College leaders call on chancellor to invest in young people
By Sarah Wood
Colleges leaders have challenged the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to be bold in the spending review later this month, saying that only bold investment in people and skills will enable the country to 'build back better and differently'.
Government will be investing in railways, science and innovation centres, town centres and making changes for net zero, as the country emerges from the pandemic. But leaders in vocational and technical education say that without parallel investment for young people and retraining for older workers, plans and ambitions for a 'levelled up' country will be impossible.
A £4.6bn injection into colleges over the next three years would support young people and adults to have the skills to build that infrastructure, start to reduce widening skills gaps and provide opportunities in the most disadvantaged communities.
As part of the Association of Colleges' spending review submission, they have challenged the government to follow through on its ambition to put skills front and centre of the economic rebuild and recognise that investment in people and training is the catalyst to creating a stronger, fairer and more resilient society.
David Hughes, chief executive of Association of Colleges, said: "Rebuilding the country and meeting the challenges of the future is going to require determined action on long-standing inequalities across the education system, rising to the challenges posed by climate change and recognising that, without colleges, levelling up will remain merely a slogan."
AoC is clear that if further education funding continues to lag behind both university and school funding - currently annual public funding per university student averages £6,600 compared to £1,050 for adults in further education - then this year's further education white paper and skills bill risk being wasted endeavours.
The Association of Colleges has outlined three priority areas which require action:
1. Closing skills gaps and workers of the future
2. Addressing lost learning and creating a fairer education system
3. Education is the key to reaching a net zero carbon economy
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