From education to employment

Bespoke Qualifications for the Twenty First Century Generation in Lancashire

In an attempt to modernise existing qualifications work based learning providers and further education colleges across the Lancashire region have joined forces with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to prepare for the delivery of the new ITQ qualification to employers and employees alike.

Developed in conjunction with the Sector Skills Council (SSC) e-Skills UK, the ITQ (an NVQ in IT user skills) represents the possible future of further education, adopting a much more flexible approach to learning IT skills than current qualifications. Based on a points system, learning providers” work in tandem with the employers tailoring the ITQ to match their individual needs.

The Qualification

Comprising a number of units, one of which is designed around a specific application within the business, the ITQ offers employers” greater choice and flexibility when it comes to the skills to be taught. The remaining units are then chosen on a “pick and mix” basis dependant upon the level of qualification required and the particular interests of both the employer and employee, whilst flexibility is ensured through the training and assessment of learners on a range of tasks designed by the learning provider to meet the unit criteria.

The ITQ also represents a radical change in teaching methods, as it will be the first completely paperless qualification offered by further education colleges. In an attempt to reduce the burdensome bureaucracy the learning provider, learner and employer will be linked by an electronic portfolio communication system, thereby reducing the time taken to gather and review evidence.

Unprecedented Enthusiasm

Whilst numeracy and literacy are key, the demand for individuals proficient in IT is constantly rising, with an increasingly large proportion of jobs in the UK requiring at least a basic understanding of computer software. And whilst learning providers have been successful in reducing illiteracy and innumeracy rates amongst the workforce, less emphasis had been placed upon nurturing IT skills. The development of the ITQ will go some way to appease the business community and their concerns about the relatively poor state of the labour pool where these problems are endemic.

Leading the project on behalf of the LSC is Alan Buckley, the IT CoVE manager from Runshaw College. Whilst commenting on the commitment shown by local learning providers Mr Buckley remarked: “I have never experienced before such universal enthusiasm for a single vocational qualification. There are some genuinely new and exiting things about the ITQ.” He added: “Its flexibility and inclusiveness allow both employers and their staff to access the crucial IT Skills training they need”¦Literally everyone involved in vocational training in Lancashire welcomes the award as something we can be proud to offer to the business community.”

Steve Palmer, executive director of the LSC in Lancashire added: “We are working with colleges to make sure that learners who are not yet qualified to level two have the opportunity to gain IT skills through the Lancashire Employer Training Pilot (ETP).”

Michael de la Fuente

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