Sixteen students from Sunderland College led a debate with city MPs to highlight the importance of further education colleges for economic development and social prosperity, as part of the national Love our Colleges campaign.
The debate took place at the City Campus with a panel consisting of Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central and College chief executive Ellen Thinnesen.
The Love our Colleges campaign calls on the government for better investment and fair pay and aims to demonstrate why the chancellor should ensure meaningful and sustainable investment of colleges.
Mrs Hodgson, said: “It was a privilege to take part in the Love our Colleges debate recently with students, and hear their personal concerns about further education funding.
“At a time when there is a skills gap and a high number of vacancies, the government are continuing to cut funding for further education.
“In order to close this gap, the government must invest in further education so that everyone has the opportunity to learn and develop new skills that they can utilise in employment.”
The students were given the opportunity to discuss with the panel how important colleges are in developing a strong workforce in the region.
Nathan Jones, 19, from Roker, said: “I was really pleased to be involved in the event as I am interested in the MPs’ opinion and how they could help to improve the situation for colleges.
“The Love our Colleges campaign is a great idea, as it is making more people aware of the issue with funding and why something should be done to help.”
Mrs Thinnesen, said: “We were delighted for our students’ voices to be heard and to have the support of our local MPs during this vitally important campaign, which highlights the impact of further education colleges on our economies and communities.
“Further education colleges need to be able to respond to regional and national agendas and support central and local government to achieve its ambitions.
“However, a sufficient level of funding is required for colleges to provide a wide and responsive range of provision, lead innovation, drive forward skills agendas, build strong business partnerships and continue transforming lives and communities.”