From education to employment

Celebrating 10 years of Edge

Over the last ten years the Edge Foundation has remained committed to championing technical, practical and vocational learning. Our research reports, our campaigns, our projects have all been carried out with the overarching aim of raising awareness of the many paths to success for young people. So this year, we took the opportunity of the Edge Annual Lecture to celebrate all that we have achieved over the last ten years. It was a very proud day, for all of us at Edge, and we are indebted to our partners who have helped and supported us along the way.

Our keynote speaker, Matthew Crawford; philosopher, author and mechanic, delivered a thought provoking speech asking us to consider how responsible we are for our own physical environment and the effect that problem solving and ‘tinkering’ has on our ideas about our own independence. He spoke about the intrinsic satisfaction and sense of security that comes from a career in the trades, and how, with our increasing reliance on technology, we are suffering from ‘learned helplessness’. He made the point that just because the work is dirty it doesn’t make it stupid and this chimed with me particularly as it is an example of the barriers we face time and time again when speaking to parents. Encouragingly, in research we carried out recently, we found that parental attitudes are changing for the better with over three quarters of parents wanting young people to get a ‘baccalaureate’ style certificate summing up achievements in both academic and practical subjects. However, when it comes to knowing about routes through education their knowledge of NVQs and apprenticeships is still secondary to that of traditional academic routes.

One of the highlights of the event for me was the final panel session, in which young people from Rye Studio School, the Edge Hotel School and The Elstree UTC spoke about their experiences. The passion they have for their learning is remarkable and is a huge reminder about why we champion these routes. The ethos of these institutions is built around engaging students in hands on learning that is employer led. This means that learning is not carried out in isolation, it is real and relevant and constantly being applied. James, one of the students from The Elstree UTC which specialises in entertainment technologies, summed it up perfectly when he talked about where his education would take him. His dream, he said, was to play the main stage at Glastonbury and then do the sound for the following act. A dream that echoes Matthew Crawford’s point that working back-stage, ‘the dirty work’, is just as satisfying and desirable as being centre stage.

As well as our 10 Year Anniversary we also celebrated the first cohort of Edge Hotel School graduates this month. By all accounts it was a wonderful day and an incredibly proud one for the Edge Foundation. We wish all the graduates the best of luck as they embark on their careers in the hospitality industry.

Looking ahead to the end of the year, we’ve still got The Skills Show to come at the NEC in Birmingham. As a Premier Sponsor of the show we’re once again looking forward to an exciting few days. We’ll be holding the final of the Edge Challenge enterprise competition on the Thursday afternoon, and following some impressive pitches at the panel stage in London it’ll be worth a watch. On Friday we’re hosting the second Edge Research Conference. Speakers will present a wide range of research into technical, practical and vocational learning both at home and around the world. Topics include apprenticeships, University Technical Colleges (UTCs), adult skills, international evidence and vocational pedagogy. You’ll be able to get a taste of life as a student at the Edge Hotel School on their stand and UTCs will be giving an insight into their technical curriculum on theirs. We’ve also got three “Have a Gos” for visitors to get stuck into: one from Myerscough College, one from the London College of Beauty Therapy and one from City of Bath College and our Edge Challenge partners, Peter Jones Enterprise Academies and Gazelle Colleges Group will also be exhibiting. If you’re coming along, pack your walking shoes!

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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