'Reward college specialisms' says CBI

Colleges should be rewarded for specialisation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said.

In its report A better off Britain: improving lives and making growth work for everyone, published today, the employer body also called for more learners to complete level four apprenticeships and vocational qualifications.

John Cridland (pictured), director general of the CBI said: “We need to refocus the system and refocus the recognition and reward in the system, so that the colleges who are boldest in making sure they’re provision is specialised and is fit for purpose are the ones who are rewarded.

“I see lots of entrepreneurial FE colleges with inspirational principals focusing on unique things they’re good at.

“We’ve got to get a lot cuter in making sure we are delivering those skills in quite a specialised way and rewarding colleges on the basis of outcome.”

He added in the future he wanted to see a skills landscape where “every college becomes different rather than every college being homogenous” which “reflects the reality of the modern business community”.

The report argued that the UK’s economy had evolved, becoming a higher skilled economy, although this did not mean that “middle-skilled, middle-income jobs” were disappearing.

“They are just slightly higher-skilled than they might have been in the past, lengthening the path to these jobs for people entering the labour market at low skill levels,” the report said.

It added: “By 2022, half of all jobs will require workers to have completed some form of higher education”.

The solution, the report said, was to encourage more learners to complete qualifications at level four – such as higher national diplomas, higher apprenticeships, or foundation degrees.

Mr Cridland said: “Twenty years ago, somebody wanting to get out of a minimum wage job perhaps needed to get to level three.

“Certainly the reality of the upskilling of our labour market is they’re now going to need to get to level four to do jobs that their parents or grandparents would have considered craft or technical.”

The report also called for employers to take great ownership of the skills system, and for colleges to develop stronger relationships with local business.

Mr Cridland expressed support for the apprenticeship reforms, which will see funding for apprenticeships routed through employers rather than providers, and said that in order to encourage small employers to get involved “the answer is to make it more like a market”.

“If you empower small firms with the wherewithal to buy provision back I think colleges are in a great position to get that business,” he said.

“If the funding goes the other way with the small company at the end, by the time it gets to them, frankly they’ve lost the will to live never mind train anybody. I would turn the system round.”