Oldham's young people deserve a 'September Promise'
Date published: 27 May 2020
Oldham College principal Alun Francis
The Principal of Oldham College is joining education leaders across the country in asking their MPs to help deliver a ‘September Promise’ for young people.
Alun Francis is concerned that this year’s school and college leavers are all likely to find fewer job and apprenticeship opportunities available as the economic impact of COVID19 bites.
Previous recessions have shown it is young people who lose out the most in a depressed labour market because they find themselves competing against recent graduates and more experienced adults who have lost their jobs.
Data from the Association of Colleges (AoC) suggests that half of all young people looking to enter the labour market this summer will struggle to find work, while recent Resolution Foundation research suggests that young people are also most likely to lose their jobs.
Mr Francis has now written to Oldham College’s three local MPs asking them to support the September Promise and to make sure that the impact of a downturn doesn’t unfairly impact on young people’s employment opportunities for the rest of their lives.
In his letter to MPs Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East), Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) and Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne, Failsworth), Mr Francis says a September Promise should guarantee access to high quality education or training places this Autumn for every young person who wants one: making sure that when work is available, they are readily equipped to take it on.
It is also not just young people likely to be impacted.
The AoC anticipates that large numbers of adults will require training to help them move from struggling sectors into those which might expand, including health and social care.
A September Promise would also support a restart programme for 19 to 25-year-olds and provide investment in skills and adult education and training so that, when people lose their jobs, they can get the skills they need to get a new one.
Mr Francis said: “Oldham College has remained open for business during the pandemic with all of our 6,000 students and staff learning and working remotely.
“Our recruitment is also continuing as normal too – but there are very obvious concerns and challenges about the prospects for talented local young people, and also for adults who may need to retrain to find new employment.
“We take our community role extremely seriously and we want to make sure that everyone in Oldham has access to the education, skills and support they need to get on life.
“That’s why I have joined forces with education leaders across the country to call on Government to commit to a September Promise.
“I believe in our young people.
"I know that our community can and will thrive after this crisis, but for that to happen we need to invest in them now – and we need to support them.
"They are the people who will rebuild this country better than ever before, but they can’t do that without our help at this crucial time.”
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “We know from previous recessions that disadvantaged young people disproportionately suffer, not just in the immediate aftermath of an economic downturn, but often for the rest of their lives.
"This is our chance to break that cycle for good.
“A ‘September Promise’ of high-quality education and training would reduce the risk of long term economic scarring, and make sure that businesses have the skilled workforce needed to facilitate economic growth.
“A September Promise would give hope to a generation of young people currently worried about their career prospects now and in the future.”
Oldham College – shortlisted at the next TES Awards for FE ‘College of the Year’ 2020 – has enjoyed year-on-year increases in recruitment as more young people choose specialist technical education options.
With more than 5,600 students, it is the borough’s expert work-related and training provider – including around 1,000 apprentices whose results are ranked second in Greater Manchester.
It also has classroom programmes, including adult learners, and Higher Education provision to degree level through University Campus Oldham.
In the past year Oldham College has won national awards for its special needs support and its programme for training teachers, as well as achieving positive inspection results for both its further and higher education provision (rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted and TEF Silver, respectively).
Oldham College is continuing to take applications for all courses and apprenticeships starting in September 2020.
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