The writing’s on the wall for adult learning

Sally Dicketts CBE is Chief Executive of Activate Learning

Follow Sally on Twitter @sallydicketts

Writing on the wall

Further education providers across the country finally received the news they’d been dreading last week as the Skills Funding Agency confirmed cuts to the adult skills budget.

The chopping of 24 per cent off funding for adult learners was delivered with a message that things could in fact have been much worse.

SFA chief executive Peter Lauener announced that a last minute deal with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills managed to cushion an even more devastating 32 per cent reduction. Providers who do not deliver apprenticeships, traineeships, nor English and maths will still face this higher level chop and it is difficult to see them surviving at all.

Cuts are cuts, and it is unlikely that anyone in the further education sector is breathing a sigh of relief at a figure of 24 per cent. For a group such as ours, cuts to the adult skills budget will reduce annual income by £1.4m.

Continue reading “The writing’s on the wall for adult learning”

Levelling the field in preparing for work

stock-footage-young-person-attending-a-business-interview

At a college advisory board meeting this week the message from employers was a familiar one.

When it comes to job interviews, young people just aren’t prepared.

The typical candidate was described as having done little or no research on the company or role, inappropriately dressed and lacking the desired language, behaviour or attitude.

Not a ringing endorsement for today’s young people.

For our born digital generation the prospect of a 20 minute interview focused on a single activity, involving conversation and eye contact, can feel like an alien concept. More typically our young people are wired to mobile devices, used to texting while talking or engaging in multiple social media conversations without human contact.

It raises the age old question of work readiness and how we get our young people to meet the expectations of employers and the demands of the workplace.

Continue reading “Levelling the field in preparing for work”

Should pensioners foot the bill to give young people a chance?

young-and-old

By Sally Dicketts, Chief Executive of Activate Learning @sallydicketts

We keep hearing that the old have plundered the wealth of the young. Significant increases in life expectancy mean that Britain’s over-65s outnumber those under the age of 16 for the first time. The Institute of Economic Affairs recently warned that the government will need to cut spending by more than a quarter or impose significant tax hikes to fund future pension and social care obligations.

At the same time we hear that social mobility and parity of esteem is essential if we are to address disadvantage and provide today’s young people with the same opportunities as our wealthy baby boomers.

The reality is that there is only ever going to be a finite amount of money and competing demands. But I would suggest that the answer lies not in taking money from our pensioners, but in achieving greater equity in funding for education.

Continue reading “Should pensioners foot the bill to give young people a chance?”

Are mergers the only answer to swingeing cuts?

There is no denying that times are incredibly tough for the further education sector.

We know that the next three years will bring swingeing cuts to our adult budgets and potential reductions in unit resource for 16 to 19 year olds. Management teams in every college in the country will be exploring the impact of this on their profit and loss account and seeking new ways to generate income and save costs.

Financial pressures are nothing new, but I can’t remember a time when the position has been quite so stark.

Finance, or lack of it, remains one of the key drivers pushing colleges to merge. We have certainly seen a recent flurry of merger activity, a process made simpler by the 2010 Education Act. This comment by the Guardian Further Education Hub provides a useful overview.

But are mergers the only answer to achieving financial stability amidst a sea of cuts? I believe there are alternatives.

Continue reading “Are mergers the only answer to swingeing cuts?”

Social mobility undermined by spending plans

This week David Cameron pledged to protect per-pupil funding for five to 16 year-olds if the Conservatives are re-elected in May.

The announcement means that post-16 education remains unprotected from potential cuts – the only section of education to be left in such a vulnerable position.

We often talk about the importance of social mobility in our society. I believe that further education offers the greatest opportunities for social mobility. It equips school leavers with the skills and qualifications required for successful careers and enables adults to access higher education or retrain in light of changing circumstances.

However the funding consistently fails to measure up.

Continue reading “Social mobility undermined by spending plans”

When I grow up…communicating the value of skilled sectors

Careers advice in schools has once again come under fire – this time for causing teenagers to underestimate what they could earn in skilled sectors.

Research by the Edge Foundation, to mark the launch of this year’s Vocational Qualification Day Awards, asked young people to predict what they could earn in technical or skilled roles. In some cases the respondents undershot average earnings by almost 40 per cent.

According to published statistics, the sector with the highest annual earnings in 2014 was electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning. But only one in six teenagers guessed it was in the top three. When quizzed, they thought average earnings in this sector would be around £23,000 when it actual fact the figure is closer to £38,000.

Continue reading “When I grow up…communicating the value of skilled sectors”

Technology partners to help plug digital skills gap

Nicky Morgan this week announced that new partnerships with technology giants, including Google and O2, will help to increase digital skills in the classroom.

As part of a £3.6m drive to teach computing skills in primary schools, experts from these organisations will provide training, facilities and resources. The Education Secretary used the BETT educational technology show to outline a series of projects with schools, universities and businesses that would boost the computing curriculum.

If you want to find good examples of these types of partnerships in action, you need look no further than the further education and university technical college model. These organisations are successfully harnessing the skills and expertise of industry leaders to provide a relevant curriculum which teaches contemporary, career-focused skills.

Continue reading “Technology partners to help plug digital skills gap”

Campaign puts £88bn value on soft skills

A campaign launched this week suggests that so called soft skills need to be taken much more seriously as factors for determining business success.

The term soft skills is commonly used and the terminology almost seems to place a value judgement on the attributes in question. But they can be generally defined as those skills that are difficult to measure. While it is relatively easy to test someone’s English language and maths skills, measuring initiative, good personal interaction and effective team working is much harder to do.

Continue reading “Campaign puts £88bn value on soft skills”