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Government regulations ‘denying’ millions of workers training in colleges


The leader of the association which represents Britain's Further Education Colleges is calling on the Government to introduce radical changes in policy when it launches its Skills Strategy in June.

David Gibson, CEO of the Association of Colleges, believes that millions of people across the country are missing out on training because of over-regulation of the college sector and cuts in funding for adult learning by the Learning and Skills Council, the Government quango holding the Further Education purse strings.

The AoC is putting forward a blueprint for change as part of its campaign, "Colleges at the Heart of Business". It follows the first joint annual report from Ofsted and the Adult Learning Inspectorate, which argued that further education providers should do more to work closely with employers.

The AoC maintains the fault lies instead with red tape preventing Further Education colleges from offering short industry and job-specific training and qualifications. The Learning and Skills Council has also cut number of adults that colleges can help.

David Gibson said: "Currently the Government only funds traditional college courses, preventing people taking courses on subjects just relevant to their job. Despite this three million adults do gain new skills and qualifications at their local college every year - if colleges were given greater freedom to design their own courses then millions more people could be taking advantage of training."

The AOC quotes figures which they say show colleges already provide over half of all work-related training in Britain, but that 1 in 3 workers still lack basic reading, writing and maths qualifications. The AoC now wants Government to offer workers and businesses financial incentives to make taking up training opportunities more attractive

David Gibson said: "We need to see a real mindshift in the way that both employers and the public see the culture of education in Britain. It needs to be about giving people opportunities and encouragement to improve their skills and job opportunities and letting colleges work with business and industry to tailor-make training courses to suit their needs.

The Association also believes both employers and learners should be given tax and other incentives to encourage people to improve their learning and better their skills, following the collapse of individual learning accounts, but that there also needs to be a culture change, so that lifelong learning is recognised and valued - both in industry and society.

One of the key issues the Government will look at in June will be whether training is flexible enough to meet the needs of business - both in terms of its content and delivery.


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