On Friday I attended the Learning 3 symposium at the British Museum in London along with Jane Hart, Laura Overton and a crowd of others, mostly from the UK Further and Higher Education sectors.
Here’s a picture of me at the event producing a 30-second series of sound bites on what the future of Learning and Development needs (the picture links to a video on the Learning 3 Ning site).
What our hosts LLUK (and particularly Briony Taylor) wanted to stimulate was a dialog around this question:
What are the skills and competencies needed by the lifelong learning sector now?
During the day I put out a quick Twitter poll on this, as it seemed odd to be discussing Learning 3 in a room without pulling in the wider learning community. Jane Hart did the same.
The learning Twittersphere was engaged: we generated quite a few replies….
Here’s a picture of the Learning and Skills Council doing what it should do – actively getting in the face of the public with information about skills and training. The event was a Careers Advice roadshow at London Bridge station earlier this week.
Donald Clark divides government initiatives into Turtles and Fruit flies. Turtles don’t move fast, but last (Open University), Fruit Flies make a lot of noise, move around a lot and then die and are quickly forgotten. (UKeU, Individual Learning Accounts).
Which of these is the Learning and Skills Council?
As part of last week’s cabinet re-shuffle, the department responsible for the UK’s skills was once again re-shuffled. As Number 10 put it:
The Government has today created a new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills whose key role will be to build Britain’s capabilities to compete in the global economy. The Department will be created by merging BERR and DIUS.
Hhm … that will be the same government that created DIUS (the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills) two years ago at a reported cost of £7m.
Nobody’s fooled by the ‘merger’ talk. BERR is the dominant party here. The result: universities in particular are up in arms about the supposed subsidiary role that universities are now supposed to play to business. At least, that’s the view of the Guardian’s excellent Polly Curtis, according to her minute-by-minute posting of the day’s events last Friday.
Actually this is both a good move and a bad move, but not for the reasons that universities are apparently complaining about.
Government funding for skills has been in the news a bit recently, what with the 2010 demise of the LSC (Learning and Skills Council) looming large and many sector skills councils facing the long, difficult process of relicensing to ensure they have funding for another few years.
When things get rough like this, the normal thing is to muddy the waters by producing another initiative, in this case many are speculating that it will be The return of the Individual Learning Account in some guise. The rationale: individuals, not governments, are best at deciding what to learn.
That would take another few years to prove a disaster, by which time ministers will have moved on and nobody be available to take the blame.
Apprenticeships are the quiet success story of UK skills.
Numbers have doubled over the past decade, according to ministers, with 184,000 starts last year, and a 63% completion rate (which is apparently good).
And they are popular for the right reason. They give a combination of learning and workplace experience lacking from most vocational training. In other words they provide what both employees and employers want: skills and not qualifications. (For an excellent critical view, though, see Mick Fealty’s piece in the Daily Telegraph.)
There’s just one problem. Success has lead to every chance of apprenticeships becoming a political football, oh, and a rather sick piece of branding.