§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a progress report on the college-employer links project.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
Good progress is being made in this important venture, which has the support of employer associations, local education authorities and colleges, the further education examining and validating bodies, MSC, HMI and other bodies.
Project directors, supported by local steering commit-tees of employer, college and other interests, are at work in the eight local education authority areas invited to participate in the project — Birmingham, Bradford, Cleveland, Ealing, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Leeds and Wiltshire. Their inquiries of employers and colleges in their area about the effectiveness of links and the appropriateness of college courses to employers' needs are continuing, but a number of key issues have been identified: for example, the problems in serving small businesses; successful integration of in-house company training and college provision, both college-based and "in-plant"; the effectiveness of the advisory machinery in colleges and of employer input and appraisal of courses at both college and LEA level; and staff development needs in colleges and the contribution employers can make to meeting these. In most areas it has been agreed that the studies should concentrate on particular subject areas—examples are engineering, electronics, textiles, information technology, hotel and catering, robotics — and/or particular colleges in the project area. Close contact is being maintained with related initiatives sponsored by the Department and the Manpower Services Commission, particularly in the field of post-experience vocational education and training.
Interim reports are expected by about Easter and final reports by about the end of next year. The department will then consider what action may be required to extend good practice.