From education to employment

Association of Colleges Conference highlights growing Importance of employability outcomes


Now that the dust has settled on the Association of Colleges Conference, all of those who attended have had a chance to reflect on the events we went to, the conversations we had and the people that we met.

As usual, it was action packed and the time passed so quickly.

It was perhaps very poignant that news broke during the Conference that youth unemployment had broken through the one million barrier. We are all aware that the figures were nudging upwards and reaching that critical milestone was not an enjoyable moment.

For us at NCFE it reinforced our commitment to developing solutions that address and rectify this very challenging issue. In that respect, our joint venture with Reed in Partnership is tailored to the needs of learners and employers in a local area.

It will positively enhance employment outcomes by brokering, managing and offering learners a wide variety of suitable job opportunities, which will include apprenticeships in the hidden labour market, enabling colleges to draw down significant additional funding.

We were pleased to share a seminar at the Conference and delighted to have as our guests Geoff Russell, CEO of the Skills Funding Agency and Lawrence Vincent, the Principal of Bournemouth and Poole College.

Geoff made it quite clear that colleges needed to look at the issue of employability and, in particular, outcomes – getting young people into the labour market. They would be increasingly judged – and funded accordingly – on their ability to do just that.

I was particularly interested in the views of Lawrence, whose college has adopted the REED NCFE model. The Wolf report sent very clear messages to him that employment outcomes was set to become a big challenge for colleges. Even though his college achieved Ofsted Grade 1 for employer engagement, he realised that the college was not measuring the true value of its work with students and he was candid enough to say that employers felt that it was not in touch with what they needed.

This disconnect made him realise that the college needed to develop a clear strategy for employment outcomes. He developed an employability curriculum based on developing the mindset of young people and preparing them for work. In order for this approach to work it also meant that tutors needed to understand the need for employability outcomes and much work has been done in that area.

The college is now at the stage where it has Employability Centres known as e-labs staffed by REED NCFE employment specialists, where young people can get advice on making themselves employable. It is also used as a job shop for local employers.

The college has also set up an Employability Advisory Board that includes local business people. They work closely with the college and students and also endorse the courses that are being run. Supporting all of this is a network of business mentors who work with both students and staff.

All of this will help the college deliver a culture of employability, a readiness for Wolfe in 2013 and will ultimately get students into employment.

We at REED NCFE are delighted to be a part of this new culture at the college and to be able to make our complementary skills available to it. As Lawrence said, if colleges are not looking externally for support in this specialist area, he would be very interested to know how they would be able to manage the process in-house. An interesting point!

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body



Read other FE News articles by David Grailey:


New solutions for getting young people into work

The adult skills budget offers opportunities and threats to the Further Education sector

New qualifications can boost career confidence

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