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Sector news, 25 October - 7 November 2015

‘Next few months critical’ for Birmingham Metropolitan College says Skills Minister Nick Boles as FE Commissioner attacks past financial performance FE Week, 29 October 2015

Birmingham Metropolitan College’s past financial management has been branded “not acceptable” as Skills Minister Nick Boles told it the “next few months will be critical”. Mr Boles sent FE Commissioner Dr David Collins in to BMet in August, after it requested “exceptional financial support” from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA). The college had previously announced it would be getting rid of about 15 per cent of its 1,600-strong workforce. The college, which has around 30,000 learners, also received a ‘requires improvement’ rating at its most recent Ofsted inspection in May. In his assessment report, published this week, Dr Collins praised the college for having taken measures to improve its financial position but criticised past management and questioned whether it would be able to get back on track quickly enough.

Council votes for wider area review recognising school sixth forms and independent learning providers FE Week, 30 October 2015

A council has voted to carry out its own post-16 education review to ensure school sixth forms and independent learning providers (ILPs) were fully considered in its actual government-commissioned area review. Brighton and Hove City Council will take the results of its review to the steering group of the Sussex Coast area review, which includes eight general FE colleges and three sixth form colleges. The motion was passed by councillors having been put before them by Tom Bewick, managing director at consultancy firm New Work Skills Ltd and chair of the council’s children, young people and skills committee. He said the review would “look at the supply side of post-16 provision, so all training available including schools and ILPs. We are also bringing in a group of local businesses to analyse the demand for skills training.” It comes after a number of college principals complained that school sixth forms are not involved in the seven area reviews announced so far.

First Trailblazer apprenticeship assessment plan consultations open FE Week, 3 November 2015

Consultation has opened on the first batch of Trailblazer assessment plans to be subject to public scrutiny. Anyone with an interest has until November 13 to comment on the 16 new draft assessment plans, which include gas engineering and aviation ground specialist, via the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) online consultation hub. FE Week revealed last month that the government was putting all new trailblazer assessment plans out for a two-week public consultation. In a letter emailed to all Trailblazer groups Jennifer Coupland, deputy director of the joint BIS and Department for Education (DfE) apprenticeship strategy and policy unit, said the public consultation was intended to “improve transparency, scrutiny and the evidence base supporting our assessment plan approval process”.

‘Limited demand for level three apprenticeships from businesses could lead to levy resistance’ – new joint select committee research claims FE Week, 5 November 2015

Limited demand for level three apprenticeship skills among UK businesses could lead to “resistance” to the proposed large employers’ levy, according to joint House of Commons select committee research out today. Business, Innovation and Skills committee chair Iain Wright and his Education committee counterpart Neil Carmichael commissioned the research, which claims that “considerable challenges lie ahead to design such a levy”. A 38-page report featuring research from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), compares education and training in the UK, United States, France and Germany. It found that employer commitment to apprentice training in the UK continued to be limited, compare with Germany and some other Continental European nations. This was in part because British firms “do not seek to specialise in high skill, high value added product areas or to organise their workplaces in skill-intensive ways.”

David Cameron’s new apprenticeship adviser Nadhim Zahawi tells how ‘entrepreneurial experience’ will help him fulfil duties FE Week, 4 November 2015

Stratford-upon-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi was reported to have said how his “experience as an entrepreneur” would help him in his new role as Prime Minister David Cameron’s apprenticeships adviser. He will co-chair the Apprenticeship Delivery Board along with National Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network (NAAN) chair David Meller. He said: “I’m determined for apprenticeships to be a real alternative to attending University, and to ensure that they’re a route to better paid, highly skilled jobs that really enhance productivity in our economy.”

Demise of the two-year college course FE Week, 6 November 2015

FE Week reported that the government had announced plans to end two-year study programmes for many 16 to 18 vocational learners and instead opt for progression to apprenticeships from the age of 17. The Department for Education (DfE) said that a new independent panel led by former Science and Innovation Minister Lord Sainsbury would help the government create “up to 20 specific new professional and technical routes, leading up to employment or degree-level”. The drive to push more 17-year-olds into apprenticeships “as quickly as possible” will mean a reduction in two-year full-time study programmes for 16 to 18-year-olds — sparking fears of further funding cuts. Association of Colleges chief executive Martin Doel said: “It is important that any reform of technical and professional education does not lead to any further cuts to funding for the sector. All education and training whether academic, technical and professional or apprenticeships, should be funded equally.”