Minister to ‘hold PM’S feet to the fire’ on college support
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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Hartpury University’s former indoor sports hall converted into a student social study zone