March 1 marked the annual Association of Colleges (AoC) Parliamentary Day of Action. The AoC invited college leaders from across the country to call on local and national government to support the Further Education sector through funding.
The theme was ‘Mind the Skills Gap’, focusing on the role that colleges play in training local labour workforces, and how, due to a lack of consistent underfunding, training provisions are under immense pressure.
But what exactly is the skills gap? The term refers to the current challenges in recruitment that a range of sectors are facing, whereby there are not enough people trained in relevant skills to fill job vacancies. According to the AoC website, a joint report by the Open University and British Chambers of Commerce (2022) found that more than two-thirds of SMEs are currently facing skills shortages, rising to 86% in large organisations. The same report also found that almost three-quarters (72%) of organisations say that the impact of skills shortages is causing increased workload on other staff.
As a uniquely vocational college, Kirklees College plays a pivotal role in equipping people of all ages with the skills they need to support local labour markets in Kirklees and West Yorkshire. We are proud to offer high-quality, bespoke training through 16-18 courses, T Levels, apprenticeships, higher education and adult learning but this requires sufficient government funding to successfully close the skills gap.
Our Principal and CEO, Palvinder Singh highlighted the importance of this day. He said:
“Kirklees College and Further Education colleges across the country match their curriculum and training directly to the local skills need. By doing so, we train thousands of people every year to be career ready for regional and national labour needs, which is essential for economic growth and productivity.
Further education is vital to address skills shortages and aid social mobility for our learners. We are joining the AoC and our local college partners in calling on MPs from across all parties to increase FE funding and skills training into their long-term campaign plans.”
This year’s Day of Action fell two weeks before the Spring Budget announcement on 15 March, when we hope our message to government for increased funding in the sector will be realised.
The AoC outline their three central policy priorities as:
- A national strategy supporting local, inclusive growth
- A right to lifelong learning free from restrictive constraints
- Fair, accessible and effective funding
You can read more about the AoC Day of Action here: https://www.aoc.co.uk/.