Thursday, 5 May 2011

Are colleges meeting the needs of rural enterprises?

Are colleges fulfilling their role for businesses located in rural regions?
Further education and life long learning are both crucial components of continuous improvement in business and personal development. Over time provision of post school learning has evolved into a complex myriad of competing organisations including; 6th form, technical colleges, polytechnics, universities, unions, trade bodies and businesses.
Cities and large conurbations have a distinct advantage over rural areas in providing international standards, ease and mobility of employees to gain a multitude of experiences, skills and opportunities aligned to the international dimension of all strands of commerce. This mobility and flexibility is a major benefit to most enterprises as the competition for employment and customers becomes a virtuous cycle constantly improving standards; companies become better employees, employees become more productive, customers expect more. Compare the availability of investment, international benchmarks, employee mobility and choice with rural areas and the gap is staggering.
If we develop this further and examine the opportunity for learning provided to individuals of similar abilities and interest say with a privately owned 3 / 4 star hotel located in a provincial town or village with that offered to someone working in an international chain of 3 / 4 star hotels based in a city once again the difference between range of experiences offered is staggering.  
Availability and flexibility of employees is harming the potential of rural areas with many businesses forced to accept “Hobson’s choice” when recruiting and it is this lack of choice available to employees which is potentially the greatest underlying reason as to why so many enterprises remain marginal with minimum investment.
Colleges provide the environment in which many people will receive further education after leaving school and they provide a natural partner to business, as such should they play a greater role in providing the environment in which privately owned businesses located in rural areas can compete with urban employers with regards to the range of experience, mobility and opportunities? As publically funded bodies surely colleges should be tasked with correcting systemic failures especially those identified as being of strategic consequence.

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