This week Bedford, Shuttleworth and Kimberley Colleges have been celebrating Colleges Week, an event organised by the Association of Colleges to recognise the vital contribution of Further Education (FE) Colleges to local students and businesses in Bedford and Kempston.
Across the two weeks, colleges across the country put on events to showcase the work they do, to raise awareness of the challenges they face and demonstrate how colleges can meet the challenges and demands of our changing workforce in vital areas such as digital, health and social care and green skills.
The Conservatives have delivered more than a decade of decline in skills training, neglecting our colleges and the vital role they play in boosting skills across our economy. Technical Excellence Colleges will lead a decade of national renewal after Labour analysis revealed that apprenticeship starts have dropped significantly since 2017.
So, I was pleased to see that the role FE colleges can make to grow our economy was recognised at Labour Conference earlier this month where, Keir Starmer pledged to put colleges at the heart of our mission to break down the barriers to opportunity by delivering a new generation of Technical Excellence Colleges.
Existing FE Colleges will be supported to respond to locally agreed skills plans, working hand-in-hand with businesses to align skills and training provision with local need to ensure employers can source more of the skilled workers they need from local communities.
Labour have already pledged to reform the Conservative’s failed apprenticeship levy into a ‘Growth and Skills Levy’, so it can be used on a greater range of training courses, giving businesses the flexibility, they need to retrain and upskill their existing workforce as well as creating more opportunities for young people.
Boosting Britain’s skills will be a national mission for Labour, led by Skills England, which will bring together businesses, training providers and unions to meet the skills needs of the next decade.
Devolving skills budgets and allowing decisions on investment to be made closer to where need arises – creates a huge opportunity for our FE colleges to once again be in the vanguard of a national mission to make the most of everyone’s skills.
This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mohammad Yasin, Labour MP for Bedford & Kempston.
It is published unedited and does not
reflect the views of the Bedford Independent.