From education to employment

World Congress comes to UK to help drive global recovery through education

This year’s World Congress, which is being held in the UK for the first time, is an excellent opportunity to debate one of the biggest challenges faced by the College sector: how global change affects the way we develop the workforce of the future.

Increasingly, our lives and institutions are inextricably linked to the global environment, with the current financial crisis illustrating to what extent global events can have an impact on local decision-making. A quarter of all UK jobs are now connected to overseas business. There is greater mobility of labour than ever before and more multi-national ownership of organisations. To equip students with the skills they need to play successful and active roles in this rapidly changing world, we need to understand this global picture and embed it in the way we deliver education at all levels, including FE.

The theme of this year’s Congress, ‘Driving Global Recovery Through Education’, will debate how the sector can best develop this flexible, mobile workforce of the future. As such, it reflects the vital role Colleges have to make in the economic recovery.

The event, which runs from 13-15 November in Birmingham, is viewed as the world’s leading event for providers of vocational education and skills training (VET).Hosted jointly by the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP) and Association of Colleges (AoC), this year’s Congress gives UK Colleges the chance to play a key role in shaping the international VET agenda. College staff have a unique opportunity to meet VET colleagues from around the world in order to share best practice and begin to build new links, which can be developed into longer term partnerships. They will also discuss how they have successfully met and dealt with global challenges.
The key focus of the Congress will be on how Colleges can engage with employers and industry to ensure that the sector is developing courses and producing students that best fit industry requirements – speakers include a representative from Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK).

Discussions include a focus on how various countries, including emerging economies such as India and Brazil, are dealing with the challenges of globalisation. The Congress will look at how Colleges can best engage with Governments on a national and international level; a highlight of the event will be keynote addresses from the Chinese Ministry of Education and the EU Commission.

UK Colleges will have the opportunity to showcase their commercial activities to a large global audience. They will also be able to establish links with their international colleagues without the difficulties of dealing with virtual communication or making expensive and time-consuming reconnaissance trips abroad.
Practical sessions include how to work with the Chinese VET sector, hosted by City College Coventry in partnership with Stratford-upon-Avon College, as well as networking lunches and evening receptions with exhibitions.

This Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ International Strategy for FE in England, ‘Globalisation – Meeting the Challenge’, prioritises engagement with international partners through developing sustainable, strategic international partnerships. The AoC, through its work with international stakeholders and partners, is committed to supporting UK Colleges’ ability and opportunities to forge meaningful and sustainable international links. An important aspect of this work is the AoC’s membership of the WFCP.

The World Congress first took place in 1999 in Quebec City. It was here that Colleges and College networks from around the world first came together to form the WFCP, an organisation that provides leadership in the delivery of workforce education and lifelong learning to benefit society and the global economy.

At subsequent Congresses in Melbourne (2003), Dubai (2005), and New York City (2008), the WFCP proved itself as a strong and united voice through which members could promote the contributions of Colleges to their communities; share information, best practice and experiences; enhance staff and student mobility and influence the development of policy.
Colleges will be able to begin working through the WFCP, which will give them long-term access to a network of international Colleges. They will also be able to take part in discussions about shaping the future of the WFCP.

By John Mountford, International Director, Association of Colleges (AoC) 

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