I introduced myself on the FE Week website as the new FE Insider last month as having a real passion for nurturing young talent and then I overheard David Cameron during Party Conference season speaking on the Marr Show toward the end of last month.

And he ironically marred all of my aspirations for all of those hopeless, direction-less prospective students out there. Mr Cameron outlined that, should the Conservative Party win the next general election, all 18 to 21-year-olds would receive a “youth allowance” instead of being able to claim housing benefit or jobseeker’s allowance.

In order to continue receiving this new allowance after sixth months looking for work, claimants would have to accept an apprenticeship or traineeship…and failing that they would have to accept mandatory “community work”.

As we all probably know this is a tactic for lowering the unemployment figures, and some of the policies have merit to them although you could argue this feels to me like having the hours of a worker with the spending power of an unemployed person.

But let’s go back to basics. We are all ‘doing more for less’ again and in a marketing director’s perspective it’s ‘doing more with less’.

It’s all well and good addressing Britain’s ‘skills gap’ of which we know there’s a void between how qualified people are and how qualified they would ideally be for the needs of the economy via a youth allowance offering, but let’s go back to basics. How do we market what FE and other training providers offer to potential students, of any age?

We know we’ve got to get smart with our offer. It’s got to be flexible. It’s got to be technologically-advanced. It can’t be 9 to 5 and most importantly it has to fulfil the student and lead to job readiness

Gone are the days of bulky prospectuses. We all know these are used as doorstops by our competitors, and for fear of alienating myself any further I won’t name just which category this is.

And let’s not forget the other important point — it’s not environmentally friendly and the kids on the block want digital.

Marketing to prospective students has become an art of epic proportions. I’ve been lucky enough to observe this year’s recruitment battle at Stratford-upon-Avon College and have come out the other side enlightened and empowered to know what we need to do for next year, now.

And I only wish we could apply the auto-enrolment rules around pension to all of those students we’re waiting to snap up.

Surveys suggest that word of mouth and face-to-face contact with prospective students is most important, with mobile technologies and traditional marking coming next. I’m not sure I really care which ones are most important as I know that when catering to such a wide base of prospective students you have to hit home hard with all techniques.

But I come back to the Prime Minister’s vision. Enticing young people into earning or learning is difficult when the very basics are not put into place.

A college can offer the world, but when it’s nigh on impossible to travel within a reasonable time to your place of learning because the councils have cut back massively on public transport, no amount of social media marketing or jazzy website is going to get those students enrolled.

We need to continue to put the pressures on with the powers that be, and fast, if we are to help Mr Cameron reach his vision of zero unemployment and our dream of over-recruitment.

So we know we’ve got to get smart with our offer. It’s got to be flexible. It’s got to be technologically-advanced. It can’t be 9 to 5 and most importantly it has to fulfil the student and lead to job readiness.

Only then can we be sure that there’s earning or learning taking place. Otherwise it’ll be more groaning from us, or maybe
just me.