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FE sector giants join forces to drive positive change for the future of skills

19 October 2022

FE sector giants join forces to drive positive change for the future of skills

A new coalition, which unites some of the most influential voices in the skills sector, has been launched to press for a more joined up and sufficiently funded technical and vocational education sector to boost growth.

The Future Skills Coalition – a partnership initially between the Association of Colleges, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers and City & Guilds – will make the case for a skills-led economic recovery. The Coalition will seek to grow its membership in the coming weeks and years to be a cross-cutting group of educators and employers.

In recent years, there have been huge shocks that have rocked the stability of the labour market from changes in trade relationships and skills supply following the EU referendum to the pandemic. As a result, we now have c.1.3 million unfilled job vacancies in the UK, a shrinking available workforce and employers struggling to compete for talent.

The post-16 education sector plays a critical role in driving economic growth – through training, re-training and upskilling millions of people every year. While there has been increased focus from politicians and policymakers in recent years, there remain fundamental challenges facing the sector. Most markedly through insufficient and diffused investment into the sector from government and also a need to break down barriers to investment and engagement from employers. In addition, longer term disruptors such as the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the four-generation workforce have meant the way that we teach and learn have been fundamentally changed forever.

In response to this, the coalition has been formed to champion the role of post-16 education and skills in our ambition to unlock growth and improve the nation’s economic outlook. This coalition will aim to shape a national strategy supporting local growth and to achieve better alignment across disconnected and often conflicting Government Department programmes as a key priority – turning the tide on ten years of underinvestment with a call for a ten-year commitment to skills for future growth and productivity.

The Association of Colleges (AoC), Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and City & Guilds have come together as a force for positive change- amplifying the voice of the whole FE sector and bringing together a broader network of stakeholders interested in boosting skills. This coalition will focus on campaigning across key policy issues and act as a catalyst for engagement with their wider networks across employers, industry bodies and the third sector.

Kirstie Donnelly CEO City & Guilds said: “The English skills system continues to compare very poorly to other OECD nations and investment in adult education has collapsed by 50 per cent over the past decade, meaning 50% fewer people benefitting from the life changing benefits of a vocational education. It should come as no surprise then that employers are crying out for skilled people to fill millions of empty jobs.”

“The coalition will focus upon the changes that need to be made to enable us to maximise the potential of the Further Education sector and its impact for individuals, organisations and society. Bringing the disparate organisations that can affect change together in a vitally important movement.”

Jane Hickie, Chief Executive of AELP added: “At a time of unprecedented challenges, it is right that we bring together all those delivering and benefiting from skills training to call for a fairer deal. The whole FE sector is raring to support a skills agenda which will put more people into sustainable employment and advance economic growth- but we need more investment and a joined-up policy approach to get there. Together- we will always achieve more than we can achieve alone. I am therefore delighted to be working with colleagues from right across the sector on this mission critical work.”

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “A growing economy needs ongoing investment in skills, for jobs today and to be agile as job needs change with new technology. Sadly, that investment is lacking in our country, hampering 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. The further education sector is united in its call for better investment in technical education and training across people’s lifetimes. We need the Government to grasp this opportunity to build a system where employers and educators are singing from the same hymn sheet.”

A series of events will be convened during 2022/23 to bring together learner, provider and employer voices and ensure that the vision for a joined-up technical and vocational education sector.

Ultimately, this coalition will ensure people are able to access the education and training they need throughout their lives; working with employers to drive greater productivity; and working across the private, public and third sectors to build healthier, greener, more cohesive places.

To find out more or register your interest in being a part of the coalition please email


City & Guilds - Since 1878 we have worked with people, organisations and economies to help them identify and develop the skills they need to thrive. We understand the life changing link between skills development, social mobility, prosperity and success. Everything we do is focused on developing and delivering high-quality training, qualifications, assessments and credentials that lead to jobs and meet the changing needs of industry.

We work with governments, organisations and industry stakeholders to help shape future skills needs across industries. We are known for setting industry-wide standards for technical, behavioural and commercial skills to improve performance and productivity. We train teams, assure learning, assess cohorts and certify with digital credentials. Our solutions help to build skilled and compliant workforces

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) is a national membership body, proudly representing around 800 organisations involved in work-based learning. AELP members support thousands of businesses and millions of learners in England by delivering a wide range of post-16 education, skills and employability programmes.

Association of Colleges (AoC) is the national voice for further education, sixth form, tertiary and specialist colleges. 90% of England’s colleges are AoC members, educating and training over two million people each year.