From education to employment

Skilling up at The Skills Show

Skills are a hot topic at the moment. With the general election just around the corner we hope that this focus on technical, practical and vocational education will last the distance and continue under the incoming government.

In his speech to the CBI earlier this month, Sir Michael Wilshaw spoke of the need to ‘seize this moment’. He’s right.

We have a political consensus on the need for more high-quality vocational routes. The economy is on the up and employment prospects are improving. We are perfectly poised to, in Sir Michael’s words, ‘tackle our lamentable record on vocational education’.

Although Sir Michael was addressing employers and asking them to acknowledge the part they have to play in improving vocational education, our own research, released in partnership with City & Guilds, shows that parents also have a key role to play when it comes to pointing their children in the right direction.

The research found that parents are making the connection between high-quality vocational training and employability. However, the belief that a degree is the key to success still prevails. When degrees have been presented as the only route to success for so long, the ‘not for my child’ attitude continues to rear its head. But, as we know, there are many paths to success.

This is why events like The Skills Show are so important.

Although it seemed to slip past in a bit of a blur there’s no doubt that over the three days thousands of young people, and their parents, were inspired. It’s hard not to be at such a massive event. The Skills Show does a fantastic job of opening people’s eyes to the success that can be achieved by taking a more vocational route.

In our second year as a Premier sponsor of the Show, the Edge Foundation made sure to make the most of the opportunity. Our partners and projects that were showcased over the three days were never without a steady stream of eager young people.

The Edge Hotel School, Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, Gazelle Colleges, Myerscough College, University Technical Colleges and London College of Beauty Therapy, were offering tasters and ‘Have a Go’ activities: from napkin folding to haptic robots, digger driving to flight simulation.

We also held the final of the Edge Challenge at the Show. All our finalists pitched brilliantly to a packed out Spotlight Stage. Even the presence of Theo Paphitis and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg MP, couldn’t shake them – a true sign of the professional businessmen and women they already are!

After a tough decision from the judges on the day, David Humpston, from Amersham and Wycombe College, and Card Stack, from Barking & Dagenham College, were named the overall winners. David scooped a £3000 prize fund and six months of mentoring, and Card Stack took home the team prize of £5000.

Not content with ‘Have a Go’ activities, showcasing and VIP visitors, we also held the second Edge Research Conference at the Show. Topics covered work experience, apprenticeships, University Technical Colleges and much more and our delegates were treated to some very high quality research papers and presentations.

Thanks go to all our speakers, particularly to Simon Field of the OECD who opened the conference and introduced OECD’s latest report, a comparison of post-secondary vocational education and training systems in 17 countries around the world.

Edge has been campaigning for recognition of the importance and benefits of technical, practical and vocational training for ten years. We will continue to do so in the next ten, and hopefully, with the support of government, employers, parents and those within education, the UK will have a much better match between the outputs of our education system and the skill needs of our economy and country.

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

Related Articles