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Government skills strategy ‘misleading’, warns AoC

Government promises to invest £4.4 billion in Further Education and skills for 2010-11 are misleading because they also include significant savings, warns Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC).

Following the recently published Skills for Growth White Paper, this week saw further details of plans to kick-start the economy with a new technician class, brought about by Advanced Apprenticeships. Among measures set out in The Skills Investment Strategy 2010-11, the Government confirmed £3.5 billion for adult training places – an increase of almost three per cent compared with 2009-10.

Skills Minister Kevin Brennan said: “Skills training is an investment in an individual and their ability to get on in life, an investment in the productivity of our companies and in our future economic growth. We need to invest in the right training, to encourage more employers and individuals to buy into skills and to ensure a more productive use of skills across the UK economy.”

However, speaking at the AoC Annual Conference in Birmingham yesterday, Mr Doel warned: “To call this an ‘investment strategy’ is somewhat misleading since it embodies significant savings.”

He added: “Within the strategy there is a considerable shift in priorities – consistent with those set out in last week’s Skills for Growth paper. Although Colleges are the most responsive element of the education sector they will need time to adapt. You can’t make these type of changes overnight.

“These savings do represent cuts  – particularly to the rates of funding for certain courses – at a time when the services of colleges have never been more in demand. We are therefore looking to work closely with Government and its agencies to ensure that students, communities and businesses that colleges support are protected, as far as is possible, from the consequences of funding changes.”

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