Investing in the future

February 7th, 2011

It’s a simple equation – for every £1 invested in a college, it is estimated the Scottish economy benefits to the tune of £3.20.

By creating opportunities for young people and producing skills vital to industry, further education helps to grow our economy and sustain our communities.

In Inverclyde, with the James Watt College right at the heart of its community, the benefits of having a centre of learning on our doorstep are more difficult to quantify.

It is where local students go to study during term time, it is where lecturers earn their living every day and for our young people, it represents an opportunity at a better life.

That is why I challenged the Scottish Government this week to think again over the draconian cuts to further education.

While we know that there are tough challenges ahead for all public services, further education seems to be bearing the brunt of the cuts, which are out of kilter with other spending reductions.

This week, I met with the college principal Sue Pinder to hear about proposals to deal with the £5.7 million black hole handed to her by the Scottish Government.

What is clear is that jobs will be lost, both teaching and non-teaching, and the quality and local choice of education provision for students may be impacted.

With youth unemployment becoming a real threat, further education has never been in greater demand as young people try to acquire the skills needed to succeed in a tough job market.

So these short-sighted plans to cut investment in colleges like James Watt is damaging to our future prospects and yet again the Scottish Government misguided priorities have been exposed.

Last week I challenged the Scottish Government over the regeneration cuts that will halt the investment in bricks and mortar needed to attract businesses and jobs to the area.

These latest cuts represent a failure to invest in our young people and I fear it will have dire consequences for their future prospects, and ours as a community.