Never in 37 years have I seen colleges in the limelight like this White Paper

21 Jan 2021, 7:51

This White Paper is the first glimpse of where further education could be heading – for the better – writes Sally Dicketts

Today’s eagerly awaited “Skills for Jobs” White Paper will be seen positively by the optimists in the sector and with disappointment by others. I sit in the first camp – I am full of optimism today.

It goes without saying that there is no such thing as a perfect White Paper. But we should all be delighted and recognise the significance of today’s release. And it is worth remembering that the most realistic alternative was not a different White Paper, but no White Paper at all.

I am optimistic because never, in my 37 years in the FE sector, have I seen government put colleges onto the centre stage and recognise the important role we undoubtedly play in achieving social mobility, greater equality and diversity and enabling economic growth and recovery.

We can individually quibble with parts of the paper, bewail issues of funding – or we can decide to change our destiny and embrace the work with employers even more than we do at present.

And I am optimistic because today’s White Paper is one of the first tangible examples of what government means when they talk about “building back better” and “levelling-up”.

Not only are colleges included (which just a few years ago we’d have been thrilled about), they are front and centre. This is one of the first major policy announcements on what a post-pandemic world could look like.

We will of course need to make sure that the bits we take issue with are ironed out, and any commitments are backed by funding, but that is what the consultation period will be for.

Now, more than ever, working together collaboratively will be key. The aim will be to really impact locally on the quality and range of technical education provided to our communities.

When I work with colleague principals and CEOs from all over this sector I am always wowed by people’s passion and thought for their learners and staff.

This thought and concern for learners now needs honing into envisioning a future where we are at its centre.

We need to be working with and helping to shape the implementation of this White Paper to ensure our learners benefit and get the skills knowledge and attributes to improve their life choices and our economies.

I look forward to working with you on finessing and using this White paper to further catapult this sector not only into the limelight but into being the powerhouse for skills to drive the economy and our communities to success.

We are responsible for the lives of so many young people and adults. Let’s use our collective ingenuity and interest in learning and development to make this difference with agility, thought and innovative use of technology and our people.

I have real optimism for our future, as long as we stay open and curious to change, work and support one another, and trust and believe in our staff and students to work their magic.

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  1. richard moore

    I have seen many an instance where colleges have been put in the limelight over the years, only for it to amount to nothing, or not much, once the rhetoric has died down. I’d actually love to see training providers and employer providers placed in the limelight, just for a change. I shall keep my powder dry on any optimism but hope that Sally is correct!