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Leaders help to work out policy

COLLEGE leaders will next week demand the Government produces clear guidance on how it expects them to work with employers.

They have the backing of 70 backbench MPs who have signed an early-day motion praising the work colleges do with employers and - by implication - criticising Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

Mr Clarke had expressed dissatisfaction with colleges over their links with employers, a criticism backed by a recent joint report from the Office for Standards in Education and the Adult Learning Inspectorate.

The joint report by the education watchdogs attacked colleges for not creating close enough working relations with local employers and failing to meet the "real-world" needs of many students.

But a survey by the Association of Colleges revealed that colleges provide 200 million days' training a year for companies compared with 60 million from the Confederation of British Industry.

The evidence came from the employers for the survey, carried out as part of the AoC campaign Colleges at the Heart of Business.

More than 50 college leaders will meet ministers and policy advisers at Westminster on Tuesday before the Government's Skills Strategy White Paper is published at the end of June. At the meeting, more than 70 MPs, ministers, policy advisers and industry leaders will be told colleges need a clearer idea about the training employers expect them to be giving students.

David Gibson, chief executive of the AoC, said: "While thousands of companies work with colleges on a local level, there is a lack of information regionally and nationally about what business and industry want from FE.

"The AoC would like the Government's Skills Strategy to take the lead in uniting the education needs of the economy and helping them to work with colleges."

College leaders will tell MPs they want the freedom to provide the courses and assessment to suit employers. They will also demand more financial incentives to make it worthwhile for employers and adults to get more training.

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