FE Voices

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Apprenticeships have been firmly on the agenda in FE this year, with ever more ambitious targets set by the Government for more participation and training. After Tomlinson's proposed overarching diploma was rejected, they assumed an even greater importance, especially after the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer spelt out the need for FE to tackle the vocational skills gaps facing Britain's economy in the years ahead.

Here, Rob Wye, the Director of Communications and Strategy for the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), talks exclusively to FE News about his proudest moments from FE in 2005, and sees the funny side Down Under.

Question: "What has been your proudest moment of the year?"

Rob Wye: "It would be difficult to single out just one "“I am delighted to say there have been quite a number. Reaching our Public Service Agreement target for Apprenticeships is certainly one; that is, ensuring that 28 per cent (approximately 175,000) of all young people aged 16-21 started an Apprenticeship for the first time by 2004/05. Well, we did it.

"By July this year the figure was 176,900. The completion rate for Apprenticeships also went up; provisional figures showed an increase from 31 per cent in 2003/04 to 39 per cent in 2004/05. That's excellent news "“there are now 255,000 apprentices in the country compared with only 75,800 in 1997. We also held our successful Skills Summit for employers in the summer, an event that emphasised just how the whole issue of skills has, quite rightly, climbed towards the top of the national agenda.

"Learner numbers are up too, with record numbers of 16"“18 learners and basic skills provision ahead of target; success rates have improved and learner satisfaction rates are at about 90 per cent as well. We"re also proud that the creation of Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) in colleges and work-based training organisations is ahead of target and set to reach if not exceed the 400 goal by next March.

"The sector's work in equality and diversity, too, rightly deserves to be highlighted. This is a hugely important area to ensure that everyone, regardless of their background, has an opportunity to improve their life chances. We estimate that over £1 billion of our annual budget went on programmes that directly contributed to equality of opportunity in the areas of race, gender and disability. Related to that, 2005 was the year that Peter Little's steering group conducted a vital review of provision for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and reported later in the year, coming up with proposals for a national strategy of radical reform in this area of our remit."

Question: "What was the funniest memory from FE "“ work or otherwise "“ from this year?"

Rob Wye: "I have just returned from addressing a conference on further education in Perth, Australia. When I got to my feet to talk about FE in England, it occurred to me that, given the average Aussie male's partiality for a particular brand of beer, it might be best to explain straight away that any references to the "Foster"review had absolutely nothing to do with their brewing industry!

"The conference also made me realise the scale of the LSC's operations "“we fund six million learners, more than three times the entire population of western Australia, where I was speaking."

FE News would like to thank Mr. Wye for his time and his recollections, and wish him a Happy New Year!

Jethro Marsh

Read Rob Wye's further recollections right here at FE News!

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