A leading figure in further education has claimed that the sector is witnessing “the golden age for professional and technical education”.
Ann Limb, chair of the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), said that the FE sector should be optimistic because there was "growing consensus" in government about the importance of professional and technical education – something that the former principal said wasn't apparent when she entered the FE sector.
“I think times are about to change," Dr Limb told a Westminster Education Forum event about reforms to vocational qualifications. "Stakeholders at every conceivable level are working together to try and bring about change. If we do work together – and that includes all political parties – then students will have a much much better opportunity to transform professional and technical education and meet employers' needs."
Speaking to TES afterwards, Dr Limb said that a major reason to be optimistic about professional and technical qualifications was that "everyone agrees that we want apprenticeships".
"[At the moment] we’re going with the grain of culture change which wasn’t present in the early '90s," she said. "To me, once you've got a government buying in [to FE] it will whittle down through to the employers and through to the LEPs. So instead of providers saying 'let’s have parity of esteem', they need to wake up and really promote that."
Dr Limb became principal and chief executive of Milton Keynes College in 1986. She is currently chair of the Scout Association.
Also speaking at the forum was former shadow education minister Steve McCabe, who said the UK needed a qualifications framework that was flexible enough to accommodate "the world we’re living in".
"We no longer live in an age where most of us have a career for life," he said. "It is absolutely crucial… that children get a much better understanding at an early age of the way the employment market is developing."