London Capital Colleges (LCC) and the Collab Group have announced a strategic partnership to ensure the voice of the largest colleges and college groups in London is heard on pan-London skills and productivity policy matters.
LCC was set up some ten years ago by London’s largest FE colleges. Shaping the adult skills agenda was crucial with the then Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who was mapping out his plans for the London skills system after a major Review and threats to funding, particularly around ESOL.
Two Mayors and several Reviews and Strategies later, we have a very different London skills system - at least on the supply side. Six college mergers take place this summer with more planned during the next year. This is the biggest shake-up of London FE since 1992 and, following the mergers already enacted, the most radical response to any of the Area Reviews nationally. Of the 30 London GFE colleges in July 2016, only 7 haven’t merged or published merger plans. We have demonstrably responded to both the spirit and letter of the 2015 reform programme and re-shaped the supply-side to create fewer, more resilient colleges.
The Greater London Authority and LEP are preparing their latest Skills Strategy before the devolution of the Adult Education Budget (AEB) in 2019. Current plans only give the Mayor authority for the AEB but the context for the Strategy includes T-levels, Apprenticeship Levy, Adult Community Education and SEN, as well as a wider commitment to social inclusion and, of course, Brexit.
Three further FE & Skills Reviews also aim to shape the landscape. Alison Wolf and the Policy Institute at King’s Commission on London is considering scenarios on what post-16, non-university education and skills in London might look like in 15 years; whilst London First, which represents big employers, are identifying what employers say are their skills needs post-Brexit. These augment the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s ‘Bridging the Skills Gap’ published earlier this month which made the case for devolution-max.
As CEO of London’s largest FE Group, a member of London First, incoming Chair of LCC and with a long-standing involvement in AoC, I have been consulted in most of these studies. However, the engagement is just that ‘consultation’ as others compose another statement of demand side needs on the assumption that, if it only had control of funding, these needs would be quenched. Having fundamentally reformed the supply side in line with the demands of the Area Reviews, it is depressing our commitment is not reciprocated with active involvement in the development of policy to underpin a genuine partnership.
LCC, through its partnership with the Collab Group, will look at new ways to shout more loudly to ensure London Government and business is aware of how pro-active we have been and rewards this commitment. As a start, we plan a series of dinners over the Autumn and Winter to which our members will invite representatives of the major employer organisations willing and able to stimulate discussion, challenge our thinking and shape how the largest colleges and Groups respond to key sectors of the London economy. We will want to explore how to genuinely involve employers in providing something more strategic than a bit of work experience and the odd-Apprenticeship and will publish a report to frame the real partnerships we hope will emerge.