Ian Pretty explains why the former 157 Group has changed its name.

Ten years ago a group of colleges came together with a grand vision.

These principals formed what would become the 157 Group, an organisation formed to showcase the best of what FE can be.

Since then, the 157 Group has lived up to its promise, it has been a voice of credibility – of experts – in this sector and its achievements have been far reaching.

In October 2015, 157 Group principals took a collective decision to review how to stay relevant in our increasingly changing sector.

Principals felt the need for the 157 Group – almost a decade after its founding – to define how it will continue to innovate, continue to be responsive.

We looked at four government policy priorities – growth, productivity, devolution and public finances- and we asked how can a modern 157 Group make a difference in these areas?

As a result of that review, principals felt the need for a shift, for the 157 Group to continue to lead we must become more outward facing, more in tune with our place within the wider economy.

Working with business and with government, the skills sector is one corner of a three-legged stool that supports the productive capacity of this country.

The skills sector is one corner of a three-legged stool that supports the productive capacity of this country

Principals realised that to get our offering right, so that it has the greatest impact on our nationwide skills gap, on our productivity gap, and on our economy, we must collaborate.

We are now Collab Group, putting collaboration at the very heart of our mission. Never losing sight of what has gone before, but steadfastly focused on the future.

Working with local and national employers, and using key government priority areas, our members are transforming the FE sector, they are transforming industries, they are transforming the lives of their learners, and they are transforming the economy.

With Emsi we will shortly be publishing an Economic and Employability Impact report of our member colleges, the first aggregate study of its kind, and the results show the strength of our colleges.

For every £1 spent at one of our colleges, society receives £4.50 in return, that’s an average annual rate of return of over 19 per cent.

The accumulated impact of former learners who are currently employed in the regional workforce amounts to nearly £25 billion in added income to Great Britain’s economy each year.

Even more impressive than that is that is that altogether, the economic impact of our members to the local business community in Great Britain is £26 billion each year. That £26 Billion is around 1.6% of the total economic output of the entire country in 2014-15.

Going Forward, Collab Group will be concentrating on key sectors and priority areas, so we can better understand the needs of industry and industry can better understand the unparalleled impact FE can make.

These sectors: Construction, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing, Digital and Technology, Creative Industries, Professional and Financial Services, Health and Hospitality- form the backbone of the UK economy.

They are areas of huge opportunity in terms of productive capacity and the prospect for growth, but they are also areas where we are seeing an ever expanding skills gap. We want to change that. We want to capitalise on the opportunities these sectors present and our colleges have the skill and commitment to do so.

Collab Group will continue its work influencing government policy, with an emphasis on shaping implementation of those policies and offering real solutions that will jointly benefit the sector and the economy.

Collab Group will continue its work influencing government policy, with an emphasis on offering real solutions

We are working actively with government on solutions to deliver Institutes of Technology. We are continuing our work shaping the structure of a new sector insolvency regime. We are undertaking research into the most effective models to successfully deliver the Sainsbury Review recommendations.

We are working with the CBI on the right answer to apprenticeship pricing bands. And we are supporting devolved administrations around solutions to their skills agendas.

Our members bring an unmatched expertise to the issues facing the skills sector and through collaboration with government we can advance meaningful and positive answers.

We want business, we want government and we want the skills sector to know that we are ready and able to work together. Only by working together can we achieve real change, can we impact the lives of learners. Together we can strengthen the economy.