Colleges Scotland has asked the Scottish Government for urgent clarity on funding while offering its assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to Education Secretary John Swinney, chief executive Shona Struthers said the agency is willing to offer up its buildings to act as hubs, minibuses to be used for home deliveries and qualified staff and students to provide support.
She also asked the Scottish Government to consider providing free broadband to students and staff, who are now forced to work remotely.
Ms Struthers asked Mr Swinney to provide clarity over the funding situation for the institutions, along with providing flexibility in the assessment of students.
She called for systems to be put in place between Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and the Scottish Government to ensure that apprentices are not laid off during the pandemic and assurances that colleges will not be punished for failing to meet apprenticeship recruitment targets.
The Colleges Scotland chief executive wrote: “Given that our entire skills system is now operating remotely with significant risk of dislocation for vulnerable and hardship students, we ask the Scottish Government to consider providing free broadband for students and staff to assist this significant digital expansion and to accelerate the broadband capacities and speeds across the country.”
Ms Struthers added: “The college sector is an essential civic anchor the length and breadth of Scotland.
“We would like to offer our buildings for hub use and specific social support, minibuses for home deliveries, supporting food banks, and college cars to the NHS and police.”
She said she would be willing to link up students, staff and alumni with Government to provide support in “a broad range of practical subjects”, such as health and social care, childcare and other services.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We absolutely welcome the offer made by the college sector and Colleges Scotland to provide support during these unprecedented times – the Minister for Further Education has already engaged with the sector and Scottish Funding Council on this.
“The Scottish Funding Council has confirmed to all college principals that the payments process will be maintained, and we understand discussions with Skills Development Scotland are developing well.
“We will continue to work with Colleges Scotland through the Ministerial group chaired by the Minister for Higher Education.”