The failure to manage funding for Britain’s further education sector effectively is a disaster for colleges across the country including 16 in the West Midlands.
The FE sector is often overlooked. It doesn’t have the same emotional tug as the schools system, or the glamour of our universities.
But it is vitally important. We depend largely on colleges to improve the nation’s skills base in a rapidly changing world when businesses of all stripes are forced to consider rapid change.Nowhere is the need for change more evident than in the manufacturing sector. And this is why the delay in ambitious expansion plans at Bournville College is a particular tragedy.
Bournville’s plans are at the heart of plans to make good use of the former Rover site. Not only is it important to ensure that Longbridge is not allowed to become an industrial wasteland but it is essential to improve skills and attract businesses to this area of the city.
While the fall-out from Rovers’ closure has not been as devastating as feared, due partly to the efforts of the local agencies working as the Rover Task Force, the danger of long-term unemployment around Longbridge still exists.
Nothing could do more to prevent this happening than high-quality training and education for existing workers and young people who will become the workers of tomorrow.
The Learning and Skills Council, as well as the bodies which will soon replace it, and Government ministers must make Bournville a priority. Instead of explaining what has gone wrong, they need to explain how they will make the project happen.
Other college expansion plans in the West Midlands, such as proposals from Sandwell and Sutton Coldfield colleges, are also important. Colleges are still in the dark about what the funding fiasco will mean for them. Their questions must be answered.