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The Corporation

Posted: 02/06/10

Educationalists in skills debate

Education providers and policy makers debated the future of learning and skills at an event organised by West Nottinghamshire College.

More than 50 representatives from schools, colleges, universities, councils and government departments came together to discuss changes to the post-16 education and skills landscape and challenges facing them following a major shake-up of the funding and commissioning system.

Keynote speakers at ‘The Future for Learning and Skills’, held on Wednesday 26 May at the college’s Derby Road site, were Jean Pardoe OBE, chief executive of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Futures, and Robert Seeney, skills strategy manager at East Midlands Development Agency (emda).

Mrs Pardoe set out the roles and responsibilities of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Futures, which runs the Connexions Nottinghamshire service and Education Business Futures (formerly Nottinghamshire Education Business Alliance).  Jointly-owned by Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council, the new company is also responsible for commissioning learning for 16-18 year-olds following the demise of the Learning and Skills Council.

She called on providers and commissioning bodies to shape the delivery of post-16 learning and help raise attainment levels across the city and county.

“We know we’ll have fewer resources due to public sector spending cuts, so we need to co-operate, eliminate duplication and, above all, show we have the passion to make a difference.

“Colleges are at the forefront of linking training and education with the needs of industry and West Nottinghamshire College has a long and proud history of doing that very successfully.

“We’re all looking at colleges to play a pivotal role in providing young people with the skills to succeed.”

Emda’s role in regional strategic skills development was to create greater employment opportunities, explained Mr Seeney, outlining the agency’s emerging regional skills strategy.

The strategy sets out the region’s skills needs over the next 20 years including pre-19, adult skills and higher education. He said the document articulated the needs of the economy, businesses and individuals and was based on evidence gathered at regional, sub-regional and local level.

West Nottinghamshire College principal and chief executive Asha Khemka OBE urged education providers to work together more effectively and reduce duplication in order to combat the effects of public sector spending cuts.

It was vital that organisations “re-engineered” themselves to deliver sustainable and effective learning for the future, she said.

“We need true partnership. The challenges facing us won’t be solved by working in isolation,” insisted Mrs Khemka.

“It’s about asking ourselves ‘do we have the right curriculum for students and employers?’ and combining our strengths to find the solutions.

“We also need to tackle the issue of ‘Neets’ – young people not in education, employment or training – and the skills needs of our aging population. This is about new industries, new jobs and creating the skills for growth. We have to put aside our own interests and work together to find solutions.

“Now is the time to work in partnership for the benefit of our communities.”