The recent publication of the UK government’s much-vaunted Industrial Strategy Green Paper, setting out plans to adapt the economy for a post-Brexit era, sees a welcome focus on overhauling technical education – with a pledge to help young people develop the skills for the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.
As an innovative, fully-commercial educational group, with an emphasis on educational excellence linked to sustainable business practices, The Hadlow Group is committed to working with the government to cultivate world-leading sectors and develop the skills, research and infrastructure required to drive long-term growth in productivity.
In the following open letter to the Prime Minister, The Hadlow Group outlines its responses to the government’s 10 pillars of Britain's Modern Industrial Strategy:
Dear Prime Minister,
As a group, we feel encouraged by the government's commitment to addressing widespread labour market shortages in sectors that depend on STEM skills and the £170m of capital funding to deliver higher technical education in these subjects. Across The Hadlow Group, we already adhere to the government's outlined strategy of ensuring that our courses reflect the demands of local industry and regularly review this with our business advisory councils and liaison groups, working up to level 7 in further education.
Also giving us cause for optimism is the government’s acknowledgement of the crucial role that FE colleges play in the economy – and the resulting pledge to support these institutions to be centres of excellence in teaching English and maths and the potential remit expansion of the Education Endowment Foundation to support post-16 disadvantaged students.
We welcome the plans to reform traditional FE, outlined in pillar 2, to build “a new system of technical education to benefit the half of young people who do not go to university”. With more school leavers considering alternatives to university, it’s never been more important to support a more diverse range of paths – vocational courses and apprenticeships, particular in those areas likely to have a major skills gap after the retirement of the baby boomer generation: skilled trades such as bricklaying, plumbing, electrics and agriculture - all courses we offer – as well as health & social care, vital to provide for a burgeoning ageing population. We are encouraged by the mention of removing barriers to accessing FE, such as making the application process for further education colleges and apprenticeships clearer and simpler, which is fundamental to business engagement and the value society places on vocational education; this must improve.
As a provider of apprenticeships, we welcome the comments in pillar 3 around improving infrastructure, particularly transport in rural areas, as we’ve found challenges in placing apprentices in rural businesses who are desperate for an apprentice, in part due to the paucity of public transport links and their restrictively high costs to the young. This was also highlighted in info cited from the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) in Rural England’s recent State of Rural Services Report 2016. This is welcome, providing action is taken logically and soon.
We’d like to express our collective disappointment about the lack of focus given to the rural economy (mentioned only once in the green paper), considering agriculture contributes £9.9 billion of the UK's gross value added. Land-based education institutions such as ourselves are reliant on the survival of, and government support for, rural businesses, which, with the proposed government business rate hikes in April and existing £3bn in farming subsidies potentially cut post-2020, will be facing particular challenges in the next few years. Hadlow Group’s role is one of path-finding and supporting British rural business, as well as developing our own. 1,400 staff work within the Hadlow Group, contributing a return of 1:5 in economic terms. 10,000 students benefit from our vision of commerciality and ensuring our organisation contributes socially and economically.
As we move from the EU's Common Agriculture Policy to our own domestic agriculture policy, post-Brexit, the British agricultural industry will feel a profound impact. There is a huge need, with concerns over food security and the fact we produce less than 60% of food we eat, to highlight both the importance of UK farming and to make jobs in the sector attractive to young people, who are vital in growing the rural economy. At the Hadlow Group, we have one of the lowest dependencies on government funding in the UK. As a result, we are focused upon commerciality and output, student excellence, jobs and economic return. This is why we have not only transformed Hadlow College into a £51m group, but also worked with government in re-engaging business into key educational areas within the newly created West Kent and Ashford College.
With The Hadlow Group set to open the Kent Mining Museum as part of its Betteshanger Parks project in spring 2018, we welcome the government’s commitment to initial work on early sector deals, specifically for the creative industries and the potential within this for a heritage-specific sector deal. With a green technologies commerce park, including research and development facilities, also planned for the site, we will be investigating opportunities to involve business and investors – and would value any government support offered in this area.
We look forward to working with your government to future-proof the UK economy and work towards a stronger, opportunity-rich Britain.
The Hadlow Group