From education to employment

Welsh draft budget worries fforwm

Further education colleges have warned the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) that its economy faces further decline if it fails to fully invest in skills.

WAG’s own key policy document, Skills That Work for Wales, and the Leitch Review of UK skills both highlight the need to invest in workforce skills and the wider population to increase prosperity. The current economic downturn, coupled with an increasingly competitive global economy, makes this investment all the more crucial.

fforwm, which represents all 25 FE colleges and institutions in Wales, claims it is suffering from a significant funding gap. Jane Hutt, WAG’s Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, meanwhile has declared her intention for "raising our game on skills". The Government’s draft budget aims to ensure that "further education institutions must be the key drivers of skills".

According to the draft budget for 2009-10, an additional £10.5 million will be shared between FE colleges, sixth form schools, work-based learning and adult and community learning. However, fforwm believes that FE colleges alone require £16.5 million revenue funding just to stand still. This year, Welsh colleges have had to cut courses, reduce staff and pull back from investing in first class facilities for their learners. fforwm says the draft budget for 2009-10 looks set to be even worse.

John Graystone, chief executive of fforwm, said: "Putting money into further education (FE) colleges in Wales is a safe long-term investment with a guaranteed high rate of return. Evidence shows that investing in skills leads to high quality learning, a stronger economy, improvement in the nation’s health and reductions in crime.

"fforwm is urging the WAG to amend its draft budget and invest modest sums in the future development of the skills of the population of Wales. It’s a small drop in the ocean compared to the billions of pounds the UK Government is spending to shore up Britain’s financial services, but it’s a sound, sensible investment for Wales that will deliver real, positive and measurable results for our economy and society."

The organisation is calling for an additional £5.4 million to allow a rise of 2% in the number of college learners. It believes the move is what the Welsh economy needs during the tough financial climate, to not only compete with countries across the world, but with England and Scotland too, which are investing massively in increasing the skills of their workforce.

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