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Support region's manufacturing future with greater investment in colleges, says shadow minister

A shadow minister has called for greater investment in further education colleges to guarantee the region's "manufacturing future".

Pat McFadden MP and Toby Perkins MP with students at City of Wolverhampton College

Toby Perkins, Shadow Minister for Further Education and Skills, said colleges had been underfunded for too long and urged the Government to help "upskill" the next generation.

He said colleges could play a major role in supporting the West Midlands' manufacturing future providing they were properly resourced.

To mark national colleges week, Mr Perkins visited the City of Wolverhampton College's Wellington Road campus in Bilston as a guest of Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden.

They toured the facilities with principal Malcolm Cowgill, meeting students on courses including bakery, construction and sport.

Principal Malcolm Cowgill (left) with Toby Perkins MP and Pat McFadden MP

Mr Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, said he was hugely impressed with the work going on at the college.

He said: "We can see there are all sorts of opportunities here if only the college can get the funding needed.

"It is a sector that has been underfunded for a long, long time and there is a real need for investment.

"FE colleges have been hit far worse that any other area of the education system.

"We need Government to recognise the importance of skills, and the work that goes on here. I think the importance of the role that colleges play is often not really understood in terms of upskilling the next generation.

"That's why we are seeing a skills shortage in some areas. There are jobs out there, providing we can get people with the right skills.

"It is not just about spending money, it's investing money, because that will then get people into work and off the dole."

Mr Perkins said apprenticeships were the "gold standard" and called for more young people to consider that route alongside other options.

"Here in the West Midlands there is a fantastic manufacturing heritage, and it can have a manufacturing future as long as people are provided with the right skills," he added.

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