Campaigning in Parliament to Support the AOC’s ‘Mind the Skills Gap’

Last week, the AOC campaigned for more investment in further education and skills, including a day at Parliament. Principals from Somerset’s FE colleges attended to lobby their MPs, including Mark Bolton, CEO & Principal of Yeovil College.

FE colleges are crucial for economic growth, but they need adequate funding to continue the provision of high-quality education and training. The AOC’s “Mind the Skills Gap” campaign highlights this need and the 12 years of declining funding. Without investment, key priority areas of the economy in Somerset will face skills shortages. 


Mark Bolton, Principal & CEO of Yeovil College, agreed: “Having worked in FE for over 20 years, I have seen first-hand the impact of declining funding and increase in bureaucracy to the detriment of colleagues working in the sector. FE people believe passionately in the work they do and have for many years filled the gap with countless additional unpaid hours each week so that students and apprentices get the same great experience and go on to enjoy brilliant careers. We are however at a tipping point and if we want to be globally competitive with a skilled workforce to rival any other economy, things have to change and the sector needs either more investment or a pair of scissors taking to the relentless red tape that makes no positive difference to students or businesses. Our part of the South West has incredible opportunity and a foundation to be the very best, we need action now to realise that potential.” 


Andy Berry, Principal and CEO of Bridgwater & Taunton College (BTC) said: “I firmly believe that the FE colleges in Somerset are crucial to promoting social mobility and supporting businesses in creating a skilled workforce for economic growth. However, current funding rates pose a significant challenge for colleges in recruiting specialist staff and addressing the skills shortages across various sectors. Without urgent investment in further education and skills, our colleges cannot supply the skilled workforce required for our economy to thrive. Therefore, we must unite to lobby our government for additional support to continue providing vital services for the health and wellbeing of our communities.”  


John Revill, Principal & CEO Strode continued: “I am pleased to be part of the FE sector’s campaign to highlight the important role that colleges and FE providers play in meeting the national, regional and local skill needs. This has become more difficult to achieve with a lack of sustained investment over a significant number of years. Despite this lack of investment in the sector and ever increasing red-tape, the colleges still empower learners, support employees and employers to develop the workforce of the future.” 


The Principals have committed to continuing to raise the profile and importance of further education colleges and adequate funding to secure the future of local communities and businesses in Somerset. 


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