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Unlocking Potential or Locking Out Progress? FE Soundbite Edition 751

Unlocking Potential or Locking Out Progress? FE Soundbite Edition 751

Welcome to FE Soundbite Edition 751, June 22nd, 2024: Unlocking Potential or Locking Out Progress?

This is the weekly e-newsletter and e-journal by FE News: ISSN 2732-4095. We know life is busy, so here is a snapshot of the latest announcements and epic thought leadership articles, from sector influencers and cool thinkers across FE and Skills this week on FE News

Gavin’s Reflective Perspective

A Week of Insights, Strategies, and Bold (But Not Always Good) Ideas

Welcome to FE Soundbite edition 751! It’s been another whirlwind week in the world of FE and skills, with a mix of thought-provoking articles, reports, and manifestos to digest. But not all ideas are created equal, and some (like Reform UK’s manifesto) have left me scratching my head.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Our top three thought leadership articles this week offer some real food for thought. Stephen Evans’ blueprint for lifelong learning and good work is the kind of comprehensive, ambitious thinking we need to tackle the challenges ahead. Grant Hubbard’s critique of GCSE Maths resits in the FE sector is a sobering reminder of the work still to be done to improve mathematics education. And Deborah Ann Middleton’s exploration of employee recognition and productivity is a must-read for anyone looking to build a more engaged, collaborative workforce.

But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The latest Business Barometer report paints a worrying picture of skills shortages, with many organisations struggling to keep pace with new technologies and support underrepresented groups. And while the new apprenticeship funding rules for August 2024 promise to improve quality and accessibility, the devil will be in the details of implementation.

Could Apprenticeships be funded by an Immigration Tax?

Which brings us to Reform UK’s manifesto. Oh boy. Where do I even start? The Employer Immigration Tax to fund Apprenticeships made me laugh out loud and Reform’s solution for tackling Youth Crime – Reopen High-Intensity Training Camps for young offenders. Sounds a bit 1930s to me!… Reform are racing up the popularity polls, so who knows, maybe the Apprenticeship Levy might not be replaced by a Flexible Growth and Skills Levy.. but an Employers Immigration Tax?!?

There is plenty of innovative thinking and creative problem-solving on display this week, from Liz Lake’s introduction to the Sector-Based Work Academy Programme (SWAP), to Philip Salter’s roadmap for fostering young entrepreneurs in the UK. I also liked Annick Platt’s insights into engaging offenders in education through vocational training, digital skills, and creative enrichment programs are a timely reminder of the transformative power of learning (instead of High Intensity Training Camps)!

I hope you also enjoyed the videos from the OneFile conference. I particularly liked the insights from the employers and what they like (and importantly, what they don’t like) when working with Providers! To TeacherMatic AI (very popular session at the conference) to Yusuf’s video on using the Metaverse for an anti-racist curriculum. We also had a cool video with Joseph Lennox’s who is everywhere at the moment sharing what we need to provide Apprentices… from an Apprentice’s perspective. Very cool stuff!

As always, thanks for reading FE Soundbite. Until next time, keep learning, keep growing, and keep making an impact!

Exclusive Thought Leadership

Our Top 3 Thought Leadership Articles This Week

Firstly Blueprint for lifelong learning and employment opportunity By Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute, He outlines five actions to improve growth and opportunity through lifelong learning and good work.

Secondly Once Upon a Maths Resit By Grant Hubbard, BSc(Hons), MSc(MRes) Mathematics, Author, University and College Lecturer in Mathematics, critiques mandatory GCSE Maths resits in England’s FE sector, arguing that high failure rates stem from issues with mathematics education and the two-tier exam system.

Thirdly Unlocking Potential: How Employee Recognition Boosts Productivity By Deborah Ann Middleton explores how employee recognition boosts productivity and lowers turnover, providing strategies for building a recognition-rich culture and fostering a growth mindset.

This Week, We Have Also Had Some Other Epic Exclusives!

Stress and The Teaching Profession: Harnessing AI Solutions in a Time of Need By John Kleeman, Executive Vice President of Learnosity

Managing a sustainable workload By Mark Solomons, Founder and CEO of Welbee

Empowering Second Chances: How Business Schools Facilitate Career Transitions By Sarwar Khawaja Chairman, Executive Board, Oxford Business College

What’s New in the World of FE?

OneFile Conference

What Top Employers Look for in Apprenticeship Training ProvidersFeatured in the Site Wide Player

Cutting-Edge AI Innovations Spotlighted at OneFile User Conference: ‘Pioneering the Future of Education’

Cardiff and Vale College Leads the Charge: Creating an anti-racist metaverse in a polarised world

Forging the Path: Joseph Lennox’s Advocacy for Apprenticeships


New Apprenticeship Funding Rules: Key Changes and Implications from 1st August 24

  • Updates to learner eligibility, prior learning recognition, off-the-job training, and subcontracting rules
  • New funding allocations and additional payments for employers and providers
  • Emphasis on improving quality, accessibility, and compliance of apprenticeship training

The Business Barometer 2024: 62% of organisations facing skills shortages

  • 64% not confident about applying new AI and green technologies; 68% say shortages increase staff workload
  • Only 19% have a written skills plan for 2024; 63% lack targeted initiatives for underrepresented groups
  • Recommendations include fostering innovative strategies and inclusive initiatives to bridge the skills gap

AoC have been cracking out the reports this week

Qualification Reform. With the report: Considerations for a new government on qualification reforms and curriculum review in Further Education

Local Skills Improvement Plans. with the report: Local skills improvement plans: a review of their impact and opportunities for the future. 


Reform UK’s 2024 General Election Manifesto

  • Introduce an Employer Immigration Tax to fund apprenticeships and training for young Brits
  • Reforms to benefit support and training to help people back into work, especially 16-34 year olds
  • Slash wasteful spending to increase funding for frontline public services and reduce taxes

FE Voices

Sector-Based Work Academy Programme (SWAP): a new approach to addressing the green skills gap By Liz Lake, Group Director Strategic Projects and Partnerships, London South East Colleges

  • Five-week SWAP pilot program to help people access jobs in green industries
  • Blend of employability and green skills training, with guaranteed interviews
  • Partnerships with DWP, Quantum, and Daikin to align provision with industry needs

Fostering Young Entrepreneurs: A UK Roadmap By Philip Salter, Founder, The Entrepreneurs Network

  • Immediate impact policies: address funding uncertainties, reinstate Enterprise Allowance Scheme, allow under-18 business bank accounts
  • Longer-term impact: embed entrepreneurship education, foster edtech engagement, increase innovation exposure for underrepresented groups
  • Promote entrepreneurship to solve social and environmental challenges through initiatives like challenge prizes

Innovative teaching methods in prisons: overcoming barriers to education By Annick Platt, National Operations Director of leading prison education provider Novus.

  • Importance of finding new ways to engage offenders in education to reduce reoffending
  • Vocational training and digital skills provision to equip learners with industry-specific skills
  • Creative enrichment programs to re-engage learners and expand cultural capital

Greater Manchester or Greater Controversy? Bolton University’s Battle for Rebranding By Neil Wolstenholme, Chairman of Kloodle

  • Bolton University seeks to rebrand as “University of Greater Manchester” to improve recognition and appeal
  • Neil suggests an alternative solution to enhance graduate outcomes and employability

Why an Overhaul of the Apprenticeship Levy is both Necessary and Urgent By Ashley Ramrachia, CEO and Founder of tech upskilling business, Academy.

  • Apprenticeship levy criticised for benefiting older, experienced managers instead of young people
  • Levy widening the skills gap, with a decline in new apprenticeships and starts for those under 19
  • Calls for businesses to have autonomy in choosing training programs to better support young people

How Would A New National Skills Body Work in Practice? By Lesley Giles, Director of Work Advance, a research and analysis organisation, and former Deputy Director at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

  • Proposes a radical new national skills body to strengthen governance arrangements
  • Key features: strong social partnership, multi-agency working, independence, devolution and customisation
  • Strategic functions: promote coordination, lead skills research and analysis, establish strategy development and planning cycle

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