, consistent and transparent. Many people are surprised to hear that there are more learners aged 16-19 studying at college than anywhere else.

Colleges are increasingly assisting LEAs and schools in delivering a wide range of educational opportunities to 14-16 year olds. FEIs will therefore be central to the Welsh Assembly Government’s ambitions for the broadening of the educational provision for 14-19 year olds.

A Common Goal

fforwm’s Chief Executive, John Graystone, said: “We all share the same aim ““ to deliver high quality teaching and learning and to raise skills levels in Wales”¦FEIs are already taking responsibility for delivering continuously higher quality across an amazing breadth of provision, from basic employability skills to postgraduate qualifications. We are proud that we open our doors to all from the age of 14 to 104 and contribute significantly to the economic and community development of Wales, as well as to the personal development of our learners.”

He concluded: “fforwm is keen to work with the Minister and her team in having a serious debate on the future direction of the sector. We look forward to the discussion on whether FEIs should focus narrowly on skills and employability or whether we should embrace a wider church.”

Watch this space for more information on the kind of fruition fforwm achieves, particularly in terms of broadening employment opportunities in Wales.

Sudakshina Mukherjee

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