FE news at a glance

Band together in hard times, commissioner urges

Further education colleges must join forces with neighbouring training providers in order to safeguard certain areas of the curriculum, the FE commissioner has warned. In his first annual report, published this week, David Collins says it would be "foolish" to pretend that the sector is not facing a difficult time as a result of forthcoming funding cuts and the rising demand for skills. When resources are short, he writes, neighbouring colleges should work together and with other providers to come up with joint plans for their communities. "There is a danger that without such a consideration, the more expensive areas of the curriculum (for example, science and engineering) will disappear from areas where they are needed in a college's pursuit of financial stability," he warns. The report sets out the lessons learned from the first 11 colleges referred to Dr Collins since he was appointed as FE commissioner in November 2013. Four of those referrals were triggered by inadequate Ofsted ratings and seven because of financial concerns. Among the issues raised by the commissioner are ineffective clerks, weaknesses in governing bodies and senior leadership teams, poor performance management systems and inadequate financial management. But despite the difficulties, Dr Collins says that the hard work of staff in colleges is producing "significant and rapid" turnarounds for learners. Read the full report.

Training is not `totally attuned to work', report says

The UK's skills training system is increasingly out of step with the needs of the economy and requires urgent change, according to a new report by the Skills Commission. The report, Still in Tune? The Skills System and the Changing Structures of Work, raises four "strategic alerts" that need urgent attention from the government and the skills sector to create a "vocational education system that is totally attuned to work". Among these are an "alarming" policy dissonance between government departments and a fragmentation of the skills system, which makes it difficult for employers to engage. The report, published this week after a nine-month inquiry, calls on the government to do more to reform the skills system.

Free digital skills courses launched online

The first government-funded online learning platform to help people develop digital business skills has been launched in the UK. The Digital Business Academy, created by Tech City UK and University College London, is a free online program open to all UK residents, with no qualification requirement. Courses - which include business development, marketing, branding and finance - take between three and six weeks to complete and include videos, reading assignments and hands-on exercises. A recent report suggests that Britain will need 745,000 additional workers with digital skills to meet the rising demand from employers between 2013 and 2017.

Young entrepreneurs triumph in Edge Challenge

FE student entrepreneurs have been rewarded for their enterprise skills at a national awards ceremony. The top prizes at the Edge Challenge competition went to David Humpston, 19, a former Peter Jones Enterprise Academy student at Amersham and Wycombe College, and a team of students from Barking and Dagenham College. Mr Humpston was awarded the pound;3,000 individual top prize for setting up a video production company. The "Card Stack" team, which developed digital business cards that can be shared via an app and online, won the pound;5,000 team prize. The awards were presented by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg at the Skills Show in Birmingham.

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