National Skills Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:51 pm on 15th May 2003.

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Photo of Janet Dean Janet Dean Labour, Burton 6:51 pm, 15th May 2003

I shall try to be equally as brief as my hon. Friend Clive Efford.

Further education colleges can and should be at the heart of the Government's skills strategy. Burton college, in my constituency, provides an outstanding service for young people, adults and employers throughout east Staffordshire and neighbouring parts of Derbyshire. It has approximately 12,000 students, of whom 9,000 are on further education programmes, 940 are on adult and community education courses and 450 are in higher education. The college made a significant contribution to achieving Government targets because more than 3,000 students progressed to level 3, half of whom were young people. Basic skills programmes were completed by 820 adults.

Burton college is especially proud of its long-standing and well-regarded services to employers. That has been nationally acknowledged and the college will form one of the case studies for best practice that Ecotec is developing. The college supported the Government's skills agenda and the local economy by delivering a wide range of programmes designed to meet the specific needs of more than 250 local employers. The business development team at Burton college is proactive in its work with local businesses and creates opportunities for training intervention in individual businesses and across sectors.

The college has worked with large local companies to develop bespoke training for graduate recruits and to design an HND course to enable progression to middle management. It has also provided one-day courses, day-release provision and on-site training.

Local colleges are sufficiently flexible to meet the specific needs of their local economy. Their involvement with local business can bring benefits such as the development of staff so that real examples of industry can be brought to the classroom. They offer learners up-to-date technical knowledge and examples from the workplace, as well as ensuring that training is relevant to employers' needs.

Further education colleges such as Burton college are able to work with their local communities. I welcome the community-based learning projects that have taken the world of education and training to those who may not be initially willing to access courses on the college campus. Burton college also works well with East Staffordshire borough council's economic regeneration unit and is actively involved in partnerships such as the local neighbourhood management initiative. I am sure that the Minister agrees that Burton college makes an outstanding contribution to fulfilling the skills agenda and assisting its region's economic growth.

My hon. Friend will know that colleges are expected to charge employers at least 25 per cent. of the cost of delivering any training funded by the Learning and Skills Council. Will he reassure me that there is no intention to undermine the work of colleges by sponsoring competing provision delivered by private providers through the LSC's national contracting service? Will he confirm that national contracting service funding includes the same requirements for employers' contributions and does not create unfair competition? Such unfair competition might cause colleges to lose their long-standing employer customers and thus destabilise the continued provision of training in the area. Will he confirm whether the LSC national contracting service has supported the training of employers in my constituency alongside existing providers and, if so, how that is likely to affect the college's capacity to expand such provision? 6.54 pm