If you’re a regular reader of this column you will know how important it is to me that we are able to offer children the best possible education. I know it’s a cliche, but the future of our city, and our world for that matter, is in their hands.
But education isn’t just for the young, it’s just as important that we offer the chance for people of all ages to widen their skills to increase the opportunities available to them and to support employers who need people with the skills and qualifications to fill roles.
If you think of adult education, what may spring to mind is people taking classes to learn new hobbies or brushing up on a foreign language ahead of a trip abroad. Such courses are only part of the overall offering.
The £11.5 million budget for adult education in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough was this year devolved from central Government to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, providing the ability to deliver something much more ambitious.
As chairman of the combined authority’s Skills Committee, I can vouch for the hard work that has gone in to rethinking how we spend that money.
We know in Peterborough there are people who cannot apply for some jobs because they don’t have the right skills. Equally, we have many businesses which struggle to find people with the right skills. Adult education is the answer to both these problems.
The combined authority is working with learning providers to use adult education funding to target the 13.6 per cent of the Peterborough population that currently have no qualifications.
By giving low-skilled, low-paid working adults training, they will be able to use this learning to secure better paying and more stable jobs.
Integral to this is working with employers to see what kinds of skills they need from our population. So in Peterborough, adult education will offer courses in logistics, warehousing and storage. There will be courses in the health and care sector, including adult social care, and broader courses in business skills as well as qualifications in English and mathematics.
We are also asking learning providers to be more flexible, offering courses in the evenings or part-time so that they are open to all.
Adult education for leisure and pleasure should not be underestimated. It brings enjoyment, social interaction and keeps minds active.
But a shifting of the focus to what happens to learners as a result of their course will provide better balance to how we spend money on adult education.
The potential is vast, and if we get this right, we are in a strong position to secure even more funding from Government to help even more people gain skills and qualifications.
The implementation of this across Peterborough and Cambridgeshire will come later this summer, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the results. (more…)