You must adapt to survive, SFA boss tells FE leaders

The chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has warned providers that failing to adapt to changes in the FE sector could put their future in the market at risk.

Peter Lauener (pictured), who is also chief executive of the Education Funding Agency, described recent changes in the sector as radical and stressed the importance of providers finding ways to work with the new system, in a speech at the Skills Summit yesterday in London.

He told an audience dominated by colleges and training providers: “This is a radical, radical change programme and in any radical change programme there are some organisations, some employers that will adapt and work out the best way of working with the new system — and there are others that will take longer.”


He warned that failing to adjust to developments, such as the impending introduction of the apprenticeship levy, could jeopardise providers’ progress.

“There is risk in this, particularly probably for training organisations and for colleges if they don’t adapt to the new world,” he said.

Mr Lauener repeatedly acknowledged that the process would not be an easy one, but reassured his audience that though there were “some big, big challenges” there would also be “some big opportunities”.

“There is, I think, a lot of opportunity for innovation. Providers do need to diversify; they need to be the first port of call for employers, whether that’s colleges or independent training providers.

“That’s the biggest single difference that we’re looking to build into the system as the levy gets underway,” he said.

He told his listeners that although he saw the future as “a challenging environment”, he also looked to the next five years with “considerable optimism”.

“There will be enormous challenges for colleges, for other providers, for employers, in all this. But there will be massive opportunities as well for apprenticeship growth,” he said.

He said that with funding from the apprenticeship levy, the government target of 3m new apprenticeships by 2020 would be “an achievable target”.

“I see no reasons why that should not be achieved with the tools that have been in place and the funding that has been put in place,” he said.

When pressed in a question and answer session to expand on what the potential risks would be for providers who failed to keep up with this changing landscape, Mr Lauener replied: “In the system, the demand will come from employers and under the adult education budget will be a matter of meeting local needs.

“This will be national entitlements and other things but the exact provision needs to be right for the locality — people need to adapt to that and people who don’t adapt won’t do as well.”

He said it would be “no good” to call for a return of the old system.

“The people who don’t adapt to the market won’t have a future in the market,” he said.


Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


  1. FE Lecturer

    If colleges are to undergo radical change and adapt to meet employer needs they need to be freed of the time and money wasting bureaucracy which is required to please OFSTED. SMT are scared to death of a bad OFSTED report and waste valuable management time trying to second guess what OFSTED want rather than planning ahead and trying to reduce overhead costs.
    Free colleges of OFSTED and they will flourish.

  2. Woody G.

    This is a singularly depressing interview- there is more to education than meeting an employers needs.

    People get into education for many complex reasons. They have agency and are capable of mapping out their own paths in education. This policy simply reduces the choice and opportunity for people who may have missed out the first time round.

    What about the smaller employers- where is their incentive to provide high-quality apprenticeships?

    By placing the funding in the hands of the few, multinational companies who are large enough to qualify for levy and who are largely known for underpaying their staff, we are seriously affecting social mobility in this country.

    Not to mention the unscrupulous and corrupt actions of the many unaccountable subcontractors. Where is the oversight?

    We all know the endgame is to privatise FE. We need greater moral strength on the part of our leaders in colleges as well as our governors. As we see from above, threats are the order of the day- the result will be chaos.

    Do it properly. Stop threatening colleges and invest, and the economy will improve.

    The government’s form has been nothing short of disastrous on the economy and education. Who has the courage to stand up to this bullying?