Call to legally force colleges to consider skills needs

A new national vision for skills and lifelong learning must be introduced in Wales, says independent commission
26th January 2021, 12:01am
Kate Parker

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Call to legally force colleges to consider skills needs

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/call-legally-force-colleges-consider-skills-needs
Skills Needs: Put Legal Duty On Colleges, Says Research

Welsh colleges should have a legal duty to consider regional needs when planning their offer, a report published today says. 

The report, The College of the Future for Wales, published by the Independent Commission on the College of the Future 100 days before the Senedd election, sets out a roadmap for the future of colleges in Wales.

The report says that colleges have a key role to play in regional regeneration programmes and that a legal duty would ensure there is coherence and impact in colleges' work.

It says that colleges should be "community anchor institutions" and therefore be represented in all Public Service Boards (PSBs), introduced in the Future Generations Act.


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Scottish report: Funding should be uncoupled from student numbers

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David Jones, former chief executive of Coleg Cambria and commissioner, said that there is a demand for radical reform for Welsh colleges.

'Radical reform' for Welsh colleges

"Colleges across Wales are already key institutions in their communities, delivering for local people and businesses," he said. "The transformations we face necessitate a scale of ambition that demands radical reform for colleges. The commission has consulted extensively with stakeholders across Wales, and the UK as a whole. This report, alongside others across the four nations, sets out an ambitious agenda of further development for the fantastic college sector in Wales. 

"We must grasp this opportunity for change so that colleges can deliver lifelong learning fit for the future, which drives the prosperity and innovation for our businesses. Recognising the challenges of Covid-19, the sector must now kick-on to the next level. This means modernising further to realise the benefits of digital in their operations and as providers for business and communities; confidently partnering with others in the education system; and putting the needs of future generations at the heart of their missions."

The report calls for a new national vision for skills and lifelong learning in Wales - and for a "holistic, coherent and equitable post-compulsory education and training system" with a single funding and regulatory body to be introduced.

It also calls for a statutory right to lifelong learning, the introduction of employer hubs and digital community hubs and a renewed focus from colleges on the promotion of the Welsh language as well as tackling climate change. 

'Collaboration will be key to success'

Kathryn Roberts, chair of CBI Wales, said that if Welsh businesses are to survive and thrive, colleges have an important role to play.

"This report comes at a time when businesses across the Welsh economy are facing unprecedented challenges," she said. "As businesses, we want to see even more college staff spending time with us as part of strategic partnerships. That's why the case the commission makes for employer hubs is so exciting. SMEs especially would value an interface for working with colleges for skills support, and for coaching and innovation support. Collaboration will be key to success."  

Shavanah Taj, general secretary of Wales TUC, said that, for many people, lifelong learning feels out of reach. 

"We have to make getting people ready for the new challenges of the world of work a priority in Wales, now and as we look ahead to 2030," she said. "For too many people, lifelong learning feels out of reach. That's why I am pleased to see recommendations today from the Independent Commission on the College of the Future that would ensure commitment to lifelong learning with a right to student support which meets the needs of people when they need it."

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