CBI argument based on dubious evidence

Your report on the CBI Employment Trends survey gives prominence to a set of criticisms about further education colleges (Personnel Today, 13 September).

The CBI received 420 responses to a survey that it sent to 7,000 employers and claims that employers are being “let down by further education colleges” because of a 46% satisfaction rating. The same survey, last year, had an 87% satisfaction rating for colleges from the 520 employers that bothered to respond. This fact wasn’t mentioned in this year’s survey. In both surveys, the majority of employers that gave an opinion hadn’t used a college in the previous 12 months.

If we are going to draw conclusions from surveys, we might as well look for large samples. The government’s National Employer Skills Survey asked 27,000 employers what they thought. Only 46% provided off-the-job training. Of these, a third had used colleges – particularly those with large numbers of staff – and 95% of these employers were satisfied with the training.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) is not complacent about the skills challenge facing the economy, but it believes we need to scotch the myth that colleges do not successfully engage with employers once and for all. The real challenge is not so much improving what colleges do, as helping them do more of it. This means expanding capacity and persuading government, more employers and more individuals to invest in training and development.

Rather than making a dubious argument based on poor evidence, the CBI would serve its members’ interests better by working with the AoC to tackle the system’s real problems.

Dr John Brennan
Chief executive, Association of Colleges

Comments are closed.