From education to employment

A fond farewell

On my first day at school, as a slightly shy but eager five year old, I would never have guessed just how much of my life would be devoted to education. My career may have spanned 35 years but in reality education has been my passion and my focus since that first day at school.

As a student, undergraduate, teacher, lecturer, parent, principal and CEO I have been both consumer and facilitator. I have enjoyed it enormously and been heartened. There is no doubt that education transformed my life for the better. Heartened because it is such a pleasure and privilege to see learners develop and succeed and to work alongside talented and committed colleagues. I have particularly loved the world of FE and skills and the opportunities it gives people despite the challenges and frustrations of the many policy changes and, particularly, the undervaluing of the work the sector does and the cuts to funding.

We learn so much about ourselves through our education: we learn who we are and who we want to be, and where in the world we want to be it.

We often speak about the need for a robust education system but our time spent in school is so very fragile: one ill thought remark, one uninformed choice, one uninspiring careers session, one misplaced stereotype and a young person might find themselves heading down a path to unemployment.

Which is why, in my position as CEO of the Edge Foundation, I have felt privileged to be part of a movement that seeks to ensure that every young person can achieve their potential, whatever their talents and ambitions.

I have always been a firm believer in learning by doing and in the benefits of combining knowledge with action and working in FE and being at Edge has allowed me to take that belief and create something meaningful out of it.

It has been a pleasure and an honour to lead such a unique organisation over the past four years and to see the organisation raise its profile and develop strong partnerships with other like- minded organisations. I have no doubt that Edge will continue to be at the forefront of thinking and best practice in technical, practical and vocational learning.

What I will miss most of all are the stories we hear from people who have carved out their own paths to success, people who have fought against stigma and expectation, people who have taken a vocational route and reaped the rewards that come with following a path of your own choosing.

Although our primary audiences are opinion formers and policy makers, our work has always had the learner at the heart of it. Whether we are supporting innovation in curriculum delivery, or creating new institutions, celebrating vocational success or commissioning research – everything Edge does is to benefit future generations, so that young people have the skills they need to be successful in the world beyond education – I am told such a world exists and I look forward to exploring it!

Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning

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