Your role as recession busters

14th November 2008 at 00:00

The outside world's ability to miss the achievements of colleges knows no limits. Had this week's front page story been about schools or universities, it would almost certainly have featured in the national press.

Out of the spotlight, colleges are transforming the lives of individuals and underpinning the economy with the skilled workers that employers say they need.

Far from being a vocational sideshow, colleges educate more 16 to 18-year- olds than schools. They rescue the disenchanted 14-16 pupils that schools, for whatever reason, have found themselves incapable of dealing with - and in many cases subsidise the provision from their own coffers.

Colleges provide many of the higher education opportunities that employers and the Government say the country needs more of. It is colleges that hold communities together when political events - such as 911 - threaten to tear them apart. And, it is colleges, not universities, that play the leading role, post-16, in ensuring that everyone can make progress socially and economically - even if non-vocational adult education has been trampled in the stampede for skills.

As recession looms, the Association of College's study into colleges' effectiveness in promoting economic development shows that FE will be as much a part of our eventual recovery as any other measure.

Sceptics will undoubtedly look at the research and say economic impact is hard to measure. There are certainly principals who are cautious about taking such figures at face value. But there is no reason to assume the figures are any less objective than those other notoriously unreliable data - government statistics.

Timed to coincide with Colleges Week, the study leaves colleges with what they deserve. Something to celebrate.

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