Skills Funding Agency chief executive Geoff Russell

Skills Funding Agency chief executive Geoff Russell reflects on a ferocious year but is hopeful for longevity in 2011 as he considers the magic of the marketplace.

Welcome to 2011, which if Chinese mythology is to be believed is the Year of the Hare, the emblem of longevity. This is surely a propitious sign after what was, I'm told, the ferocious Year of the Tiger. Interestingly, it's also the international year of chemistry, where the United Nations will celebrate the global significance of chemistry. What better time for FE to get its chemistry right?

To my mind, these can only be good omens as we emerge from ferocious 2010, which closed with the publication of the two most important strategies the sector has probably ever seen.

As the nation pins its hopes on economic recovery in 2011, the Coalition has made it clear that skills will be the key to accelerating growth and promoting fairness. The role of the FE sector in underpinning economic growth is critical. Certainly, the economic and political environment we are in gives FE a remarkable opportunity to capitalise on what it does best.

But let's not gloss over the challenges the sector needs to overcome if it's to seize that opportunity. The chemical formula has to be right. So the Agency must put the right elements of incentives and accountabilities in place that are needed to start the reaction between supply and demand in the market. And then get out of their way, supplying just the right heat and oxygen – or should I say funding and information – so customers and providers can make their own decisions in the market.

Before Christmas providers received their initial adult funding allocations from the Agency. Most significantly, this now takes the form of one single adult budget. Within that overall budget there is requirement for a minimum level of Apprenticeship activity, which of course reflects the Government's expectation to substantially grow Apprenticeships. But if providers are to deliver the right results they will need to go beyond that minimum and keep increasing and growing their Apprenticeships. Overall, the allocations may not look too bad, but the devil is in the detail on changes to the unit of funding, to what is funded, to uplifts etc. The next year will be one of working harder for your money - and the same is true for 16-19 funding. Future years will just be about less money.

So 2011 begins a world of less money and harder work. But let's not fool ourselves. Yes, it's because of reduced public sector finances - but don't forget it's also because the world overall is a tougher, more competitive place. And the same economic pressures that are driving the sector to greater competitiveness are also driving our customers, who wisely know that equipping themselves with better skills is the way forward in a highly competitive world.

Some of our greatest shining lights have already skilled themselves for this tough new world: our recent Euroskills medallists. I congratulate them wholeheartedly on their success. The UK Team, all aged under 25, secured 17 Medals, including eight golds, in skills ranging from Mechanical Engineering through to Landscape Gardening and Hairdressing at the European Skills Competition www.ukskills.org.uk.

And on the subject of success, if you can inspire people like those young people do, work dynamically with your customer and create a different offering for learners, then you too are onto a winner. The new-found freedoms and flexibilities that the sector has at its disposal can and should drive it to yet greater enterprise, with or without public subsidy, where getting up close and personal with the customer - whether that be employer or individual - is the norm. Gone are the days where demand is expressed through the bureaucracy of national planning. That's the magic of the marketplace.

Yet I am clear that competitiveness must have a social conscience too. Colleges and providers do need to make best use of any public subsidy that's available to them, but they need to do so by working closely with local stakeholders in the communities they operate in. That's why the Outcome Incentive Payment being trialled in 10-11 will mean that a proportion of the allocation is held back and will only be paid on the achievement of economically valuable outcomes.

So working closely with the community is of great value to maximising your income. But financial health is not just about looking after the top line, it must also be about reducing costs by working closely together. Which takes us once again to the hobbyhorse of efficiency. In times of austerity, the sector must do better with less, not less with less. FE is already pretty efficient but must now become ruthlessly so. So shared services, joint contracting, federation, combined back office functions and whatever else can be dreamed up must be considered. Not only can collaboration save money, but it can actually lead to income generation if it is done well - think curriculum specialisation - which should also lead to improved quality. More for less – the right answer.

So with the clean slate that the New Year brings and the new, magical dynamics of a customer-driven world, I am confident that the FE sector will achieve the longevity that the Year of the Hare promises. Which is reassuring, as 2012 is the Year of the Dragon...

Happy New Year

Geoff Russell is chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency, part of the Business, Innovation and Skills Department


Read other FE News articles by Geoff Russell:

FE future rests in collaboration and entrepreneurship

The SFA can adapt to CSR challenges, says CEO Geoff Russell

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 8 hours 29 minutes ago

South West Institute of Technology centre (SWIoT)

Petroc Principal Sean Mackney is supporting Love Our Colleges week by showing off the build of our South West Institute of Technology centre...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 8 hours 31 minutes ago

RT @FrancisAlun: We talked a little bit about Oldham and social mobility with @TomBewick and guests. It was fun to do and #skillsworldlive…
View Original Tweet

Claire Russell has published a new article: Education world now putting more focus on planning 10 hours 45 minutes ago

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page