Clarke says tap firms for cash

18th June 2004 at 01:00
Colleges told to win bigger share of corporate training budgets, reports Steve Hook.

Colleges will have to find new ways of raising money if the expansion of further education is to continue at the current pace, Charles Clarke has warned The Education Secretary says the rift between employers and colleges remains too wide and warned the latest injection of government cash into FE - pound;130 million over three years - must be supplemented by private-sector cash.

The new money is needed to make up a funding shortage for commitments already made by the Department for Education and Skills, including increasing the number of 16 to 19-year-old students.

But, he said, colleges need to prove they are the best place to spend corporate training budgets if they are to expand further.

Speaking at the Learning and Skills Development Agency summer conference in London on Tuesday, he said colleges should develop courses with employers rather than offering pre-prepared programmes. He said: "We still have to bring employment and education closer together. Education must be able to be confident that employers believe in the educational relationship."

"There are a number of employers who don't do anything like enough. I've seen the new Sector Skills Councils have started to move things forward. We now have 17 licensed SSCs."

The Association of Colleges regards the extra cash as a major breakthrough in its long campaign for more funding.

FE Focus revealed last month that the Learning and Skills Council budget was failing to provide enough cash to meet the Government's commitment to expand 16-19.

Colleges were turning away potential students because the funding promised by the Learning and Skills Council simply wasn't there. In some cases, the council was asking colleges to accept late payments for students already on their books The result was that FE, alreadygiven an extra pound;1 billion in funding last year, was forced to demand more from the DfES.

John Brennan, chief executive of the AoC, said: "We are delighted that ministers have recognised the problems which local colleges and the LSC are facing.

"The situation for each local college is not yet clear... but the overall funding position for 2004-05 is now much healthier and should allow the LSC to honour the commitments already given."

Barry Lovejoy, of lecturers' union Natfhe, said: "It is now down to every college to ensure that their budget plan includes money to deliver the nationally agreed pay deal.

"Keeping pay promises to staff and tackling excessive workloads must be a priority. Otherwise, more lecturing staff will vote with their feet and leave FE to teach in schools, putting the long-term future of the Government's learning and skills strategy at risk."

The extra money, agreed after talks between the LSC and the DfES, comes with strings attached for colleges which under-perform.

An LSC spokesman said: "The LSC and DfES have worked closely to resolve the situation and this has resulted in LSC planning to take further action to bear down on providers who are under-performing, while rewarding success."

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