The government should set aside an extra £3.6 billion to upskill the “764,000 people most at risk” post-Covid-19, according to the Association of Colleges.

The call comes just a week after the sector’s other main membership body, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, demanded a one-off skills package worth £8.6 billion.

In ‘Rebuild: a skills led recovery plan published today, the AoC sets out “five key asks”, which includes a £143 million college-based “national tutoring scheme, re-engagement and catch-up programme”, as well as £1 billion in “targeted” employer cash incentives to take on apprentices.

The submission warns of “increased demand” for college places as high unemployment “crowds young people out of the labour market”, and “large numbers of young people needing support to catch up as a result of lost learning in lockdown”.

It also warns of a “large number of apprentice redundancies and a shortage of new places for apprentices”, as well as “large numbers of adults requiring training to help them move from struggling sectors into those that recover more quickly, or even grow”.

FE Week has pulled out the AoC’s five asks that make up their £3.6 billion package:


1. £458m to ‘retain’ every young person

The association wants every 16 to 18 year old to have a “confirmed high-quality education or training place”, funded to meet their “needs and the learning they have lost”.

This would include a college-based “national tutoring scheme, re-engagement and catch-up programme” funded through a £375 “premium per enrolment of students who have yet to achieve good grades in English and maths” at a total cost of £143 million.

It would also include a “targeted” one-off £2.4 million grant to support delayed assessments from summer 2020, a one-off £70 million grant fund for social distancing adaptations for colleges, as well as extending high needs funding for final year students by 5 percent.


2. A £1.975bn ‘relaunch’ scheme

The AoC says this should include an “up to 12-month pre/re-employment programme to upskill and reskill targeted at key worker and recoverable sectors under a single brand to ensure employer awareness, with clear links to apprenticeship opportunities as they become available and including an interview guarantee through national employer body partners”.

It would also comprise of “investment” in a “range of ‘employability’ wrap around services to complement the pre/re-employment training offer including a funded information, advice and guidance offer”.

Level 2 and 3 traineeship programmes for all 16 to 24-year-olds should be “reformed”, including extending the maximum length to up to 12 months allow the use of “work simulation and realistic environments” where access to work experience is not possible and reduce the minimum requirement of 100 hours.

The AoC also wants the government to introduce “block release apprenticeships” along with employer cash incentives of up to £3,000 per apprentice, to help businesses “retain and take on apprentices with a level of accountability built in”.


3. £1.04bn for retraining adults

The AoC calls on government to “enhance” the existing adult education budget together in one budget line with the National Retraining Scheme, the National Skills Fund, and the Shared Prosperity Fund.

If “properly aligned”, colleges would be funded “once to deliver across all of these funds, cutting bureaucracy and making the system more understandable and accessible for colleges, employers and students”. 

The association also wants officials to fully fund adults aged 24 and above to undertake “subsequent level three programmes or units in priority sectors to respond to post furlough unemployment”.


4. A single £150m capital budget for colleges

In the March 2020 budget the government announced a £1.5 billion programme to upgrade college estates over the five years from 2021 to 2026.

On top of this, there are five other college-focused capital funding lines: the local growth fund, Institutes of Technology, T-levels, higher education capital, and sixth form college condition funds.

The AoC said if these capital funding lines were brought together they could offer “one clear opportunity for much needed capital investment and reduce the administrative burden on both colleges and the department”.

The association adds the funding is needed now as the shift to online learning has “refocused attention” on technology but colleges have struggled to maintain their IT infrastructure because of pressures on budgets. 


5. Simplify the funding rules and rates

Lastly, the AoC calls for a review and implementation of a “range of funding and rule changes to 16 to 18, traineeship, apprenticeship and adult offers”.

Their suggestions include funding 16 to 18 students to repeat a qualification they were enrolled on in 2019/20 and were unable to complete, as well as streamlining the process of making a case for in-year funding to reflect growth in student numbers.

For adults, the association wants government to allow those aged 19 and above to take a second level 3 qualification free of charge, whilst funding “should allow for modular learning at levels 4 to 5 and we ask that the funding restrictions on standalone short courses are lifted”.

And for apprentices, as well as “targeted employer incentives”, there should be “flexibilities in the delivery of off the job training aligned to apprenticeship content but delivered outside employment”. 

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  1. David priestly

    The AOC calls for much, and tends not to get the call returned. In 10 years the AOC has allowed funding cuts of nearly 40% in real terms. The idiotic levy scheme, the punitive FE Commissioner regime, and of course the brilliant apprenticeships approval framework. PhD anyone?

    There needs to be a proper lobbyist that actually achieves. So Highbury gets bailed out, only one college group in administration. ESFA agendas and some politics spring to mind.

    The sector is forgotten and has not been profiled in the media at all during the pandemic. Why would it get any money now. The AOC is as clumsy as it is ineffective.