Industry waits at the school gates

Essery looks at renewed efforts by business and education to reach a consensus
on closing the skills gap and awards low marks for effort

and learning need to become partners in creating a skilled workforce and also
the right environment in which the habit of learning can flourish.

would disagree with this statement, which after all has been kicked around for
the past decade, but now there does seem to be a ground swell of high-profile
activity to make it a reality.

the Learning and Skills Act received Royal Assent this summer, it placed
employment interests at the heart of the National Skills Agenda.

now have a critical role in saying what skills they need and how they can best
be achieved. It makes it vital that industry and education and training
providers work together to equip individuals with the skills central to
employability in a rapidly changing workplace and business success.

the soon-to-be more influential Further Education Development Agency is keen to
keep this subject in the spotlight as it furthers links with the new Learning
and Skills Council on this area.

this month it raised the subject with Ufi at its Learning 2010 conference.

Anne Wright, chief executive of Ufi, was among those delivering papers. She
spoke at the conference on the subject of meeting the skills needs of

need to go on learning because of changes in the economy and working practices.
We all need to recognise that. It’s a question of making sure we can meet the
skill needs of employers throughout people’s working lives,” she says.

skills are becoming increasingly important, according to Wright, but, as she
points out, the knowledge economy still places a high premium on literacy, numeracy
and other key skills.


believes some employers are beginning to see for the first time a convergence
between the interests of employees in developing core skills, which they can
carry with them to another job, and their own interests in training for
business needs.

in what you may think of as knowledge industries, including wholly IT-based
industries, communication skills are more important than they ever were.
Because people can process so much more data, communicating and working with
one another become more important,” says Wright.

we need to do as quickly as we can is identify those skills that are going to
be necessary for e-business – people needing to work in teams remotely from one
another, being able to manage people as well as processes through e-business.
All that takes on a new dimension in the new economy.”

believes it is absolutely vital that people from both industry and education
have a good understanding of employers’ needs and become partners in the
transformation of learning which she expects to see in 10 years’ time.

is the task of teachers in schools and colleges to lay the foundation on which
employers can build to meet their specific needs. But is the education system
giving employers the people and qualities they are looking for?

and foremost we look for people with a good broadly-based education that
provides the best foundation for lifelong learning in industry,” says David
Brown, chairman of Motorola.

to the extent that it’s possible to teach them in schools, we look for key
skills. And I mean the whole panoply of key skills, not just literacy and


acknowledges that communication and teamworking skills are difficult to teach
young people, but probably the hardest of all to teach is how to manage one’s
own learning.

my view that’s the skill that’s in shortest supply in industrial Britain today.
People are often motivated to carry on learning – particularly for
employability – and a great many employers make learning resources available.

bit that’s often missing in the middle is how do you connect the motivation
with the resources? How do you direct people’s learning?

issue is giving people the skill they need properly to select the learning
that’s right for them and follow it through,” says Brown.

an age where people need to continue to learn at an ever-faster rate throughout
their working lives, figuring out what learning is required can be a
partnership between employers and employees. But lifelong learning is also
something for which young people can be better prepared by the education

of mind

school it would be very helpful if more and more they created a state of mind
in people which was not just ready for learning to continue through employment
but actually eager for it,” Brown believes.

young people need to understand the many forms learning can take, since
learning in industry is far from sitting in front of a blackboard with a
teacher and being given facts.

is more about exploring as a team how to find new ways of doing a job. In a
sense, inventing things is a totally valid form of learning and I would very
much like schools to be saying that as often as they can.

new things, generating new insights and passing on those insights to the people
you work with is learning.”

agrees with Brown on the importance of managing one’s own learning. One of the
challenges that Ufi has specifically addressed through learndirect is the need
for learning to be individualised and made easy.

our learning is self-managed in a very easy way and entirely individual –
people can do it where they want and when they want so you don’t have to plan
too far ahead.

learndirect learner will have their own learning log, personal to them, which
they can use to plan and record learning.

they want they can present it to an employer and it can be used to help plan
learning in the context of a company programme,” Wright explains.

has also developed a diagnostic tool for learners. It asks them to look at what
their own interests and styles are, what kind of job they may be aiming at and
helps them to plan for that.

provides an all-round tailored solution for individuals, but it also provides a
business solution for companies large and small,” says Wright.

employers look to schools to provide key skills and a broad base for extended
learning, they look to the further education system to provide knowledge and
skills pertinent to their industry.

Hawkes is chairman of the NTO National Council and the newly appointed chairman
of the Edexcel Foundation, one of the country’s leading exam bodies for
academic and vocational qualifications. His 20 years as managing director and
chairman of Gardner Merchant has given him an insight into what industry wants
from the education system.

is concerned that the current system is driven by providers not users and he
believes employers should talk to educators more.

think business people have got to get out of their business environment and
participate in the world at large – that’s why I got involved in Edexcel.

easy to criticise, but if you employ people and have a view about education and
training, you’ve got to get involved in the process and try and influence and
change things,” he says.

a college

cites as an example the “adopt a college” scheme, which he ran and participated
in at Gardner Merchant. It involved every senior executive linking up with a
college and working in various committees there. “They learned a lot about the
college and its problems, but also were able to articulate the needs of our
particular industry. It worked exceptionally well,” he says.

views are echoed by key figures in government and education who spoke at a
conference organised earlier this year by school leadership specialist, Heads,
Teachers and Industry (HTI), and education strategist, Education and Youth
(E&Y). Their report, Today’s Leaders – Tomorrow’s World, consolidates the
thinking of the Feda conference on developing a national strategy for business
to work with education.

needs business, but business also needs education. In achieving long-term
ambitions, business needs a close relationship with the education sector more
than has ever previously been the case,” says Lord Puttnam, chairman of the
General Teaching Council and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and
the Arts.


when businesses and schools recognise their fundamental need for each other
will we truly begin to get the benefits of working together.”

of all sizes could play a much bigger part in influencing the content of the
National Curriculum and therefore the quality of their future workforce by
forging closer links with education, the HTI/E&Y report says.

93 per cent of smaller firms have no links with education. This is something
that Estelle Morris, School Standards Minister at the DfEE, wants to change.

need a cultural change in our society so that everyone accepts their
responsibility to be an educator. Whether you’re from a small business,
medium-sized business or a large business, whether you’re working on the
shopfloor, as the head of a company, or as an accountant, you’re an educator as
well,” she says.

is little doubt that industry and education need to come closer together.

chief executive, Chris Hughes, would like to see the relationship become
seamless within the next 10 years. “Educators and employers tend to stand off
each other and a blame culture still exists,” he says.

lot of good things go on but it doesn’t add up to continuous engagement. It
would be good if employers started regarding providers of skills training with
the same seriousness as they do other parts of the supply chain – as less of a
public service but more as a partner. I think that would be progress.”

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