At Whitehead Ross we feel it’s very important to be able to engage and interact with key influencers on areas of policy and reform which affect the provision of education and training for young people, adults and those vulnerable groups within our community.
As part of this we seek to engage with political parties hosting their annual conference in Brighton. This week saw the Labour Party arrive in the city to discuss policy and engage in debate with stakeholders. Whitehead-Ross Education and Consulting was involved in three separate events, giving us an opportunity to engage with Shadow Ministers and highlight the impact of our programmes in supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Yesterday we welcomed Margaret Greenwood, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, during her visit to our Skills Centre on Marlborough Place. During her visit the Shadow Secretary of State met some of the Brighton team and heard all about our programmes for young people aged 16-24 which help them to achieve vocational qualifications and offers support in applying for jobs. She also met some young people who are not in education, employment or training to find out about their personal experiences, along with what additional support the DWP could provide.
Earlier this week, our MD Ian Ross attended an education event with Adele Ferguson, our Brighton Centre Manager, to discuss Labour’s lifelong learning commission and planning for a transformative adult education system. Hosted by the University and College Union & NEON, Gordon Marsden MP (Shadow Minister for FE, HE and Skills) provided an update on Labour’s new vision of lifelong learning and the tertiary education system to inform the Party’s policies entering the next election. Ian raised ongoing concerns about the unfairness of the Adult Education Budget funding system, with colleges and local authorities underspending £200m of adult skills courses in 2017/18; we have long called for Independent Training Providers to have fairer access to Adult Education Budget funding in England as we are more responsive in meeting learner demand and engaging the hardest to reach in comparison to colleges.
On Sunday Ian was invited to a Small Business Summit dinner at the Royal Pavilion. Hosted by Intuit, the dinner bought together twenty-four business representatives to discuss small business issues and ideas the Labour Party should adopt in its next manifesto when a General Election is called. During the event, Ian was delighted to meet Jonathan Reynolds MP (Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury), Bill Esterson MP (Shadow Business Minister), Rajesh Agrawal (Deputy Mayor of London) and Paul Uppal (Small Business Commissioner). Ian also called on the Labour Party to simplify the public procurement regulations, should it form the next government, to legislate and make the process less bureaucratic and time consuming – especially for contracts worth £250,000 or below. We regularly bid for public sector contracts where the contract value is so disproportionate to how many questions are included in the tender document. This will save time for commissioners, enable savings to the taxpayer and make the process less onerous for prospective bidders.
As a business we always enjoy engaging with politicians and sharing our experience of making government-funded programmes work better for our communities. Last year we supported 1,352 individuals across our programmes in Brighton, Solent, Swindon, Dorset and South Wales. Unless our sector engages with decision makers and politicians, we cannot influence areas where the system needs reform.