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APPG on FE & Lifelong Learning meet to discuss the role of colleges in supporting and addressing the health and social care workforce challenges

On Monday 12 June 2023 the APPG on FE and Lifelong Learning (which AoC provide the Secretariat to) held a meeting which focussed on how colleges support and address the health and social care workforce challenges. Our recent ‘Mind the Skills Gap’ campaign, which we launched with our partners in the Future Skills Coalition, highlighted the significant skills gaps that exist across the economy and in our health and social care sectors. This meeting was a great opportunity to show Parliamentarians how colleges can be part of the solution to this particular skills problem.

Parliamentarians heard from Sonia Stirling, Deputy Principal at Hugh Baird College, Laurence Frewin, Chief Executive at South Devon College and Lizzie Smith from NHS England. It was good to hear how colleges are playing such key roles in this space. This meeting was especially timely given the soon to be released NHS workforce plan. Lizzie Smith noted that the collaboration between the NHS and FE colleges was in a good space, with engagement and collaboration being much improved over the past 10 years.

Speakers at the recent meeting of the APPG on FE and Lifelong Learning
Speakers at the recent meeting of the APPG on FE and Lifelong Learning

Laurence Frewin and Sonia Stirling spoke about the fantastic work their colleges do in the health and social care sectors and also answered questions from parliamentarians on issues such as qualification reform, the challenges in working with health and social care providers, recommendations for government, staff recruitment and retention issues and flexibility around apprenticeships. There are a few follow up actions from the meeting which we will share, alongside the meeting minutes in an upcoming briefing.

This meeting also acted as the AGM of the group and we were that Peter Aldous MP was re-appointed as Chair of the APPG, with Baroness Garden and Stephen Farry the Group’s Vice Chairs and Emma Hardy MP, Lord Blunkett and Lord Addington acting as the Group’s officers. We also wanted to thank Peter Aldous MP for his work as Chair and as a champion of the FE sector over the past few years.

It has also been great to get more colleges involved with our parliamentary work, be that through MP visits, the Mind the Skills Gap campaign and as witnesses to APPGs meetings and evidence sessions. Parliamentarians are always eager to hear from those with key experience on the ground of these policy issues and we look forward to engaging more members with this work.