We face a major challenge in our training and skills sector. The need for more highly skilled people, trained effectively in order to grow our economy and raise productivity is of paramount importance if we are to close the gap with our neighbouring counterparts. Recent news on our exit from the EU could see businesses re-assess their approach to developing their workforce which highlights the need for the sector to face into these challenges.
Change is hard but however great, it can be overcome if there is the courage and foresight to focus on the outcome and tenacity and resilience to see it through. Scrutiny placed on the sector over the past 12 months has been overshadowed with inconsistent and often wayward approach which has left the sector guessing. With little more than lip service paid in the recent Queens honours list for services to industry, is the sector voice being fully recognised? Leaders across the sector have been calling out to government for clarity in recent months following Lord Sainsbury's report into post 16 education.
Those anticipating a shake up to the rules for Apprenticeships in April of this year will see funding for 16-18 shrink by two thirds and a focus more toward adult education. The driver is a call within Lord Sainsbury’s report to empower employers, with a far closer alliance with education providers to deliver learner centric and industry specific training. This will only work if the standards and content of these technical qualifications are owned by employers both big and small and funding accessed by those reliant on these qualifications to develop their workforce.
The government's long awaited launch of the Institute for Apprenticeships that advises on standards, quality assurance, funding and policy has even had its window for consultation cut short. Those seeking confidence in how the body will operate and function will need to wait until later this year before the board is appointed and detail added. It is hoped that these initiatives provide a much needed bridge between the experience the sector offers and the reality of the policies and frame in which this will begin to operate.
The sector is not without its own shortcomings. To date, college led initiatives to champion innovation have fallen by the wayside and proven fruitless for the wider community. Leadership thinking is also at a crossroads with a much needed fresh perspective and approach that will bring people with them on the journey of change in this new landscape. The challenge of staff wellbeing and productivity following the review process has also taken its toll on our colleagues and friends and has only recently begun to receive its dues in the press.
The ability for governors and leaders alike to understand the mind-set that is required by its current and future leaders is of paramount importance. The future of this sector is in their hands and those brave enough to make the change so needed will pay dividends. Listening to the voice of the sector and acting on its recommendations will led to a robust and coherent strategy, improve the value of this dialogue and permiate down to the teams of professionals empowered to make these a reality.
“The FE sector has shown a great capacity for change and reinvented itself countless times over the years, in order to best serve its students and respond to local and national priorities. However, the current level of planned change following the area review process and the 2016 Skills Plan, will touch the entire sector and demand expert change leaders in every entity at a time when such skills are in short supply and the sector is less attractive than ever to generalists and those from other industries who do not already have a passion for and strong commitment to the sector.” David McIntyre, Partner at gunnercookeConsulting