From education to employment

NIACE Call Attention to Central Role of Adults in Skills Battle

The world of FE was reminded recently of just how vitally important the adult learner is to the proposed mission of the sector.

At a conference organised by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) during Adult Learners” Week, it was stressed that the way forward for the UK’s economy is not necessarily the province of the young. The event, held in the Park Lane Hilton Hotel in London, echoed the thoughts of David Sherlock, the Chief Inspector for the soon to be defunct Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) and represents a sobering moment for the policy makers in Whitehall.

Echoes of Training

The conference featured contributions from several leading lights in FE, including Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South and Chair of the All-Party Skills Group; Chris Humphries, Director General of City and Guilds; Lorna Unwin, Professor of Vocational Education at the Institute of Education, University of London; and Sean Taggart, Group Managing Director, Albatross Travel Group and Deputy Chair of the Small Business Council.

The conference took place in front of the background awareness that things will have to change if Britain’s economy is to succeed and is to be competitive in Europe and internationally. At present, it is believed that some 80% of the workforce that will be required in 2015 are already part of today’s workforce, which would seem to indicate that Work Based Learning (WBL) schemes will be the main tool for building up the skills training and skills retraining of the nation.

Predicting the future in demographic terms is a troublesome science. However, further figures seem to indicate that the falling birth rate will mean that there will only be sufficient numbers of new entrants to the workforce (in other words, young people) to fill one out of every three new and / or replacement job slots in the course of the next ten years. As the trend towards falling birth rates seems unlikely to reverse itself, it would seem that a combination of adult education focus and a reappraisal of the laws on immigration is in order.

Contributing to the Economy

Anne Hansen is the Development Officer responsible for Workplace Learning at NIACE. She said: “Learning and training can contribute to improving the productivity and competitiveness of the UK economy. NIACE is keen to broaden the debate arising from Lord Sandy Leitch’s Review of Skills and emphasise the centrality of skills and learning acquisition to new global marketplaces and in the context of rapidly changing European demographics.”

Warming to her theme, she stressed the prior and continuing commitment of NIACE to the cause, saying: “NIACE has long championed the interests of adult learners and in particular of those who have benefited least from earlier education and training. We are currently working with the Skills for Business Network to ensure that adult skills are fully represented in the Sector Skills Agreements and with the Trades Union Congress TUC on the development of the Union Academy.”

The world is changing, and that change is occurring at a faster rate than ever. Unless Britain wishes to be left behind, it would appear that the choice is clear; do not neglect one area of education by favouring another, or the effects could be economically crippling.

Jethro Marsh

Coming soon – Trisha the Tiger Talks Back!

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