ALTHOUGH the transformation of the further education sector over the past 10 years has been quite dramatic, the perception is often still that your local college is a place where lower-level technical skills are taught to young people who aren't suited to academia.
It's time to think again!
Further education colleges are the unsung heroes of our education system.
They educate and train more than three million people a year – including approximately two-thirds of all sixth-form students.
They perform extremely well in learner satisfaction surveys and they contribute billions to the national economy.
High expectations and aspirations are a common feature of colleges and a commitment to giving people high-quality, sought-after qualifications.
In fact, new research from the independent educational foundation, Edge, identifies how the recession is making South West parents lose their academic snobbery and turn to vocational qualifications for their children instead. A total of 75 per cent now think it's important to gain a vocational qualification, in the belief that they will make their offspring more recession-proof, employable and put them in a better position to be their own boss.
Further education colleges have so much to offer; their uniqueness lies in delivering vocational, academic and personal development opportunities, and the work they carry out with partnership organisations to ensure that the whole spectrum of education and training needs of the local economy is met.
Students are drawn from all age groups and backgrounds, offering richness in diversity and inclusiveness.
They cater for mature students and returners to education, as well as the younger person who is seeking a more individually focused approach to learning.
Colleges are renowned for responding to the needs of many young students in the recognition that they are individuals, who wish to make adult choices about how and where to pursue their education as the foundation to a positive future – whether through ongoing education to graduate or postgraduate level, or through satisfying and rewarding employment.
On a personal note, further education colleges have a place at the heart of local communities.
You'd be hard pushed to find any family or organisation that has not had some positive association with a college – and the plan is to keep it that way.
So if your image of your local college is a place where lower-level technical skills are taught to young people, think again.
Better still, call in and see for yourself how they've changed.