"

For the casual observer looking over to the United States from our side of that grand old pond, it can sometimes seem that education and training outside the so "“ called "Ivy League" is a neglected area.

In addition, it can also seem that the provision of "technical" training and education is generally a neglected area. It can further seem that the job migration so often referred to in the 2004 campaigns by Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry happens because of this rather than through more prosaic economic balancing on the part of companies. However, this masks the true achievements of those working to provide skills and training required for the economy and to fill vacancies in the USA; true achievements that are being celebrated now.

NASDCTEc and Non Traditional Careers Awards

The dissemination of best practices has been hailed as one of the greatest single tools for improving both participation in training and the quality of the provision on offer. Certainly the variety of the agencies involved in the "Programmes and Practices That Work" Awards in the USA would seem to support this, as they gathered to raise the profile of the winning project from Illinois.

The agencies who cooperated in supporting this award were the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), and the National Women's Law Centre (NWLC). This year's winner was the Illinois Centre for Specialized Professional Support. An Honourable Mention was also awarded to Minnesota Public Schools.

The "Programs and Practices That Work" Award winners are drawn from agencies at both the local and the state level, from amongst the various education agencies throughout the USA. They are expected to have put into practice effective programmes and practices to develop and expand the access of those students aiming to embark upon careers that fall outside the stereotypical parameters of their gender.

The Winners"¦

The winner of the award, the Illinois Centre for Specialized Professional Support, received their recognition on the back of their project called "The NTO Look". This is a multi "“ part programme that builds and fosters both secondary and post "“ secondary partnerships responsive to the specific needs of a local area regarding recruitment. The project also seeks to encourage the retention of students in training and education hoping to embark on non - traditional careers.

This is accomplished through providing resources and consultation assistance, as well through more basic financial support packages. Amongst the facets of the project are issues such as partnering across educational/business boundaries, encouraging self-study, conducting research into effective practices, both long and short term targets and their achievement, planning and designing activities to make the most productive use of resources and time, and eventual evaluation of the programme. In the implementation phase, professional development and support, technical support and financial assistance are on offer.

The Minnesota Public Schools programme, "High Tech Girls" Society", was honoured for its efforts towards improving female participation on what are traditionally male "“ dominated courses. This course provides hands "“ on experience and offers a support and mentoring network, working in conjunction with colleges, universities and employer partners. Other features of the course are the training provided in academic and technical fields covering sectors such as aviation, engineering and information technology.

These initiatives make a startling parallel with the UK Further Education system's remit to improve inclusion and participation, and to break down traditional barriers to learning. Perhaps FE in the UK could learn something from the projects over the Atlantic, with projects seeing public education, private education and business uniting to improve the training on offer and the staff available for recruitment.

Jethro Marsh

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