COLLEGES across the North East joined forces to demonstrate how they help transform lives and drive economic growth– as they called on the Government for more money.

As part of the second phase of the national Love Our Colleges campaign this week, governors from colleges across the region hosted events and spoke to their local MPs, staff, students and local business partners to demonstrate why they feel the Chancellor should ensure meaningful and sustainable investment of colleges in his Comprehensive Spending Review.

Education leaders say that, over the last decade, colleges have suffered an average of a 30 per cent cut in funding, during which time costs have increased dramatically.

This has had a detrimental impact on students, businesses, communities and the wider economy, they add.

Pamela Petty, Chair of the Bishop Auckland College Corporation with more than 30 years’ experience in manufacturing, said: “At a time key industries in the North East like advanced manufacturing and engineering are facing increasing skills gaps, they need properly funded colleges with state-of-the -art facilities and industry-experienced teaching staff.“Instead we have colleges which, after a decade of funding cuts which has seen the average value of staff pay falling by over 25 per cent, are struggling to both attract and retain suitably skilled teaching staff and fund increasing employer costs.

"The situation is simply not sustainable and the Government has to act if colleges are to be able to continue to provide the high quality training provision learners and businesses in the communities they serve need."

Helen Golightly, chief executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Improving skills, employability, inclusion and progression is a key part of the North East Strategic Economic plan to boost the economy and create more and better jobs for people living and working in the region.

“The North East’s colleges play a vital role in this by supporting people to gain academic qualifications and valuable encounters with employers, ensuring they can make informed choices about their future careers. It also means businesses are able to employ people with the skills they need to flourish and grow.

“In recognition of the fantastic work being done in our region, the North East LEP area is home to the country’s only College Careers Hub, which supports colleges in the North East and across the country to implement and deliver the Gatsby Career Benchmarks. The North East LEP values the important contribution colleges make in improving our economy and building inspiration and aspiration among its students.”

The Love Our Colleges campaign is a partnership between Association of Colleges (AoC), National Union of Students (NUS), Association of College and School Leaders (ASCL), University and Colleges Union (UCU), Unison, GMB, TUC and National Education Union (NEU).

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said to achieve success, locally, regionally and nationally colleges must be properly supported.