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College reforms could create a skills gap, principals warn

The Government's plans to reform the college sector could create a significant skills gap and affect the country's ability to reach its economic potential, Scotland's Colleges has warne

The Government's plans to reform the college sector could create a significant skills gap and affect the country's ability to reach its economic potential, Scotland's Colleges has warne

With official figures this week putting youth unemployment in Scotland at 23.5 per cent - the highest since devolution - colleges attacked the Scottish Government's focus on 16 to 19-year-olds for failing to recognise the "critical role colleges play in delivering skills for a successful Scotland".

"Clearly, to secure economic growth, colleges must be funded to deliver skills for our economy and meet the needs of industry," the college principals' body states in its response to the Government's Putting Learners at the Centre consultation paper.

The colleges also call on ministers to abandon plans to introduce a requirement that 50 per cent of students must complete a course before the college receives funding for it. This was likely to force colleges to "pick winners" and discriminate against students with the greatest challenges, they add.

Success at college could often not be measured by the number of qualifications achieved, and "if a student leaves to take up a job, that should not be recorded as a failure", said FE principals.

Scotland's Colleges renews its call for a slower, less front-heavy approach to funding reform and cuts. Progressing with the timetable for reform suggested by the Government could "potentially destabilise the sector", it claims. It urges a review of the funding of student support and of what it sees as colleges' core purpose - to support people of all ages and backgrounds.

Figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics showed 23.5 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds in Scotland were unemployed in the three-month period from August to October 2011 - 3 per cent above the UK's overall figure of 20.5 per cent.

The figure also represents a 5.9 per cent increase from the same time last year.

Students respond, page 7.

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