Articles from Alice Barnard

School’s out for summer

While the lack of sunshine might suggest otherwise, summer is most definitely here. As schools and colleges close and everyone heads off on their hols, this month I am focused on the world of work.

Edge’s Career Footsteps campaign and Bacc for the Future

I can hardly believe we’re half way through 2016 and almost at the end of Edge’s Career Footsteps campaign which we launched back in February.

Bloom to grow! The importance of horticultural apprenticeships to the economy

For gardening enthusiasts across the UK this week (and aren’t we a nation of gardeners?), the only news is the Chelsea Flower Show. Originally founded in 1804 with the purpose of “encouraging and improving the science, art and practice of horticulture in all its branches”, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has held its annual Great Spring Show at the Royal Hospital Chelsea  since 1913.

Students at Hotel School definitely have the Edge

We’re always delighted to see Edge, our partners and our projects in the news, so a rather grey and gloomy Monday was brightened this week by the appearance of Sam Brough in the now not-so-new New Day newspaper.

Pie in the sky

Like many people, I'm always alert to mentions of my hometown in the news and living close to the Rural Capital of Food, references tend to be of a culinary nature. So I was interested to read that entrepreneur and founder of Pimlico Plumbers, Charlie Mullins, is an advocate of raising the reputation of 'British Apprenticeships' by giving the term something akin to protected food name status, just like the ubiquitous Melton Mowbray pork pie.

Expanding careers advice for young people

What do an electrician, a film maker and the inventor of the first ever touch-trigger probe have in common? Apart from all having forged highly successful careers via a vocational qualification or training, they're all supporting the Edge Foundation's new campaign to expand careers advice for young people.My first day as Chief Executive of Edge in February, coincided with the launch of the Careers Footsteps initiative neatly paralleling my own career 'next step'. Of course they say the hardest part of any journey is the first step and for any young person thinking about their post-school options it is a daunting one.Young people and their families often tell us they aren't aware of the options available apart from A-levels and university. A survey of graduates commissioned by Edge last year found that over a quarter (27%) said they would consider an apprenticeship if they were making the same decision again.A third felt their degree had been a waste of money. Perhaps not surprising when almost half (49%) of them have jobs which don't require a degree. Given the outlay for university tuition fees and the lack of certainty around securing a graduate level job, it makes for a costly misstep.That is why Edge are working with the Employers and Education Taskforce to introduce professionals who have taken practical, technical or professional learning routes into their careers, to schools who want to offer their students as broad and comprehensive careers advice as possible.Volunteers spend an hour talking to students about their job, career and the journey they've taken to get there. Nothing beats hearing it from the horse's mouth of course, especially for young people.Growing up, I remember being inspired by the idea that politicians could make a difference and I was determined to be an MP myself when I was older. Actually that was my only career ambition for many years until I realised there are many ways to effect change both inside and outside Government. Now I work almost across the road from the Houses of Parliament, which is close enough to politics for now.The importance of finding the right route for you is the main message of Career Footsteps. Lucy Ackland is a great example. Rather than do A-levels, she opted for an apprenticeship with world leading engineering company Renishaw when she was 16. Now aged 28, Lucy has a raft of qualifications under her belt, including a first class honours degree in engineering and the 2014 Women's Engineering Society Prize, a top job as Head of Projects at Renishaw and last year bought her own three-bedroomed house in Bristol.Lucy says:'Graduates who join Renishaw often wish they had had more information about the options open to them and realised that you don't have to do A-levels and go to university. I've been working full time since I was 16 so I don't have university debts. Apprenticeships still have a stigma that people think they are for people who aren't academic and I hope this campaign will help to change that.'Lucy is one of 100 professionals Edge is featuring each day on social media channels. It's already building into an impressive portfolio of people at all stages of their careers and each day we tweet why they love their job.The diversity of professions and sectors represented in this campaign is tremendous. Film makers, apprentice journalists, young entrepreneurs, Michelin-starred chefs, hairdressers, florists, charity Chief Executives; from the youngest apprentice plasterer to the Chair of one of the UK's leading valve manufacturers to the founder of the MOBO Awards. The thing they all have in common is that they're found their own pathway to success.These are challenging times for further education. The area reviews will undoubtedly have implications on post-16 education and training provision and inevitably impact across the sector. Never has there been a more apposite time to make the case for the merits of technical, practical and vocational learning. Edge's Career Footsteps campaign celebrates the diversity and the value of further education and I hope you'll support our initiative.To sign up go to or support Career Footsteps on twitter with the hashtag #FollowmyfootstepsAlice Barnard is chief executive of the Edge Foundation

Non-formal learning: promoting strong character attributes in schools and colleges

During the summer, around the time that George Osborne's apprenticeship levy was first announced, cross-party think-tank Demos published an interesting report on the state of non-formal learning in UK schools.According to the research, non-formal learning encompasses that which is "less organised than formal learning, but still consists of planned activities and educational objectives. It is also seen as being more concerned with action, and learning by doing and from experience... with a particular focus on developing social and emotional skills." To a large extent, then, it can be described as a practical approach to education that promotes many of the so-called soft skills we know to be integral to future success.Although many schools no doubt have good provision in this regard, the report – which highlights activities such as group work, student presentations, competitive pursuits and work in the community as examples of non-formal learning – identifies a need for improvement. Crucially, it found that students generally want greater opportunities to take part in such learning, while "an overwhelming majority of teachers see non-formal learning as vital, and want... it more strongly embedded into the education system".Over 70 per cent of teachers agreed that non-formal education should be recognised in the curriculum, and 68 per cent would like to help deliver more of these sorts of activities in their schools. Interestingly, students from state secondaries were less likely to be satisfied with their access to non-formal learning than those from fee-paying schools. This is particularly relevant this week considering former public school headmaster Dr Anthony Seldon's assertion that it is not exam results but a "grounding in soft skills" that gives those who attend independent schools an advantage in society.Since her appointment as secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan has made it very clear that she values character as well as traditional academic achievement; however, the Demos report indicates that teachers simply do not have the time to incorporate non-formal learning into their timetables. The most common barriers to delivery outlined by those surveyed were lack of time and pressures from the inspectorate.Compounding this point, recent research by the National Union of Teachers goes so far as to suggest that as many as 53 per cent of those in the profession could leave in the next three years, with 61 per cent blaming workload and 57 per cent wanting a better work-life balance. So it's fair to say that if character is to be taught efficiently going forward, something needs to change: non-formal learning needs to be rooted in the curriculum and reflected somehow in Ofsted inspection criteria and league tables.A big part of the Peter Jones Foundation's remit is our national enterprise competition Tycoon in Schools. Schoolchildren from across the UK set up their own businesses with the help of a loan of up to £1,000 provided by the charity. The competition promotes key skills such as confidence, communication and financial management, and the results and feedback we get from participants are consistently excellent; many of the groups that enter continue to run successful businesses way beyond the close of play. But in order to keep numbers high – this year is our most successful to date – we've had to adapt to ensure that taking part is as straightforward and hassle-free as possible for those involved. Time has proved a challenging hurdle for us and we have no doubt that many great initiatives promoting important character attributes do not get the levels of engagement they should.Our experience of working with FE colleges differs in this regard. There is flexibility in FE that allows for real value to be placed on character, with modes of assessment reflecting this. The Peter Jones Enterprise Academy – which is run by the foundation – delivers specialist courses in enterprise and entrepreneurship, and every year our students take part in a series of practice-based business challenges. Their performance in these types of activities can count towards their final grades.We work with organisations like the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), Grant Thornton, Jessops, Canon and Pets Corner to deliver competitions that nurture real-life, employment-focused skills – skills which will help boost the productivity of the workforce in the long run. If all students were to have sustained access to this sort of learning throughout their formative education, it stands to reason that they will be better prepared for their post-16 years and beyond.We believe that there is an opportunity to learn from the diversity of enriching experiences available in FE colleges and much of the sector's approach to building character. It's frustrating, therefore, that academies and school sixth forms are exempt from the post-16 area reviews currently underway. These reviews are necessary, but to obtain a full and fair understanding of post-16 provision – and how, as a country, we are developing strong character attributes in young people – a complete review reflecting the complex nature of our education system is required.Alice Barnard is chief executive of the Peter Jones Foundation -

Why Trump's infrastructure projects will fail to boost US employment

During his Presidential campaign, Republican candidate Donald Trump made much of reviving the nation’s construction industry by undertaking big infrastructure projects which would create jobs. It’s true that the sector in the US employs 19 per cent fewer people than it did at the height of the housing boom in 2007, but given that a decade is a long time in technology, I wondered where the skilled workers might come from.

Results alone will not fill the skills gap

It's that time of year again; a time when thousands of young people up and down the country will be anticipating the release of either their A-Level or GCSE exam results.

Apprenticeships can ignite innovation

Britain’s apprentices are one of the country’s most valuable resources. Recent forecasts from the Centre for Economics and Business Research have predicted that apprenticeships could add up to £3.4 billion a year to the national economy.


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