From education to employment

AoC, AELP and City & Guilds form a FE and Skills Coalition to drive positive change for the future of skills

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A new coalition, which unites some of the most influential voices in the skills sector, has been launched to press for a more joined up and sufficiently funded technical and vocational education sector to boost growth.

In recent years, there have been huge shocks that have rocked the stability of the labour market from changes in trade relationships and skills supply following the EU referendum to the pandemic. As a result, we now have c.1.3 million unfilled job vacancies in the UK, a shrinking available workforce and employers struggling to compete for talent.

The post-16 education sector plays a critical role in driving economic growth – through training, re-training and upskilling millions of people every year. While there has been increased focus from politicians and policymakers in recent years, there remain fundamental challenges facing the sector. Most markedly through insufficient and diffused investment into the sector from government and also a need to break down barriers to investment and engagement from employers. In addition, longer term disruptors such as the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the four-generation workforce have meant the way that we teach and learn have been fundamentally changed forever.

In response to this, the coalition has been formed to champion the role of post-16 education and skills in our ambition to unlock growth and improve the nation’s economic outlook. This coalition will aim to shape a nationalstrategy supporting local growth and to achieve better alignment across disconnected and often conflicting Government Department programmes as a key priority – turning the tide on ten years of underinvestment with a call for a ten-year commitment to skills for future growth and productivity.

The Association of Colleges (AoC), Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and City & Guilds have come together as a force for positive change- amplifying the voice of the whole FE sector and bringing together a broader network of stakeholders interested in boosting skills. This coalition will focus on campaigning across key policy issues and act as a catalyst for engagement with their wider networks across employers, industry bodies and the third sector.

Kirstie Donnelly CEO City & Guilds said:

“The English skills system continues to compare very poorly to other OECD nations and investment in adult education has collapsed by 50 per cent over the past decade, meaning 50% fewer people benefitting from the life changing benefits of a vocational education. It should come as no surprise then that employers are crying out for skilled people to fill millions of empty jobs.”

“The coalition will focus upon the changes that need to be made to enable us to maximise the potential of the Further Education sector and its impact for individuals, organisations and society. Bringing the disparate organisations that can affect change together in a vitally important movement.”

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive of AELP added:

“At a time of unprecedented challenges, it is right that we bring together all those delivering and benefiting from skills training to call for a fairer deal. The whole FE sector is raring to support a skills agenda which will put more people into sustainable employment and advance economic growth- but we need more investment and a joined-up policy approach to get there. Together- we will always achieve more than we can achieve alone. I am therefore delighted to be working with colleagues from right across the sector on this mission critical work.”

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said:

“A growing economy needs ongoing investment in skills, for jobs today and to be agile as job needs change with new technology. Sadly, that investment is lacking in our country, hampering growth. Investing in skills gives instant and long-term returns through higher productivity, helping employers find and develop productive workers and in turn delivering higher wages. The further education sector is united in its call for better investment in technical education and training across people’s lifetimes. We need the Government to grasp this opportunity to build a system where employers and educators are singing from the same hymn sheet.”

A series of events will be convened during 2022/23 to bring together learner, provider and employer voices and ensure that the vision for a joined-up technical and vocational education sector.

Ultimately, this coalition will ensure people are able to access the education and training they need throughout their lives; working with employers to drive greater productivity; and working across the private, public and third sectors to build healthier, greener, more cohesive places.

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