“For decades we have been recruiting too many young people on to courses that do nothing to improve their life chances or help with their career goals.”
Speaking yesterday at the NEON summit on widening access and mobility, she outlined a new approach to social mobility.
My interest in this is threefold. While I was the MP for Eastleigh, I served for a decade as a governor on the board of its further education college. At that time, when FE colleges were becoming incorporated bodies, almost by chance Eastleigh’s further education college shared a large site and abundant sports fields with a secondary school and a sixth-form college. We found that the colleges were duplicating some A-level courses, which they sensibly streamlined. The secondary school opted to refocus on engineering studies, Eastleigh being an industrial town. The three establishments worked closely, almost seamlessly, together to provide the students the education and training opportunities that best met their aspirations.
My second and third interests are in the value of bringing flexibility into the provision of further and higher education and training. As a director in a leading consulting engineering practice, I learned that while first-class honours degree graduates might dazzle with their brilliance, it would take a little while for them to appreciate that they also had to contribute to justify their salary. HND graduates were generally older and would more often hit the ground running from the start. That is why I note the Minister’s statement yesterday that
“higher education should be open to all … who are qualified by ability and attainment.”
True social mobility would put students, their needs and career ambitions first—be that in HE, FE or apprenticeships—and must be funded accordingly.