If the chancellor really wants to improve training for skills (Javid to back skills as key to ‘levelling up’ plan, 31 January), he inherits from a long line of politicians who tried to change Britain’s stubborn failure in this area. And it’s not just the disparities between regions in the UK; we are also persistently behind other advanced industrial nations. Even the 1964 Industrial Training Act, which was probably the most ambitious attempt, has been seen as a failure.
The obstacles are many, and both Tory and Labour governments have failed to overcome them. This is partly, of course, because the whole UK system of government and politics is relentlessly focused on A-levels and universities, but also because there has been a failure to compel employers to adopt responsible training policies and a failure to offer enough financial incentives, including for adult retraining. We are constantly told how jobs are going to be ever-changing in the future, but constantly fail to prepare for this.
The disastrous underfunding of the system of technical colleges – without which no system of training for skills can work – is also part of the problem, particularly since 2010. It would be wonderful if Boris’s government found the answer, but I’m not holding my breath.
• Your report on Chancellor Sajid Javid’s plans to make skills a central part of his March budget raised my hopes for the further education colleges and staff I represent. It also gave me hope that the millions of adults who deserve more opportunities to improve their skills might see something positive in the budget and ultimately in their community.
Colleges deliver A-levels, vocational and technical subjects, apprentice provision and higher level study to over 2 million people every year, but could do so much more with the right investment. They have suffered from a decade of neglect and need urgent investment as part of this government’s attempts to help left-behind places and people.
The tide seems to have changed with the prime minister, chancellor and education secretary all recognising the vital role colleges play in every town and city. In many of the Tories’ new seats colleges are in the top five biggest employers and can reach out to the whole community.
If the government is serious about “levelling up” then investment in the country’s colleges will mean more jobs, strengthened links with industry and a skilled workforce able to boost both productivity and inclusive economic growth. In a nutshell, colleges hold the ticket to transform local economies. I hope the budget does not let them down.
Chief executive, Association of Colleges
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