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Digital skills provision 'patchy' and 'unresponsive', report warns

Digital skills training in the further education sector is “patchy, unresponsive and not meeting employer needs”, a group of Lords has warned.

In a report published yesterday, the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee says the FE sector will play a “key role” in developing high-level skills for the future.

However, it also says there is a risk that the sector will provide a “piecemeal response” to the issue that will be “nowhere near" the scale of support needed to help UK firms compete internationally.

“Our evidence suggested...that there are...pockets of excellence in the further education system; but provision is patchy, unresponsive and not meeting employer needs," the report says.

“For instance, evidence from Siemens told us that there was only one college in the whole of London that could deliver the training needed by the company.  

“Further education has a very wide set of agendas and this risks a lack of focus on key sectors, such as digital.”

However, it says these are not problems FE should solve alone, and that the government should help.

In its evidence to the committee, the government says it has implemented significant reform in FE to free providers to respond to local needs.

It also highlights the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (Feltag), and the subsequent measures announced in the ministerial response to Feltag, “aimed to ensure that the FE workforce and FE delivery mechanisms become much more digitally agile”.

A new evaluation into Feltag, published yesterday, says the report and the government’s response have “significantly” raised awareness of the potential of technology, and many colleges and providers are realigning their teaching and learning strategies as a result

However, despite “very encouraging” levels of engagement, the report says there is more to do, and that the leadership of the sector will make it happen.

The Lords report says there is an “urgent requirement” for comprehensive industry input into the further education system, and calls upon the government to encourage strong partnerships between industry and colleges

“Further education colleges need to move up a gear and provide industry-designed and endorsed short courses that are going to lead to a job,” it says.

General digital skills could be improved, it suggests, by including a digital element in all FE courses, as well as more specific courses for digital and technology occupations.

More provision like the National College for Digital Skills in London would be positive, it adds.

Related stories:

Online FE courses to become 'the norm, not the exception' – June 2014

Colleges have failed to keep pace with technology, report claims – May 2014

Tech report says half of all FE learning should be online within three years – February 2014

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