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The Further Education and Skills Sector should play a greater role in generating jobs and setting up businesses if it’s to avoid sleepwalking into a dangerous future, according to a report published by the RSA.

The Further Education and Skills Sector in 2020: A Social Productivity Approach argues that colleges should move beyond their narrow ‘delivery of qualifications role’ and place more emphasis on becoming local business hubs and encouraging lifelong learning.

View The Further Education and Skills Sector in 2020: A Social Productivity Approach report

The report warns that if colleges fail to explore new ways of supporting their communities, the sector will be at risk of becoming a ‘Cinderella’ service that suffers from poor funding, incoherent policy, fragmented accountability and patchy outcomes.

The sector needs positive and committed leadership if colleges are to carve out a new role within their local area, the report says. It concludes that at a time when local government and regional economic planning structures are in flux the FE sector has the opportunity to be the catalyst for the development of new local economic growth models.

Commenting on the report Sir Andrew Foster said:

“It is six years since I published my review of the future of further education.  I found a sector that was delivering crucial economic and social benefits to individuals and communities, but was struggling to articulate its value within a wider policy context – it was a Cinderella sector.  Much has changed, and the sector’s voice is now stronger.  But the public services landscape in which it operates has changed even faster.  FE is once again at a crossroads.  That is why I welcome this report by the 2020 Public Services Hub at the RSA.  With the country urgently in need of new models for local economic growth, now is the time for FE to put itself at the heart of economic and community development.”

Commenting on the report, Professor Alison Wolf said:

“I totally agree with the authors that further education is the most flexible and indeed agile part of our education system; and that major changes are on the way. I hope very much that the sector will be able to take far more control of these changes than in the recent past, and will be free to experiment and reflect on how best to serve students. This very interesting publication makes an important contribution to thinking about how this might occur.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, Dame Ruth Silver DBE, chair of LSIS Board and Council, commented that:

“LSIS commissioned this work in order to provide for the further education and skills sector an independent perspective on possible futures, building on the Hub’s pioneering thinking on public services.  As the Coalition devolves responsibility away from Whitehall and empowers service providers and citizens, the report challenges the sector to shape and create a radical future. We hope the report will stimulate discussion and empower the sector to determine the future it desires.”

For FE to be transformative in 2020, the report recommends that the FE sector follows five new directions:

Incubate social value

•    Return adult education to the centre of FE’s mission – promoting lifelong skills and learning

•    Become the ‘skills for society’ incubators – providing the skills to create the Big Society

•    Be the local social enterprise hubs – offering skills & training for social entrepreneurship

Network Local Growth

•    Become the R&D centres for Local Enterprise Partnerships – providing the raw material for local growth

•    Catalyse local small & medium enterprise (SME) networks – becoming a local business hub

•    Establish area-based curricula – more in tune with the needs of local enterprise

Drive public service integration

•    Become case managers for young adults – managing transition for those at risk

•    Build capacity for community commissioning – driving local integrated public service models

•    Become integrated service hubs -  sharing functions and expertise & generating efficiencies

Re-set citizen engagement

•    Personalise across the range of FE services – through better market segmentation

•    Make space for civic association – helping to catalyse local democratic activity

•    Become an education bank for the community – offering resources for citizen engagement

•    Create platforms for open learning

•    Invest in digital learning – to develop remote, personalised learning pathways

•    Develop ‘mix and match’ learning modules – tailored to diverse needs

•    Offer peer-to-peer learning and entrepreneurial training provision – opening up formal structures

View The Further Education and Skills Sector in 2020: A Social Productivity Approach report


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