From education to employment

Technical learning at the forefront of FE debate

Jan Hodges is chief executive of Edge

In the past month, technical learning has come back to the forefront of education. The annual party conferences have once again generated some interesting debates, particularly with Ed Miliband setting out his plans for a gold standard vocational qualification called a “Tech Bacc”, which we fully support.

Along with Ed Milliband’s speech, His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent KG pledged his support of vocational education by officially opening the Edge Hotel School, at the newly-restored Wivenhoe House hotel, in Colchester.

The Duke of Kent met representatives of the three partners (Edge, Kaplan and the University of Essex) involved in establishing the Edge Hotel School, unveiled a plaque and signed the Visitors’ Book, before having lunch in the hotel’s Signatures Restaurant.

The Duke of Kent described it as “unique”, saying: “I hope no-one underestimates the importance of vocational and professional training in this field.” Edge couldn’t agree more and we look forward to the future successes of both the students and the hotel.

The royal visits continued, when HRH The Duke of York KG also supported technical education by officially opening Hackney UTC and visiting the JCB Academy. During his visit, on 3rd October, His Royal Highness visited the new school’s state of the art facilities and took the time to meet and talk to students, who have joined Hackney UTC from across London. He then attended a special assembly incorporating a presentation from the head girl and head boy, and a film made by the students; before stating “Hackney UTC will be a special place. Together – business, universities, the community college, teachers, parents and students – we will aspire and we will achieve.”

The Duke was then shown around the JCB Academy at Rocester, Staffordshire, by Principal Jim Wade. During the visit he met dozens of students in the high-tech environment which prepares them for the world of work as part of its mission to develop the engineers and business leaders of the future.

We are so pleased that our projects are so well supported as, like Ed Miliband, we believe that there should be high quality vocational pathways for 14-18 year olds who enjoy learning by doing. We agree too, that all young people should have a good grounding in core academic subjects. However, many young people learn best when subjects are taught in a practical context – for example, using geometry to design and build a bridge; therefore it is essential that a range of educational options are available.

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

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