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Colleges Week and the economic rebuild

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Today is the start of Colleges Week and a chance to celebrate the work that colleges do to support individuals, boost business and build communities.

Each day is centred around a different theme – the first of which is how colleges are supporting the economic rebuild.

The Association of Colleges, which organises Colleges Week, last week published its latest bi-annual research revealing that the majority of small and medium sized enterprises say that skills must be a top priority for the government if their businesses are to “survive and thrive.”

The national survey of SME leaders, conducted by Opinium, also showed that more than half of businesses (53 per cent) say Covid-19 is now their key concern. More than two in five said the skills gap in their sector is likely to increase because of threats such as the pandemic and 54 per cent believe they will need to train their workforce to adapt to the opportunities and challenges thrown up by the virus.

The study, released to mark Colleges Week, shows that seven in 10 (71 per cent) believe colleges are important to business for training and retraining staff. As a business, 39 per cent say they would look to train, retrain or upskill their employees through colleges, compared to 21 per cent who would turn to a university or 13 per cent to online courses. A further 44 per cent believe colleges are best placed to skill their future workforce, compared to universities and schools.

Further evidence of the importance of colleges to the UK’s future workforce shows around six in 10 (59 per cent) say that it is important that their business has staff with Level 3 qualifications, all of which can be gained at college.

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges said: “The economic recovery has to be skills-led if we are to support businesses and people through this pandemic. It is only through training and retraining that we will be able to make sure that people have the skills they need to keep their jobs and to apply for new ones, and that businesses have the employees they need. Both will allow the country to grow back better.

“Skills gaps did not emerge in this pandemic, they are long standing challenges which have been exacerbated by Covid-19 and the UK nearing the end of the Brexit transition period. The Government has rightly expressed its commitment to prioritising skills, but now we need the investment to flow quickly to the right people and places. People and businesses need skills and training as an urgent priority if they are going to survive the coming months, and thrive in the coming years.

“Colleges in every part of the country provide first-rate education and skills, working on average with more than 750 businesses in their local community, skilling, and reskilling business staff, helping them to overcome the problems of today and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. Colleges already do so much to support business and they stand ready to do so much more.”

Wiltshire College & University Centre is proud to work with more than 740 businesses across the county and south west region to ensure their employees have the skills they need, whether it be through upskilling opportunities or apprenticeships.

Alex Clancy is head of Business Development at the College. He said: “As the economy starts to recover, the ways in which organisations are having to reshape, rebuild and potentially reskills is a significant challenge. At Wiltshire College & University Centre we have shaped our curriculum offer around local strategic economic priorities to support our business community to prosper in forecasted areas of growth and opportunity. Since lockdown we have support over 300 businesses across Wiltshire and the South West, so regardless of your training, development or recruitment needs we offer a range of solutions to help your business recover strong.”

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