The principal of Northampton College has urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to ‘Mind The Skills Gap’ and increase vital funding for technical education in the upcoming spring statement.

The campaign has been launched by the Future Skills Coalition and aims to highlight the important role colleges and other further education providers play in giving people the skills they need to enter specialised jobs across industries including manufacturing, engineering, construction and digital.

Pat Brennan-Barrett was among a national delegation of FE leaders to visit Parliament as part of a day of action showcasing the importance of skills provision and said: “Colleges play a vital role in equipping people for work in the local labour market but the lack of funding for colleges is having a direct impact on the sector’s ability to deliver the skilled workers the economy desperately needs.

“Put simply, too many people can't get the job they want because they don't have the skills they need. We need fair and sustainable funding, and we are also in real need of a national post-16 education and skills strategy which supports local growth, and a statutory right to lifelong learning.

“With job vacancies nationally at near record levels of over 1 million according to the Office for National Statistics[i], businesses are struggling to fill important posts which is reducing their ability to grow, which in turn hampers the health of the local and national economy.

The Parliamentary event was organised by the Association of Colleges in partnership with City & Guilds and AELP and saw senior political figures including Lord Blunkett and Jo Johnson lead a panel discussion with education leaders and training providers.

Among the topics discussed was the need to slow down planned reforms to technical qualifications - dubbed ‘the bonfire of the BTECs’ - and allow more time for T-Levels to be refined until they are capable of taking on the full weight of the vocational programme. Lord Blunkett, a former teacher himself, warned: “Radical thinking is required, if we get it wrong it’s not worth contemplating what the future might look like.”

College finances remain below what they were in 2010, according to economics think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies[ii]. Funding cuts mean spending per pupil in 2024-25 will still be around five per cent below 2010-11 levels and for adult students it is 22 per cent below 2009–10 levels.

Mrs Brennan-Barrett added: “Local labour markets rely on the jobs which Further Education providers help deliver year in year out. Colleges and other further education providers are ready to play their part in the Government’s plans to grow the economy, but it needs support and investment to be able to do that after 12 years of declining funding for adults and young people.

“A growing economy needs ongoing investment in skills and to be agile as job needs change. Sadly, that investment is lacking in our country - post-16 education funding is way behind what is needed to boost economic growth.

“Investing in skills gives instant and long-term returns through higher productivity, helping employers find and develop productive workers and in turn delivering higher wages.

“Without additional investment in further education and skills, we will not be able to fill these skills shortages in key priority areas of the economy and deliver the labour market the country needs. We have voiced our concerns, we now need the Government to sit up, listen and take action.”

Throughout the day the college held a series of meetings with local MPs including Andrew Lewer, Michael Ellis and a representative of Chris Heaton-Harris.

[i] Statista:

[ii] IFS: