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Too many objectives hold FE colleges back

Alan Mitchell assistant director, CBI Scotland

The article "In the business to make money" (TESS, December 8), accurately reported many of the comments I made about the relationship between business and the further education sector at the Scottish Further Education Unit conference.

Generally, the college sector is not engaging with business as much or as effectively as it could. Businesses are spending record amounts on staff training and development, and our CBI surveys report this is set to increase further. Colleges, with some exceptions, could do more to get a bigger share.

However, I also said that colleges face obstacles to improving links with business, not of their own making. At the moment, FE colleges have to deliver many different strands of Scottish Executive policy. They have to produce the skilled workers that businesses need, but they are also expected to contribute to the executive's social inclusion and community regeneration objectives, and meet individual learning needs.

Little wonder, then, that they sometimes find it difficult to give employers the attention they need. If the Scottish Executive is serious about making the economy its first priority, colleges should be empowered to devote more time and resources to meeting the skills needs of employers.

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