Foundations for success?

The Foundation Degrees scheme launched this summer sounds like the ideal
bridge between academia and work. But will employers benefit? Simon Kent

At the end of September 4,000 places became available for new Foundation
Courses, a work-based, degree-level qualification. With a choice of 69 courses,
70 per cent of which are to be delivered part time, it is the latest initiative
in the Government’s campaign to give 50 per cent of all young people the chance
to benefit from higher education by the age of 30. While still in their
infancy, there appears to be enthusiasm for this new approach from employers
involved in their creation. But what will Foundation Degrees really bring to
the job market and will the early enthusiasm be justified in the long run?

Sue Ogden
Training development officer, KLM UK Engineering

The Foundation Degree will help maintenance organisations and airlines find
the well-qualified, skilled people to fill skills shortages or develop their
existing staff for more challenging and responsible roles.

The status of aircraft engineers will be raised significantly and will give
students a wider range of options to help them fulfil their career potential.

Margaret Hodge
Lifelong Learning and Higher Education Minister

Tackling skills shortages in key industry sectors is essential to support
the future growth of UK businesses. Many top companies are crying out for
people with the right skills and foundation degrees are a great way to deliver
the opportunities for individuals and appropriate skills for employers.

Graduates with a Foundation Degree will have what employers want – a
thorough academic grounding coupled with practical job skills. And because
these courses are vocational, they are attractive to people who are uncertain
about higher education and want certainty that it will provide a passport to a

Mike Cannell
Adviser for training and development, CIPD

For the past 15 years or so, this country has suffered in comparison with
countries like Germany or France, from a shortage of intermediate skills. We
have a high proportion of young people with degrees and a high proportion with
no qualifications at all. There has been a lack of good technicians and so it’s
clearly a good idea to fill that gap.

Having said that, past experience makes me sceptical about these new
qualifications. I go along with the principal that intermediate skills need
boosting to get our competitiveness up, but the real test will come in two or
three years’ time when we can see what is being provided in this area.

David Allan
Group human resources director, Huntsman’s Tioxide and Petrochemicals

This initiative is a good example of excellent collaboration of chemical
industry representatives, the academic world and the Government’s further
education department officials.

The scheme has two major key benefits – it will provide another positive
route into the chemical industry for young people and, as jobs in our industry
continue to become more and more technically demanding, this course will be a
very useful vehicle for up-skilling our existing people and helping them to
gain a much deeper academic and theoretical background to add to their
practical experience.

Elizabeth Clark
HR manager and executive board member, EEF, Lancashire

These qualifications fill an important gap in the education system. At the
moment, if an individual does not attain certain qualifications by a certain
time, they can leave without fulfilling their potential. These degrees offer a
good way for capable workers to achieve a higher academic level. Doing a degree
requires a different mindset and it can be difficult for those who are used to
working on a practical application to make the transition.

The degrees will be important to the nation as a whole to gain a competitive
edge through the innovation of our people against the lure of cheaper labour
costs of developing nations. We need to improve our academic skills and
encourage R&D to maintain and grow our position in global markets.

Gavin Dykes
Head of business, management and IT, Nescot

In our Sports Therapy Foundation Degree, successful students will gain
recognition from the Association of Sports Therapists, and therefore to move
quickly to professional practice.

In the E-commerce Technologies Foundation Degree, students will be assisted
in their learning through using Cisco and Microsoft materials. They will be in
a position to add value to their degree by taking professional computing

Work experience is built into the courses, and for those keen to develop
their studies further, progression routes to full honours degrees have been

The result of the partnership between industry and education is new,
exciting and relevant qualifications that provide benefits all round.

Linda booth
HR director, Your Communications

Your Communications has become involved in delivering the telecoms
specialism of a technology foundation degree at Blackburn College. We aren’t
yet expecting all our people to do a foundation degree, but we don’t run any
apprenticeship schemes and a Foundation Degree could be a good way of bridging
that gap.

The course at Blackburn College is very flexible. Students can move on to it
from an HNC, and it’s a modular programme so they can do it full or part time.

We normally employ graduates, but Foundation Degrees will enable students to
compete for one of our graduate traineeships.

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