With party conference season in full flow you'd be hard pressed not to realise that there is a general election coming up. Here at the Edge Foundation we're throwing our hat into the ring too. We've published our manifesto and our rallying cry is simple: No NEETs.
In the ten years the Edge Foundation has been running, we have seen signs of real progress in our mission to raise the status of technical, practical and vocational learning. Great steps have been taken in the right direction. There is already cross-party support for new pathways from 14, including University Technical Colleges and Studio Schools, rigorous, high quality vocational qualifications and expanding high quality apprenticeships. But there is more to be done.
There is a growing skills mismatch. Skills shortages are increasing, but large numbers of young people aged 19-24 are not in education, employment or training. Our education system must adapt. The next government must equip young people with the technical, practical and vocational skills they so desperately need. Our manifesto sets out the policies which will see this achieved. They tackle youth unemployment, rebalance our education and training system and create profound partnerships between education and employment.
While our manifesto is aimed at the top and concerned with changing policy we know it is important to reach out to the young people themselves too. Our sponsorship of The Skills Show allows us to do this directly and as the countdown to the show begins we're getting very excited.
As the UK's largest skills and careers event, The Skills Show brings skills to life for over 70,000 visitors. This inspirational event is a showcase of what can be gained through learning by doing. From children to school leavers to graduates and beyond, it is an amazing opportunity for anyone looking to develop their skills and be inspired and best of all it's free to attend.
As well as our second Research Conference which will be taking place on Friday 14th we will have a strong presence at the show itself. The Edge Hotel School will be back again this year, giving visitors an insight into the life of their students in a very interactive way! University Technical Colleges will have a stand demonstrating how they differ from ordinary schools with plenty of students on hand to talk about their experiences. The final of our Edge Challenge enterprise competition will also be taking place with the final three individuals and final two teams pitching their ideas to a live audience. It'll be a nerve wracking experience for the young entrepreneurs but a great watch for the audience.
Some of the most exciting parts of The Skills Show are the Have a Go experiences. With the NEC full to the brim of young people eager to discover their hidden talents it's only right that they should be able to try their hand at as much as they possibly can and we're delighted to be involved in this aspect too. For VQ Day this year we ran a competition for colleges and learning providers to be in with a chance of getting the funding to showcase their provision at The Skills Show. The two winners were the London College of Beauty Therapy and Myerscough College. Their Have a Go experiences will be very different but from what we saw on VQ Day they'll be a lot of fun! Also getting involved will be representatives from the 2013/14 winner of the AoC Beacon Award that we sponsor - City of Bath College, who will be giving people a go at stonemasonry and our two partners from the Edge Challenge, the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and the Gazelle Colleges Group will also be showcasing their work.
Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning