Spring is on the horizon, the sun is threatening to break through these grey skies once and for all and while it's not so much 'out with the old' it is definitely 'in with the new' as here at the Edge Foundation we're celebrating the launch of various new projects and institutions.The Siemens Mechatronics Academy at Barking & Dagenham College, the Sir Frank Whittle Studio School specialist logistics centre and Ayrshire College's Skills Centre of Excellence were all officially opened in February. All three of these projects were awarded funding through the Edge Innovation and Development Fund, so to see them open their doors is a great joy for us at Edge.Also officially opened in February was Bromley College's Hospitality, Food & Enterprise Career College. The Career College will build commercial skills into the hospitality curriculum, responding to the high number of business start-ups and restaurants and the need for appropriate skills in south east London. Just as importantly, students will study mainstream subjects to a high standard and teaching staff will help them make connections between specialist and general subjects in order to boost confidence and achievement across the board.Another exciting development was the Chancellor's announcement that two new University Technical Colleges have been approved. The Ron Dearing UTC in Hull and the Northern Futures UTC in Newcastle will offer young people aged 14-18 years the opportunity to pursue a course of study in a STEM specialism alongside traditional academic subjects.The common theme here is the drive towards closer linking up of education with employers. Whether it's an employer-led curriculum, industry standard equipment, or industry experts doing the teaching or indeed ideally all of these, strengthening the relationship between education and the world of work is mutually beneficial.From these projects alone, hundreds of students are set to benefit from a robust but varied education and in turn, employers at local and national levels will reap the rewards as the skilled and employment-savvy young people head into the world of work.Edge is very privileged to be able to fund and support innovation in education in this way. Working in partnership with others who share our vision has, over the years, resulted in the creation of new types of institution and new approaches to blending academic and vocational learning.As we head towards the general election and, inevitably, yet more periods of uncertainty for education we hope that these projects and schools join the many others across the country as beacons of excellence for technical, practical and vocational learning; so that young people can become fully aware of, and fully able to access, these alternative paths to success.Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning
With January behind us it seems a little late to wish you a Happy New Year but with an election under 100 days away we are hopeful it will be just that – particularly for FE and skills.We hope that whatever the result, the Edge Foundation continues to enjoy the cross-party support it has so far received. Our Manifesto sets out the policies which we believe will tackle youth unemployment, rebalance our education and training system and create profound partnerships between education and employment. Our goal is simple but bold: no NEETs.We are not naïve, we know there is no simple solution, no overnight remedy, but for real change to happen the target must be set high and, although it is a tough target we believe it is realistic.To minimise the number of young people not in education, employment or training we need to make sure that they are not disengaged during their education. Learners need to be aware of all the options so that they can pick a path that suits their skills and ambitions. We need to ensure that the passion for learning they display in their younger years is nurtured and encouraged so that when it comes to making decisions about their futures they are empowered to make a choice that will not only excite them but will also help them get a job and make sure they are financially independent.Financial independence is important. Much research has been dedicated to driving home the message that a degree will guarantee you a top earning career. But there are no guarantees and we know that many graduates take up positions for which their degree was not required.To mark the launch of VQ Day 2015, we carried out research into the perception versus the reality when it comes to earnings. What we discovered is worrying.While earning potential is the biggest deciding factor when it comes to young people making career choices, the research found that both teenagers and their parents are worryingly inaccurate at estimating how much people can earn. Many of the highest earning sectors are reachable via a vocational route but are being ignored due to an incorrect perception that they do not pay as well as other sectors.The research highlights the need for greater awareness around technical, practical and vocational learning. Raising the status of these routes and giving greater recognition to those who follow them is what VQ Day is all about. If we want these pathways to be valued equally with academic ones then we need to make people aware of the benefits of vocational learning, not just the intrinsic value it can bring to the individual but also the financial rewards, and of course the wider benefits to the economy of having more young people in education, employment and training, better matched to the skills the UK economy needs.This VQ Day, help us raise the status of technical, practical and vocational learning by celebrating the learners, teachers and employers who take, teach and support vocational qualifications. Nominations for the VQ Awards are now open and we encourage you to join this UK-wide celebration.
Skills are a hot topic at the moment. With the general election just around the corner we hope that this focus on technical, practical and vocational education will last the distance and continue under the incoming government.In his speech to the CBI earlier this month, Sir Michael Wilshaw spoke of the need to 'seize this moment'. He's right.We have a political consensus on the need for more high-quality vocational routes. The economy is on the up and employment prospects are improving. We are perfectly poised to, in Sir Michael's words, 'tackle our lamentable record on vocational education'.Although Sir Michael was addressing employers and asking them to acknowledge the part they have to play in improving vocational education, our own research, released in partnership with City & Guilds, shows that parents also have a key role to play when it comes to pointing their children in the right direction.The research found that parents are making the connection between high-quality vocational training and employability. However, the belief that a degree is the key to success still prevails. When degrees have been presented as the only route to success for so long, the 'not for my child' attitude continues to rear its head. But, as we know, there are many paths to success.This is why events like The Skills Show are so important.Although it seemed to slip past in a bit of a blur there's no doubt that over the three days thousands of young people, and their parents, were inspired. It's hard not to be at such a massive event. The Skills Show does a fantastic job of opening people's eyes to the success that can be achieved by taking a more vocational route.In our second year as a Premier sponsor of the Show, the Edge Foundation made sure to make the most of the opportunity. Our partners and projects that were showcased over the three days were never without a steady stream of eager young people.The Edge Hotel School, Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, Gazelle Colleges, Myerscough College, University Technical Colleges and London College of Beauty Therapy, were offering tasters and 'Have a Go' activities: from napkin folding to haptic robots, digger driving to flight simulation.We also held the final of the Edge Challenge at the Show. All our finalists pitched brilliantly to a packed out Spotlight Stage. Even the presence of Theo Paphitis and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg MP, couldn't shake them – a true sign of the professional businessmen and women they already are!After a tough decision from the judges on the day, David Humpston, from Amersham and Wycombe College, and Card Stack, from Barking & Dagenham College, were named the overall winners. David scooped a £3000 prize fund and six months of mentoring, and Card Stack took home the team prize of £5000.Not content with 'Have a Go' activities, showcasing and VIP visitors, we also held the second Edge Research Conference at the Show. Topics covered work experience, apprenticeships, University Technical Colleges and much more and our delegates were treated to some very high quality research papers and presentations.Thanks go to all our speakers, particularly to Simon Field of the OECD who opened the conference and introduced OECD's latest report, a comparison of post-secondary vocational education and training systems in 17 countries around the world.Edge has been campaigning for recognition of the importance and benefits of technical, practical and vocational training for ten years. We will continue to do so in the next ten, and hopefully, with the support of government, employers, parents and those within education, the UK will have a much better match between the outputs of our education system and the skill needs of our economy and country.
Over the last ten years the Edge Foundation has remained committed to championing technical, practical and vocational learning. Our research reports, our campaigns, our projects have all been carried out with the overarching aim of raising awareness of the many paths to success for young people. So this year, we took the opportunity of the Edge Annual Lecture to celebrate all that we have achieved over the last ten years. It was a very proud day, for all of us at Edge, and we are indebted to our partners who have helped and supported us along the way.Our keynote speaker, Matthew Crawford; philosopher, author and mechanic, delivered a thought provoking speech asking us to consider how responsible we are for our own physical environment and the effect that problem solving and 'tinkering' has on our ideas about our own independence. He spoke about the intrinsic satisfaction and sense of security that comes from a career in the trades, and how, with our increasing reliance on technology, we are suffering from 'learned helplessness'. He made the point that just because the work is dirty it doesn't make it stupid and this chimed with me particularly as it is an example of the barriers we face time and time again when speaking to parents. Encouragingly, in research we carried out recently, we found that parental attitudes are changing for the better with over three quarters of parents wanting young people to get a 'baccalaureate' style certificate summing up achievements in both academic and practical subjects. However, when it comes to knowing about routes through education their knowledge of NVQs and apprenticeships is still secondary to that of traditional academic routes.One of the highlights of the event for me was the final panel session, in which young people from Rye Studio School, the Edge Hotel School and The Elstree UTC spoke about their experiences. The passion they have for their learning is remarkable and is a huge reminder about why we champion these routes. The ethos of these institutions is built around engaging students in hands on learning that is employer led. This means that learning is not carried out in isolation, it is real and relevant and constantly being applied. James, one of the students from The Elstree UTC which specialises in entertainment technologies, summed it up perfectly when he talked about where his education would take him. His dream, he said, was to play the main stage at Glastonbury and then do the sound for the following act. A dream that echoes Matthew Crawford's point that working back-stage, 'the dirty work', is just as satisfying and desirable as being centre stage.As well as our 10 Year Anniversary we also celebrated the first cohort of Edge Hotel School graduates this month. By all accounts it was a wonderful day and an incredibly proud one for the Edge Foundation. We wish all the graduates the best of luck as they embark on their careers in the hospitality industry.Looking ahead to the end of the year, we've still got The Skills Show to come at the NEC in Birmingham. As a Premier Sponsor of the show we're once again looking forward to an exciting few days. We'll be holding the final of the Edge Challenge enterprise competition on the Thursday afternoon, and following some impressive pitches at the panel stage in London it'll be worth a watch. On Friday we're hosting the second Edge Research Conference. Speakers will present a wide range of research into technical, practical and vocational learning both at home and around the world. Topics include apprenticeships, University Technical Colleges (UTCs), adult skills, international evidence and vocational pedagogy. You'll be able to get a taste of life as a student at the Edge Hotel School on their stand and UTCs will be giving an insight into their technical curriculum on theirs. We've also got three "Have a Gos" for visitors to get stuck into: one from Myerscough College, one from the London College of Beauty Therapy and one from City of Bath College and our Edge Challenge partners, Peter Jones Enterprise Academies and Gazelle Colleges Group will also be exhibiting. If you're coming along, pack your walking shoes!Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning
For many young people August can be a bit of a blur. The first half is spent nervously waiting for that crucial Thursday when, at the opening of an envelope, your life can spin off in any one of a number of directions; the second half is spent working out which particular direction is right for you.We've all been there. For some of us it was longer ago than we would care to calculate, but I think we can all agree that whatever decisions we made based on that cluster of letters on a page, they did not determine our life's path. Although the decisions we make at that point in time are among the most important we ever make, they are not an end in themselves. For those who decide that A-levels or university isn't for them, choosing a less traditional route does not have to hamper your chances of career success. In fact, making decisions based on your own talents and ambitions is probably going to make you more inclined to succeed.16 and 18 have always been the ages at which big decisions are made with regards to education but while there are many young adults who are not sure which direction they want to head in, there are also many 14 year olds who are. Many young people know where their strengths and interests lie and we should be nurturing these and giving them the opportunity to get a head start.This is where University Technical Colleges fit in. By allowing students to specialise at an earlier age, UTCs build the knowledge, skills and temperament employers in STEM tell us they need, and they build it earlier. Career Colleges have also taken advantage of the Government's decision to allow Further Education Colleges to recruit at 14 and, when the first two open in September, they will provide accelerated vocationally-focused programmes of study. Like UTCs, they will offer these specialised courses alongside core academic work and provide clear progression routes into further education, higher education, apprenticeships and employment. Studio Schools are also offering a bold new approach to learning which includes teaching through enterprise projects and real work from 14. Working closely with local employers, Studio Schools also offer a range of academic and vocational qualifications.Despite misconceptions, this type of provision will not close down opportunities. They are all good examples of how a child's ambition can be harnessed and developed, while still keeping those all-important doors open. As well as the first two Career Colleges, September will also see 12 Studio Schools and 13 more UTCs opening, extending their reach across the country.A rounded education is about more than just the A*-C GCSE benchmark. It's about developing young people who are confident in their abilities and not afraid to choose the road less travelled if it's the right road for them. Employers are looking for more than good grades and by working closely with UTCs, Studio Schools and Career Colleges they are making sure they get it.As thousands of young people begin a new chapter of their lives this September it is worth remembering that it's very difficult to close doors completely, all we do is open some a little wider.
Traditionally we think of the summer months as being quieter in the education world; a lull before the excitement of results season and the new Autumn term, but inevitably traditions fall by the wayside when there is work to be done and no doubt like so many others working in this field we seem to be as busy as ever!The £1million Innovation and Development Fund that the Edge Foundation opened in January has just released its first round of grants totalling over £500,000. The seven projects that received the funds vary in size, region and focus but all support Edge's Six Steps for Change and address at least two of the following three aims: support the creation of new institutions; support the development of profound employer engagement and address areas of skills shortages for the UK economy. From logistics in Lutterworth to food production at the Eden Project, mechatronics in London to construction and heritage craft in Oxford, the sector spread of the projects is wide and the number of young people that will benefit from them, vast.In terms of our existing projects, our first Edge Hotel School students have finished their studies and are taking on the hospitality industry. Many of them have secured jobs at top hotels while others have found their interests lie in events and conference management and even in food writing and journalism. Whatever their futures hold, with the strong vocational focus of their Edge Hotel School degrees behind them, they'll be able to get stuck straight in and we can't wait to see them graduate in October.We are also well into the plans for our Annual Lecture on 15th October which this year will incorporate a celebration of our 10 Year Anniversary. We'll be taking a look back at the research and projects that Edge has been involved in over the past decade, how we've influenced policy, and the impact that we have had on individuals. And then we'll be looking to the future and discussing what that might look like for the sector. With new ministers in position and an election on the horizon, we'll be continuing to work with our partners to make sure vocational learning gets the priority and support it deserves, whatever the outcome.Speaking of ministers, we'd like to thank Matthew Hancock for his involvement with Edge, for his support for our vision, and his commitment and focus on driving skills and vocational education to the top of the agenda. It is in this vein we hope Nick Boles will continue and look forward to working with him. Similarly as we bid farewell to Michael Gove we welcome in Nicky Morgan as the new Education Secretary and wish her luck as she tackles the challenges and complexities of the education system and continues the drive to raise standards.
The summer appears to be flying by but we can't let it slip pass without mentioning the success of our seventh annual VQ Day, and once again, it really was a triumph. On 4th June, hundreds of schools, colleges, business and learning providers from across the UK, got involved and celebrated vocational learning with us.For the Edge Foundation, this celebration of learners, teachers and employers is a great opportunity to get our message heard on a national stage. As we play host to the cream of the vocational crop, we highlight the many paths to success that can be taken. Sponsored by OCR, our VQ Learner of the Year winners have all travelled down very different routes to achieve their success; from taking Open University courses to supplement their learning to harnessing their entrepreneurial drive and opening businesses, they have all achieved incredible things and we have no doubt they will continue to do so.Once again, with the support of City & Guilds, we recognised employers who support vocational learning and development in the workplace. For the second year running we were hugely encouraged by the number of employers who take it seriously; investing in their employees and as a result, their own business and the economy as a whole.VQ Day 2014 also brought with it our first teacher award – the VQ Newly Qualified FE Teacher of the Year, sponsored by IfL. We were blown away by the quality of the nominations we received and our overall winner, Katy Graham, sets an amazing standard in terms of supporting her students, and the lengths she goes to, to go above and beyond and make a difference to their learning, is inspirational.City & Guilds' Lion Awards, the AoC Gold Awards and NIACE's Adult Learners' Week Awards also took place in June and brought with them their own inspiring nominees and winners. In our mission to raise the status of technical, practical and vocational learning, having such an array of vocational success stories really makes a difference. It allows us to actively demonstrate that these routes aren't secondary to traditional academic pathways, that they are challenging, high-quality and ultimately can lead to your dream job and change your life.And it's not just about the individual. A new report we commissioned from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) to mark VQ Day, investigated the changing landscape of the workforce within the next decade. It revealed that 9 of the top 10 jobs expected to drive economic growth and mobility in the future, will be accessible with a vocational qualification. This research clearly demonstrates that we must continue to support high quality vocational education if we are to meet the needs of our future economy.As well as our 7th VQ Day, 2014 also marks the Edge Foundation's 10th anniversary. Although we have faced some turbulent times in the world of learning and skills over the past decade, our vision has not wavered. We are still determined to see an education system that recognises all forms of success in education and we will carry on championing those who achieve it. By working alongside our partners and with the cross-party support we continue to receive from government, we hope that VQ Day inspires those outside the sector to take stock and realise that there are many paths to success.Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning
Earlier in April the Government revised its guidance on ways schools should provide careers advice, information and guidance to young people.Although not ground-breaking, we were encouraged by the Government's call for schools to give young people fair and balanced information about all their options. As an organisation that champions technical, practical and vocational learning we know there are many paths to success and it is crucial that alternatives to traditional academic routes, such as apprenticeships, are given the attention they deserve.We were also happy to see the emphasis placed on the importance of involving employers in delivering advice and guidance to pupils. Research by the Education and Employers Taskforce shows that interventions such as careers talks, visits to industry and work experience can all have significant benefits to young people and their career prospects.However, as the Edge Foundation's Director of Policy and Research, David Harbourne points out, the new document uses the word 'should' much more often than the word 'must'. Schools still have a considerable amount of discretion when it comes to careers advice and this is where our concern rests. In research we carried out earlier this year we found that just a third of students taking vocational qualifications felt supported by their school, while almost a quarter of students were told they were 'too clever' for vocational education. We fear that unless the new guidance is enforced and the 'shoulds' turned to 'musts' too many schools will continue in the same fashion, promoting A levels and university over the equally demanding vocational routes available.But what does good careers guidance look like? The Gatsby Foundation has just released a report about careers guidance in schools, identifying good practice and providing recommendations on how to deliver it. We fully support Gatsby's work to create a comprehensive framework of eight benchmarks which, if implemented, will see an end to a bias in careers guidance and allow all young people to achieve their potential.As the 2nd May deadline for nominations for the VQ Awards approaches, we are once again reminded of what can be achieved by taking VQs. Looking through the nominations we have already received I am amazed, as I am every year, at the hard work and dedication of so many vocational students. While they vary dramatically in age and cover a whole range of subjects, the one thing that these learners all have in common is that they are high achievers. They have worked incredibly hard to get themselves in the position they are and it is wrong that many of them will have had to work that little bit harder to prove themselves and to shake the outdated stereotype that clings to vocational education in some quarters. We hope that on VQ Day this year, as we celebrate with the winners, and the hundreds of others who take vocational qualifications up and down the country, we can inspire schools to see past the stigma and encourage all their students to consider all the options.Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning
It has been an exciting and busy year for us at the Edge Foundation and we've been working hard to ensure our messages are heard. Our Six Steps for Change have continued to remain at the heart of our work, be it research, supporting innovation or celebrating success; we are constantly working towards an education system that offers all young people the opportunity to reach their potential.