From education to employment

Holding a Torch for FE; Solihull Keep Candle in Window Lit

The sun was shining brightly on the morning of day two at Birmingham’s gargantuan ICC, as the Quality Improvement Agency’s (QIA’s) conference continued.

Following Peter Housden of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) enunciating realistic and practical guidelines on local development to drive forward success, the Chief Executive of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council carried forward the flame. Bringing an acute perspective to the conference setting, Katherine Kerswell used her personal example of her work done in the Midlands. But not before reverting back to default setting and speaking some, shall we say, oft-quoted words of impending doom”¦

Doom, but Not as Tolkein Knew It”¦

“The FE White Paper says, “our economic future depends on our productivity”. It challenges us to rise to achieve that ambition. We know skills are absolutely essential to a successful wealth economy, but what do we actually have to do?” she asked. I know, I promised speech default settings, or something akin to the robotics of Peter Crouch, so here we go.

From the top”¦: “By 2013, we will need 350,000 new recruits. There will be a major shift in occupational and skills demand. Ethnic minorities and elders are emerging working groups. These groups are the least skilled and the most likely to be economically inactive.” Continuing: “The picture is a stark one. The economy is restructuring, manufacturing is declining: take the example of Rover and Jaguar.”

That, for the time being, was the end of that. But according to her local experience, the solution is simple: “The key is about being integrated and local. But locally, how do we get a single integrated system to get people we need into the jobs? Simple. Find the right people, earn their trust, assess them and then get them into a job.” Touching on a more personal note policy makers often overlook when rigidly assessing the merits, and shortcomings, of our economic structure, she noted: “But they are real people and it is a difficult job. You must change long-term patterns of behaviour an act for inspiration.”

Attention to Detail

This inspiration comes with action, she indicated: “We listened really carefully to our learners and they said they wanted someone local to help shape the curriculum and encourage take-up, not glossy policy documents.” It would seem that the success of Solihull’s initiative seems to have paid off. “We bring training to workers ““ it makes it easier, delivered locally into the heart of the community.”

In stark contrast to the “Plumbers not Pilates” headline destined to feature in many headlines from the Government, she did not hesitate in referencing the priceless life-learning virtues the sector encourages. “All threads of policy create the tapestry of progress. Learning should be just more than developing skills. 40% of adult in community learners said it was self-interest courses that helped them gain skills and move into employment.”

Vijay Pattni

Talk back to Trisha after Trisha the Tiger Talks Back!

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