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Using technology to bridge the gap between education and employment

A recent report predicted that the UK’s workforce will face a 3.1m person shortfall – 9% of the required workforce – by 2050 if skills shortages are not addressed (Ranstad, January 2013). At the same time the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics indicate that youth unemployment remains alarmingly high, with 20.5% of those aged 16 – 24 out of work.

Combined, these two sets of data tell a worrying story. There are jobs to be filled and young people who need work, yet today’s 16 – 24 year olds simply do not have the skills employers are crying out for, such as interpersonal and computer skills as well as basic literacy and numeracy. So where does the problem lie? I believe the answer is simple: in an education system which fails to meet the needs of today’s young people and employers. What we need now is a rethink about the way the curriculum is developed and delivered.

City & Guilds has over 130 years’ heritage in developing the skills of young people. We are proud of our history but recognise that the challenges of the modern world must be met with equally modern solutions.

For this reason City & Guilds recently made the decision to acquire Kineo, a leading global learning and technology company. Kineo is renowned for providing quality workplace learning programmes using tried and tested technology, and we want to use their insight and expertise to enhance how we deliver our qualifications in the FE sector.

Time and time again employers tell us that teaching needs to work better to bridge the gap between education and employment. We believe e-learning can break down the barriers of providing high-quality education, with better links to the workplace.

Together with Kineo we are piloting a new kind of online learning environment for the FE sector – ‘City & Guilds Way’ – which aims to enhance the learning experience through engaging online content and functionality. It directly connects content with employment and focuses on three key ideals:

  • Contribution is needed from people who create and own great teaching and learning resources. This way experts, teachers and other learners can share experiences about how they have found their dream jobs.

  • Collaboration by pooling our resources – that’s what open source technology, which allows users to engage with and modify original content and design, is all about

  • Curation, meaning we sift through resources to find the educational gems and then recommend and suggest them to others and tag them using some sensible taxonomy so that they become searchable and usable.

Combined, these three things will enable us to develop a new kind of teaching which meets today’s learner and business needs and produces tangible results. In addition, linking how people learn in schools with how they learn in employment training programmes could encourage continual professional development. It is proven that technology has a huge impact on learner motivation, access, progress and achievement, as well as operational efficiency and effectiveness.  Previous research has suggested that the use of smartphones, simulations and augmented reality can significantly improve learning outcomes. In addition, e-learning is already benefitting some of the UK’s largest employers. For example, McDonald’s saved over £5 million through financial skills e-learning modules and Marks & Spencer drove customer satisfaction in their cafes up by 20%, increased sales by 6%, and saved £5.4 million in training delivery costs.

Only employers know the skills they need for future business growth, but Kineo has been hugely successful in improving performance through learning technology because they understand the real challenge of making training happen in the workplace. Using this insight, we believe e-learning has the power to transform education in the FE sector.

Chris Jones is chief executive and director general of City & Guilds, the awarding body

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