Further education colleges can be at the heart of the UK’s skills system if they are given the right support by government, according to the 157 Group of colleges.
A new document, Future Colleges, sets out the group’s vision for the future of colleges and the “vital” role they can play in improving economic growth.
It says they can be “hubs of workforce development”, innovators of higher-level technical education and the focus for community cohesion.
It asks future governments to commit to four key principles in education policy: stable structures, equal treatment, freedom to innovate and durable funding.
It says future policies should be tested against these principles before and during implementation to avoid the “unintended consequences” often sees with current initiatives.
The document lists a number of ways in which colleges have already led the way in delivering apprenticeships, higher education courses and higher level technical skills, as well as improving literacy and numeracy skills and preparing young people for employment.
Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group, said: “Our evidence presents a compelling picture in support of enhancing the role of colleges in our skills system.
“We know that colleges can lead collaboration across the education system and be accountable for their own performance.
“With greater real autonomy, college principals will be able to operate as genuine social enterprises, to encourage more private investment in the skills system and to become ever more responsive to the needs of employers.
“We are confident that today’s document provides a blueprint for the future of a truly world-class skills system.”