Supporting individuals with careers, skills development and progression25 July 2016
Our political landscape has been nothing if not ‘dynamic’ in the past few weeks – it would probably be easier to comment on what hasn’t changed rather than what has. A constant for us in London though is the need to properly address in-work poverty. London, one of the most prosperous cities in the world, still has almost one in five workers earning less than the London Living Wage. Despite our new Prime Minister’s laudable sentiments it’s pretty hard to see how individuals will feel part of an economically prosperous and socially integrated society if they don’t have the opportunity to progress, to achieve and indeed exceed their expectations – for themselves and for their families. That’s why AoC is behind Ambition London. Further education colleges have long believed in the power of the individual to change their own lives. All that’s needed is the right support at the right time. We know skills development is directly linked to improvements in pay and indeed to employer’s profitability yet everyone is deeply reluctant to pay – be that government, employer or the individual. Fees, grants, levies and loans make for a toxic cocktail – with no immediate hangover cure.
Government funding is down and the sector despairs at the prospect of further reduction. Employers, of all sizes, are increasingly vocal about the apprenticeship levy. And whilst the public has been convinced that loans in full-time HE are a good investment in the future – not so loans in FE. The take up of Advanced Learner Loans in London has been poor; at best. Individuals seem generally unconvinced that investing money (not time interestingly) in their learning makes sense; unsure that there will be sufficient pay back in terms of career progression and future earnings. If individual investment is part of the answer then we need to understand this better. Is it simply that Advanced Learner Loans have not been widely publicised, meaning that some people do not recognise the benefits of investing in skills and qualifications whilst others assume skills and qualifications are not affordable? Or is it as much to do with the availability of individualised advice, guidance and support in how best to maximise those new skills and secure career advancement; either within existing employment or by changing job. Quite apart from limiting individuals’ prosperity, the resulting gap between workforce capability and employer need could compromise the capital’s productivity and competiveness on a European and global stage.
Ambition London could be the opportunity to test and trial a range of interventions to engage, train and support people to change their lives – and properly assess the potential support of Advanced Learner Loans. Colleges in London intend to be part of this initiative and to demonstrate new and innovative ways to engage individuals and support them on their skills journey towards progression.
Mary Vine-Morris is the Regional Director, Association of Colleges (AOC)