Colleges across the North East are joining forces to demonstrate the importance of their role in transforming lives and driving economic growth and to call on the government for better investment and fair pay.

As part of the second phase of the national Love Our Colleges campaign, from Monday 13th to Friday 17th May, governors from colleges across the North East are hosting events and speaking to their local MPs, staff, students and local business partners to demonstrate why the Chancellor should ensure meaningful and sustainable investment of colleges in his Comprehensive Spending Review.

Over the last decade, colleges have suffered an average of a 30% cut in funding, during which time costs have increased dramatically. This has had a detrimental impact on students, businesses, communities and the wider economy.

Rob Lawson, Chair of Governors for Education Partnership North East (created through the recent merger between Sunderland College – including Hartlepool Sixth Form – and Northumberland College), said: “Further education colleges play a vital role in society and the economy but are often overlooked within the education sector.

“As Chair of the Board since 2013, I have seen first-hand, the impact and transformation that education has on people’s lives and economic growth.

“During Love our Colleges week, we have joined with our sector colleagues to highlight the excellent work colleges across the North East do in improving lives and economies, and ensure further education colleges receive the recognition and support from national government that they deserve.”

Colleges educate and train 2.2 million people every year. Through top-class professional and technical education, A-Levels, apprenticeships, higher education, basic skills or lifelong learning, colleges support people of all ages and backgrounds to fulfil their potential and achieve their ambitions.

Rooted in local communities, colleges also play a vital role in driving social mobility and providing the skills to boost local and regional economies.

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: “The financial viability of colleges is as hard as it has ever been.

“This is despite the fact they are embedded within their local community and work with employers to provide solutions to people of all ages.

“If we want to achieve success, locally, regionally and nationally, we must ensure they’re properly supported.”