Min­is­ter to ‘hold PM’S feet to the fire’ on col­lege sup­port

Gloucestershire Echo - - BUSINESS - Phillip THOMP­SON phillip.thomp­[email protected]­plc.com

FUR­THER ed­u­ca­tion col­leges in the South West are con­cerned about what they see as a sti­fling of fi­nan­cial sup­port from the Gov­ern­ment, says Ian Mean, di­rec­tor of the Glouces­ter­shire cham­ber of Busi­ness West.

This has led to many be­ing un­able to sup­port much-needed ap­pren­tices for small busi­nesses.

Ap­pren­tice starts na­tion­ally are way down year-on-year, but the Gov­ern­ment has pledged three mil­lion more of them by the end of next year.

Mr Mean, the for­mer edi­tor of news­pa­pers in Glouces­ter­shire and Bris­tol, grilled Ap­pren­tices and Skills Min­is­ter Anne Mil­ton, who re­as­sured him she would hold the fu­ture Prime Min­is­ter’s “feet to the fire on mak­ing sure fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion gets the at­ten­tion it de­serves.”

De­spite con­cerns over the Gov­ern­ment’s pledge, Mrs Mil­ton said: “I think it’s im­por­tant to have stretch­ing tar­gets.

“In fact, the tar­get wasn’t three mil­lion ap­pren­tices, it was three mil­lion qual­ity ap­pren­tice­ships. So the qual­ity is as im­por­tant as the num­ber.”

A re­cent re­port called for the Gov­ern­ment to in­ject £1 bil­lion into the sec­tor and freeze HE fund­ing, with many FE col­leges strug­gling.

Mrs Mil­ton agreed that col­leges “are fac­ing re­ally dif­fi­cult choices on spend

ing,” but added: “Fund­ing on ap­pren­tice­ships will have dou­bled from 2010 by 2020.

“I will be ask­ing for more money for FE be­cause 50 per cent of young peo­ple do not go to univer­sity. It’s not fair if we for­get about them. There’s been a lot of fo­cus on univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion over the last 10 to 15 years and I think it has not nec­es­sar­ily done a good ser­vice for the young peo­ple who don’t go to univer­sity.”

She added that a lot of com­pa­nies had now cut their grad­u­ate pro­grammes in favour of ap­pren­tice­ship train­ing be­cause that is “what em­ploy­ers need”.

“I think there is an aware­ness in busi­ness that it is not just about tak­ing grad­u­ates. It is about tak­ing young peo­ple who can now, of course, train up and do a de­gree ap­pren­tice­ship,” she said.

Mr Mean asked whether some par­ents did not share that view.

“I think it’s chang­ing. When you get com­pa­nies like Google, Mi­crosoft, Jaguar Land Rover and Deloittes, then par­ents start to view them in a dif­fer­ent light,” said Mrs Mil­ton.

She said she was aware of is­sue sur­round­ing the Ap­pren­tice­ship Levy, adding that the Gov­ern­ment was mov­ing small busi­nesses onto the same ap­pren­tice­ship train­ing pro­gramme as levy-pay­ers, which would let them have more con­trol over the ap­pren­tices they em­ployed.

She said: “We have worked with the Cham­bers of Com­merce, the Fed­er­a­tion of Small Busi­ness and the CBI. Jour­nal­ists can have a big im­pact on mak­ing sure that peo­ple re­alise that levy-pay­ers can trans­fer 25 per cent of their levy pot to a smaller busi­ness.”

Mr Mean asked whether Mrs Mil­ton thought it was right that peo­ple who held de­grees were al­lowed to draw levy money for an ap­pren­tice when “there is not enough money for a 16-year-old to do their first level 2 or 3 ap­pren­tice­ship”.

She said: “Well, of course, 82 per cent of ap­pren­tice­ships are at level 2 and 3. All the sur­veys say that the big­gest skills short­age in busi­ness is in man­age­ment and team lead­er­ship so some of those man­age­ment de­grees are quite im­por­tant for the coun­try in terms of pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“There are a lot of peo­ple who would love to get back into work so the up­skilling and re-skilling are also im­por­tant to make sure we have the skilled work­force we need.”

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