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Sir Vince Cable launches national research project at Dudley College

Sir Vince Cable former Minister for Business Innovation and Skills visited Dudley College yesterday as an ambassador for the National Students Union (NUS).

Dr Cable spoke to students about what the substantial changes to the education and skills system feel like to learners at grass-roots level.

The visit was part of a national research programme which Dr Cable is heading on behalf of the NUS.

During the visit he met both senior staff from the college who outlined the way they are working to meet the needs of employers and learners and he spoke with over forty students from across a range of course areas, who shared their day-to-day experiences with him. 

In particular, Dr Cable was interested to hear what students thought of the government's Post 16 Skills Plan and if they believed it would actually bring about the intended benefits it proposes.

The Post 16 Skills Plan proposes a raft of changes to the way further education is delivered including proposals to place technical education on par with more academic pathways such as A levels. 

Students shared their thoughts on a range of topics including their desire to see work experience in A level programmes through to the need to provide more support for learners of all ages with mental health problems. 

Dr Cable has long been a supporter of the FE system witnessing its impact on changing people's lives alongside his father, who was an FE lecturer at York College. He assumed direct responsibility for the sector as Secretary of State for the Department of Business Innovation of Skills (DBIS) from 2010-2015.

The event saw him on familiar ground albeit from a very different perspective to the days when he was a Minister.  Commenting on Dr Cable's involvement in the project NUS Vice Principal: Shakira Martin said: "Dr Cable and I come from very different backgrounds and we usually speak to two very different audiences, but I'm delighted that through his support for this work we can create one voice speaking about the future of further education."

Dudley College Student Union President Dan Wood said:
"Today really opened my eyes to see how many students are affected by issues and feel powerless. It's important that students realise they are a strong lobbying group and they can influence things that do have and will have, a direct impact on their own lives. I think today's event left us all feeling a greater sense of empowerment" 

Echoing this, Lowell Williams, Principal of Dudley College said: "I'm delighted we could welcome Dr Cable and the National Union of Students to the college, we strongly believe education has a role to play in creating articulate citizens who can meaningfully take part in public debate. That's why we are pleased to be hosting the first in the series of events taking place across the country.”  

The findings from the events will be published in autumn of this year under the title of Students Shaping Further Education and will be presented to Ministers with a series of recommendations from the NUS about all aspects of the skills system.