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Government sets aside £50m for next generation of colleges

The government has set aside £50 million to invest in a new generation of national colleges that will tackle the shortage of higher-level vocational skills, it has emerged.

The details are set out in a new document from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) calling for providers to come forward with proposals.

In the document Bis says it wants to work with interested parties who believe there is a need for a national college in their sector, industry or profession.

“Bis has £50m to invest in match funding national colleges from April 2015 up to March 2017,” it says.

The government has already announced the establishment of national colleges for advanced manufacturing, high speed rail and nuclear energy, and has suggested coding as another area for development.

Business secretary Vince Cable said the institutions would help to address the skills shortage by acting as “national centres of expertise” in key areas of the economy.

The new Bis document says the new colleges will be limited in nature, only emerge where there is “real employer demand and commitment” to their development, and where there is a strategic need for intervention at a national level.

To qualify for support, the new colleges must not duplicate existing provision, must address a skills gap at levels 3, 4 and 5, must be led by employers and engage with businesses of all size, and there must be an initial financial commitment of at least 50 per cent from employers to set them up.

Interested parties have until 5 September to respond.

The FE sector has already welcomed the idea of national colleges, but has urged the government not to overlook current provision or to leave colleges and other providers out of the loop.

The Association of Colleges said existing FE colleges should work alongside the new institutions, while the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said independent providers should also be taken into account.

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