Invest in lifelong learning now to create a better future for our economy, says Selby College Principal

Selby College Principal and Chief Executive Phil Sayles has backed a report launched by The Independent Commission of the College of the Future, which encourages a joined-up, all-age education and skills system, enabling adults to benefit from lifelong learning and addressing future skills gaps.

This comes following the release of the English College of the Future report today, which sets out the current issues affecting the Further Education sector and how they must be overcome to achieve a skills-led recovery following the pandemic and to help to rebuild healthy, connected and cohesive communities.

Sir Ian Diamond, Chair of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future and UK National Statistician said: “Colleges are vital yet under-utilised institutions that offer the transformational learning and support that our four nations need now, more than ever, if we are to face the long term impacts of Covid-19 and to drive a sustainable, inclusive economy. We must all commit to a bold ambition on skills. Lifelong learning is the only way to ensure people and businesses will survive the recession and thrive in the future. With the right support, colleges can deliver on this urgent need for every community.”

The report sets out recommendations for reform and renewal of college systems, including better financial support for students, a new approach to adult learning and the adoption of a holistic approach to lifetime skills and careers guidance.

Echoing the importance of lifelong learning and upskilling, Phil Sayles said: “As a result of Covid-19, it is likely that many people will find themselves unemployed, at a career crossroad or need to retrain or upskill. That is why it’s crucial now more than ever, that we support people in returning to education or invest in upskilling, so that they can gain the skills they need to find new work or enter high-demand sectors.

“On the flip side, this will also reduce future skills gaps and give organisations the ability to hire people with the right skillset and attitude. Most importantly, this will contribute to and help to create the workforce of the future and rebuild the economy following the pandemic.”

The report suggests that by allowing everyone the opportunity to learn throughout their lives, more people can progress on to more advanced levels of vocational education which will help to reduce skills gaps.  

“That is why at Selby College we are committed to enabling learners to upskill at any stage of their lives. Whether people are looking for a way to improve their career prospects, refresh their existing skills or are looking to change career direction, we offer a range of courses and tailored support through our Adult Hub which is designed to enable learners to reach their career goals,” Phil added.

The College also echoes the Independent Commissions’ recommendation that colleges should build links with employers to drive business and innovation and address skills gaps. The report suggests that this can be done via specialist employer hubs which can provide a unique service for employers to train and upskill future and current employees.

“By working closely with local employers, Colleges can offer businesses a tailored service to meet their business needs. From Apprenticeships in the workplace, to distance learning and short courses, an approach such as this ensures that employers have staff with the skillset which is required to meet future demands.

“This is something which we are already driving and growing at Selby College through our dedicated Business Services Hub, which sees the College work closely with more than 350 businesses in the Selby District. The hub has also proven to be extremely beneficial for our students, offering them apprenticeship training opportunities where they can learn from leading and sector specific businesses in the area,” Phil continued.

Another priority recommendation from the report is the development of a 10-year strategy across each of the four nations which clearly sets out the transformational role that colleges play for people, businesses, and communities.

“Colleges are at the heart of our local communities and are uniquely positioned to offer support to both learners and businesses in the current climate – whether that be immediate, frontline, training or upskilling support for those who need it. It is clear from the recommendations set out within the Independent Commissions’ College of the Future report that a renewed focus is needed within the Further Education sector and urgently. By investing in the sector and the delivery of lifelong learning now, we will be able to reap the benefits of this investment in the future when rebuilding the economy,” Phil concluded.

Read the full report, at: https://www.collegecommission.co.uk/final-report-uk

Published: Wednesday 18 Nov 2020