On Monday 20th August Andy Haldane talked of a ‘hollowing out’ of the job market as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

What we must remember is that the Industrial Revolution is the foundation of our current education system, marking the catalyst for a huge change in the approach to teaching and the need for education. We should be under no illusion that the Fourth Industrial Revolution needs any less change and upheaval.

We know that jobs will change and the skills needed will change – but this is no different to the last 25 years, or the 25 years before that. What is different is the pace of change, and the need for the existing workforce to quickly adapt to increasing innovation in technology, whether that be AI, automation, or the development of specific tools aimed at specific processes. This is of great significance to the education system and the way we expect people to gain, keep and develop the skills needed for work.

We know that both the future and existing workforce need to be trained in job specific skills, and we also know that it is vital that the future and existing workforce are trained in how to access these skills. This means utilising digital interfaces to operate machinery, work tills, manage care diaries, deal with customer complaints and questions, run engine diagnostics and administer drugs – every single job will require familiarity with the use of digital tools. This will include the use of digital tech to help people learn, which means that the skills people need can be delivered as when they need them.

It will be increasingly important to ensure that we have the right tools to deliver the right skills, and the flexibility to adapt and develop these as and when needed. We know the importance of contextual learning, and the benefits the use of digital in education and training can bring, as well the improvements that embedded technology can bring in terms of speed to competency and improved learner outcomes. We have the opportunity to build on what we know and develop world leading workplace learning – and a world leading vocational education system.

It is clear that more job focussed education is being demanded of our education system – from schools through to adult learning, yet the debate is still focussed on academic qualifications. We should be looking at apprenticeships and vocational routes as success markers, celebrating the brightest and the best talking up the challenges facing the changing workplace.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution should be underpinned by the Fourth Educational Revolution:

  • a digitally enabled FE sector, designed to work with employers to use the best digital tools to provide experiential training, contextual learning and flexible credentials, using AI to personalise the experience and all underpinned by sound pedagogy and a focus on constant self-improvement and digital learning
  • better ways of evidencing skills, both within formal qualifications and as a credible non-qualification skills pathway. This will include widespread micro-accreditation and badging, building tangible evidence into assessment of skills, where skills learnt are skills utilised
  • fully digitally competent teachers and trainers, within formal education, within internal corporate delivery and across all independent training providers, where every teacher and
  • trainer not only understands how and when to use the best digital tools, but is supported by a system that rewards and supports fast and flexible updating of their skills
  • a focus on the brightest and best undertaking vocational routes – apprenticeships as a measure of success for league tables and measurement, and the recognition that non-HE pathways are hugely important for the UK economy and the future of the UK workforce.

Vocational education should be the cornerstone of education policy.

Rebecca Garrod-Waters, CEO, Ufi Trust

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