It has been relentlessly busy over the past weeks. The current economic downturn is affecting everybody’s day to day life. It is a very busy time in Parliament, as we get to grips with the best way to help people through these difficult times. I have made several speeches in the House of Commons, bringing to the Government’s attention the particular pressures felt by people living in our part of London and arguing for a proper legacy from the Olympic Games. Things are changing locally and nationally. People are losing jobs and fear for their own prospects. We are entering difficult times.
People are concerned about the solvency of the businesses that they own or work for; they, too, are worried about their financial security and keeping hold of their homes. The Government is working to keep the economy as buoyant as possible, injecting money into the system to keep people in jobs, rather than paying for them to receive dole. It is a strategy I obviously support, remembering the economic downturn of the eighties when my Dad was made redundant twice in six months. His was not an unusual story. It had a happy ending, but I remember the devastation and real fear those redundancies caused in my family.
Obviously, at the moment people are focussing on the short term, but, as a Government, we have to look to the long term and make sure that everyone has the necessary skills not only to weather the storm, but to come out the other side ready to return to prosperity.
Education and training are just as crucial now as they have ever been and we will continue to invest in equipping people with the skills and qualifications they will need when the economy picks up. The only thing we can do as individuals, as a community and as a country at times like these is re-skill ourselves and invest in the education and training that is evidently central to success.
We need to equip our working-age and young communities with the skills and expertise that our businesses need, if they are to succeed in the increasingly competitive global marketplace. Long gone are the days when young people would leave school or college at 16 and have a good career for life, with no need for any further learning or training. Without high quality skills and qualifications, our young people will lose out in the future.
Last week was the first ever National Colleges Week, so I thought this a good time to celebrate the role of our excellent local institutions. It will also hopefully encourage people of working age to consider anew the skills they have and those they may need. Our local colleges offer a diverse range of courses and training, which may help many weather this current economic downturn.
Further Education is also increasingly becoming the route to University, as nearly half of all entrants to University come from Further Education colleges. It is our colleges that play a vital role in helping to provide training for thousands of apprentices and those who are undertaking other work-based learning.
Newham College of Further Education, the BuildingCraftsCollege in Stratford and NewVIC, our sixth form college, play an essential role in our community, helping to improve skills and job prospects. When I visit our local colleges, I see the dedication of staff and teachers who are committed to providing a quality learning experience, as well as the energy and enthusiasm of learners. I pay tribute to that valuable work.