The CEO of a leading college group has welcomed the Government’s commitment to breaking down barriers between academic and practical education – but says colleges will need significant investment to support this.
Angela Joyce heads up WCG (formerly Warwickshire College Group) which operates across Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a shake-up of adult education in a bid to help boost the post-Covid economy.
In the speech he launched the Lifetime Skills Guarantee to give adults, without an A-Level or equivalent qualification, opportunities to take free, fully funded, college courses, if the courses offer skills valued by employers – with the provision starting from next April.
The National Skills Fund will total £500 million a year from April 2021 and will be used to fund an all-age entitlement to Level 3 education.
He re-announced capital investment in Further Education (FE) colleges, with the £1.5 billion FE capital fund, alongside more flexibility with the apprenticeship levy and training funds for SMEs.
Plans were also highlighted to end the distinction between the practical and academic, with the aim of closing the skills gap with other countries on skills and technical education. In particular ensuring that the current HE loans system can be accessed by those studying higher technical qualifications, such as HNDs and Foundation Degrees.
It signals a desire from Government to sharpen the nation’s skillsets and ensure the workforce is prepared for the post Covid-19 job market.
The announcement comes following the launch of the September edition of the Midlands Engine Observatory’s Economic Impact of Covid-19 monitor.
The report highlighted that many of the 132,000 graduates from Midlands universities and colleges have struggled to find jobs that matched their degrees since graduating.
Angela Joyce is Chair of the Midlands Engine Skills Board and in the report voiced concerns that the Coronavirus pandemic has created a ‘COVID Generation’ of education leavers unable to gain employment.
Angela, CEO of WCG, said: "It finally feels like the messages are being heard and we are going to fundamentally reform our technical education system.
“'Technical' means relating to a particular subject or its techniques or having special and usually practical knowledge.
“This is something most employers are seeking in their employees, and if that is the case why has there ever been a divide between practical and academic?
“These announcements are welcome changes to give opportunity for those who need it and to give our country the skills it needs.
“Colleges need investment and support, but with the right backing we are ready to deliver on the Prime Minister’s skills speech.”
WCG college’s include Royal Leamington Spa, Rugby, Warwick Trident, Moreton Morrell, Pershore, Evesham and Malvern Hills.
PICTURE CAPTION: Angela Joyce, CEO of WCG