With the General Election soon coming around we are all hearing the word ‘vote’ over and over again.

But what I want to know is how young people are franchised to represent their views on education and skills in two ways.

The first as the electorate affected directly by future changes in government and the second as young people not wanting those changes.

My observation since working in college is that there is no product in a box offering the perfect student voice environment for young people.

There are pockets of best practice of course, but for many the term “student voice” sparks more feelings of dread than inspiration.

Dread because it can be seen as a tick box exercise for Ofsted.

What we really need to do, and fast, is get involved, engaged and motivated to talk to, champion and implement the thoughts and ideas of young people in colleges.

There are too many white papers and think pieces telling us what will happen yet not working with the very customer (student) to better understand their views on the education and skills landscape.

When we vote we look at the manifesto, the pledges, the promises, the policies. When students vote with their feet to come to college they should equally be able to understand the offering and to realise their ambitions through robust feedback mechanisms, to get them just where they need to be.

I’ve been toying with the idea of setting up my own youth think tank for a while. I guess I should practice what I preach and ask the young people if they think this would have any worth

I was a sixth former myself and still regret to this day that I did not go to the local college — an opportunity to broaden my horizons.

I was a product of inefficiency — the only student in the A2 French class. And I’m sure I had many things to say about this experience yet nobody actually bothered to ask, then again a student voice works both ways — students themselves must be vocal in their desires, evaluations and observations.

So with the General Election around the corner I’d like us to take the opportunity to lobby for ensuring two things — firstly, that we all take the student voice seriously and secondly, that we engage our students to vote in the election.

I’ve been toying with the idea of setting up my own youth think tank for a while. I guess I should practice what I preach and ask the young people if they think this would have any worth.

So with all of this in mind I’d really like to reinforce how important it is that we colleges listen seriously to what our students want from us.

How many senior managers take the time to interact with the students? Do we all understand the student journey? How many of us get out on the “shop floor” to learn what truly happens in the classroom?

Look at what happens on Undercover Boss and the benefits that has when you endeavour to understand how your organisation runs, from every perspective.

I had the privilege recently of students undertaking a marketing module as part of their studies visiting my marketing department to ask questions and I really enjoyed getting back to the “basics” and interacting with them in this way.

When you’re in a business support role it’s so easy to forget why you’re in the role and what the overall purpose is.

If we want the students to vote with their feet and come to colleges given all of the competition that’s out there, and we want to secure our reputation, we must start paying even more attention to our customers.