The looming crisis can be averted only by working together in Scotland: Principal Paul Little, City of Glasgow College

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The Educational Future

To prevent a potential shortage of skills, Scotland’s funding and regulatory bodies must now work together and take a “system-wide approach” writes Paul Little, principal of City of Glasgow College.

THE scale of the effects of such a deep global health epidemic is just starting to become evident. There is a glaring economic and social effect of the coronavirus pandemic, and it will take a monumental collective effort to recover, with the prospect of redesign.

We do not yet fully understand or understand how this crisis can change the way we live, the way we operate and, in the long term, the way we treat each other.
What is obvious is that in Scotland, a work and skills crisis is developing.

As I write this, in the second quarter of 2020, 15 percent of the workforce is still on leave, the economy shrank by almost 20 percent and youth unemployment stands at 14.5 percent. The extent of the economic shock implies that current funding, governance, cooperation, and service delivery structures require gradual reform to tackle problems and take advantage of new opportunities.

Colleges are extraordinarily versatile tertiary education and training institutions across Scotland and are therefore in a unique position to quickly introduce steps to retrain, upskill and revitalize individuals and their communities across them.

It is now more critical than ever to have a holistic, cohesive and tertiary response if Scotland is to make the requisite step change in order to deliver its national priorities. This will also entail flexibility, ingenuity and the bravery of funding and regulatory authorities, which will have to function even more collaboratively and take a system-wide approach in turn.

To optimize the ability of the skills and learning system and allow it to respond quickly to employer demands, all of this is important.

City of Glasgow College is now playing a central role in the recovery as we rebuild and reinvent our economy, including leading the reaction in some of the sectors most impacted by the pandemic – retail, hospitality, leisure, construction, manufacturing and creative industries.

In each of these sectors, colleges may and should lead the response.
Our college continued to remotely train Scotland’s workers during the lockdown, providing over 290 courses and educating almost 2300 employees. More than 70 programs have now been produced by City which can be implemented remotely with hundreds of participants at a time.

In addition, since our merger in 2010, we are proud to have helped more than 100,000 graduates gain accredited qualifications and to have partnered with employers and education partners to build a curriculum across four faculties of more than 2,000 courses.

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, City of Glasgow College has formed a network of 1,500 industry partners and is positioning itself as one of the top performing colleges in the entire UK for technology and vocational education.

And in all of this, the college is enhancing Glasgow’s well-being and playing an important role in encouraging people to understand their economic potential from diverse backgrounds. A forthcoming study by the Fraser of Allander Institute estimates that, as a result of the eight cohorts of graduates between 2011/12 and 2018/19, the Scottish economy will benefit from more than £ 6 billion in cash value over the long term – that is £ 56,000 per graduate.

Commissioned by the Scottish Government, co-authored by myself and Audrey Cumberford, Principal of Edinburgh College, and published in February this year, the Cumberford Little study predicted many of the difficulties imposed by Covid-19 on a modern “Covid-normal” Scotland. It goes on to lay out a simple roadmap for our colleges’ future, seeing them as civic anchors for economic and social regeneration. It concludes that they are ideally positioned to enable and facilitate social mobility, define requirements for skills and provide a talented workforce.

This can be accomplished by colleges through modern, symbiotic partnerships with business and industry that increase efficiency, provide transformative technical and vocational education for upskilling and retraining, and improve community capacity and resilience to address vulnerable citizens.

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