Discussions are underway for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers to return as co-owners of the Education and Training Foundation – four years after all ties were cut.
AELP dramatically walked away from the ETF in 2018 after claiming the foundation was ignoring independent training providers and was “no longer an organisation run by the FE sector for the sector”.
Two AELP trustees resigned from the ETF’s board, leaving the Association of Colleges and adult community education body Holex as the foundation’s remaining part-owners.
David Hughes, the AoC’s chief executive, revealed at today’s AELP national conference that he is now working with the AELP to return as an ETF member to increase collaboration in the sector.
He said the ETF has “lost sight of their true purpose” in recent years and that it is time to have a “fundamental review” of the foundation’s role and purpose.
AELP chief executive Jane Hickie (pictured) confirmed that “productive discussions” about their return to ETF co-ownership are taking place.
She told FE Week that this is a “critical time for the FE sector and our workforces” in the face of the cost-of-living crisis and inflation pressures, so “we need a collaborative approach to tackle the challenges with an ETF that represents the interests of the sector as a whole”.
Interim ETF chief executive Jenny Jarvis, who replaced David Russell when he stood down in April shortly after the foundation’s grant funding from government was cut, said the ETF has been having “really fruitful conversations” with AELP and paperwork for their return has been sent.
She told FE Week the ETF wants AELP to be a member again because “we recognise how important it is to have the representation across the sector, in terms of all those different views”.
Established in October 2013 by former skills minister John Hayes, the ETF was mostly funded by the Department for Education and designed as a “sector-owned” support body, helping train the people who work in technical and vocational education.
Hughes, who was chair of the steering group which set up the ETF, told today’s conference that he was “really clear all the way along” that the foundation needed to be a “small organisation procured from the market” including colleges, private providers and adult education providers.
But instead “I think they’ve started to think well, actually, we need to survive as an institution” which resulted in the ETF venturing into delivery.
“I think that was a mistake and I said so at the time,” Hughes said, “so I’m really keen that we have a fundamental review of purpose and role, and that we work out what the relationship is between ETF and my organisation, and AELP, and HOLEX, and ITPs and colleges”.
In response, Jarvis said: “I think we’ve always had a clear core purpose and it’s always been linked to our charitable aims and objectives and articles, which is about post-14 and workforce development. That’s what we’re always here for and that it was what we will be doing.”
She added that the ETF has received around 4,000 responses as part of a “big listening exercise” to “make sure we’re meeting needs in this changing environment”.