We're happy to waltz with Matilda

18th July 2008 at 01:00
We agree with Matilda Gosling, of the City amp; Guilds' Centre for Skills Development, that colleges should serve local needs ("Let colleges judge supply and demand", July 4)

We agree with Matilda Gosling, of the City amp; Guilds' Centre for Skills Development, that colleges should serve local needs ("Let colleges judge supply and demand", July 4). As the skills council that represents colleges as employers, Lifelong Learning UK facilitates a dialogue between further education and government about the realities the sector faces, particularly in relation to skills needs.

During a recent discussion on these issues, Ms Gosling eloquently described the challenges faced by skills councils in meeting the tasks set by government as the "nascent nature of predictive techniques" and the UK- wide remit. The key to the latter is tailoring. We must embrace the different needs of the UK nations and regions, learn from our successes and adapt them to fit within the social and political climate of the local community. Being responsive to labour market needs is also essential so that we can fulfil our obligations to employers.

We will support any constructive debate about the future of FE. We agree that colleges should be trusted and encouraged to be responsible for the workforce they employ, and in turn the community they serve. This is why we worked on behalf of colleges, with the Government, to facilitate the first FE workforce strategy in England.

This strategy is unique in supporting the model that Ms Gosling proposes. Rather than being dictated by government policy, the strategy is owned by the sector, so each college is able to implement it in a way that is appropriate to them. That may be by using the robust data we are collecting to enable providers to plan their workforce or attract the best staff, or as a tool for retaining and developing the high-quality staff they already have. For example, we are responsible for collecting comprehensive workforce data through the staff individualised record.

FE colleges have many challenges ahead. Our role is to support the development of the appropriate skills and expertise to help them meet those challenges.

David Hunter, Chief executive, Lifelong Learning UK.

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