Rejected National Colleges plans ‘not sufficiently mature’

The teams behind two proposed National Colleges told their plans were “not mature enough” to proceed have told FE Week of their determination to keep the projects alive.

Business proposals for seven different employer-led National Colleges were handed in to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by July 17 with an announcement about successful bids pencilled in for last month’s Budget.

But Chancellor George Osborne said just five of the bids had been given the go ahead — with the National College for Wind Energy, in the Humber, and the National College for Advanced Manufacturing, in Sheffield, missing out.

A BIS spokesperson said: “Following a detailed assessment, which included presentations to the assessment panel from each of the colleges, it was concluded, subject to final due diligence, that five of the colleges were ready to proceed.

“The chairs of all the colleges have been informed of the outcome of the assessment process. The due diligence process with the five successful colleges has started.

“Proposals for a National College for Wind Energy and a National College for Advanced Manufacturing were not sufficiently mature to proceed.”

The National College for Advanced Manufacturing was hoping to have bases in Sheffield and Coventry in partnership with the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVMC) and manufacturers’ organisation the EEF, while the National College for Wind Energy was to be established in the Humber.

At Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Training Centre, lined up as one of the bases for the National College for Advanced Manufacturing, Kerry Featherstone (pictured above), head of operations, said: “The HVMC and EEF are still in discussion with BIS about the development of the National College for Advanced Manufacturing. We are not yet in a position to confirm plans and timing.”

Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, the renewable energy trade association that proposed the National College for Wind Energy to government alongside the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It’s disappointing that the National College for Wind Energy wasn’t included in the wave of colleges announced as part of the Chancellor’s spending review.

“There’s a great deal of support and enthusiasm for this National College, so we’re currently reviewing the options available to us, to enable us to meet the needs of this important industry.

“We’re working with government and industry to find alternative routes forward so that we can continue to work together to address the skills challenges we face in our sector.”

The five successful projects were the National College for Digital Skills, the National College for High Speed Rail, the National College for Nuclear, the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas, and the National College for Creative and Cultural Industries.

The government previously pledged £80m funding for the colleges, to be matched by employers.

Skills Minister Nick Boles has said the aim is to have a network of industry-led National Colleges by September 2017.


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