A Vision for FE in 2020 – can we afford to wait?

by | Apr 30, 2009 | Articles

We announced that Siôn Simon MP, Minister for Further Education,at the Department for Innovation, University and Skills (DIUS) wants to hear directly from you about what FE & Skills delivery needs to look like moving forward on a new social networking site- http://altogethernow.ning.com/.

Having worked with commercial providers and employers over the last number of years, we believe at Towards Maturity that there are valuable lessons to be learned from our experiences. This invitation provides us with a direct opportunity to have our say.

Here is the response thatTowards Maturity posted on the site on the current vision – we wanted to raise the need for new types of learning solutions, new types of partnership and new ways of thinking – If  you want to add your comments and observations then click here and join in the debate!

A vision for FE &SKills in 2020 – can we afford to wait?

Learning and development staff within businesses (employers) today are finding that a catalogue of courses no longer addresses the fast changing needs of their organisation. As a result, many have been experimenting with different approaches, enabled by technology, to identify new types of learning and performance solutions that keep their organisations agile and responsive to change. In a demand led system of FE & Skills, can we afford to wait until 2020 before we see the changes outlined in this vision? What lessons can we learn from business today to accelerate the progress towards this vision for the future?

The drivers behind long term change to an active, demand led supply of skills (initially outlined the Leitch report and underlined in the more recent Building ‘ Britain’s Future – New Industry, New Jobs’ policy statement ) are the drivers that have been influencing a review of skills delivery within business for some time. Businesses today have not been able to wait to address these challenges:

• Improving efficiency – delivering more quality with fewer resources
• Addressing global completion & increased international supply chains
• Responding to new technologies that are transforming business process
• Shifting to low carbon thinking – the need to reduce travel and open up opportunities
• Meeting demographic changes – attracting and retaining new types of learners whilst capturing tacit knowledge within the business

Business can’t wait until 2020

Here are some examples of new types of learning solutions that businesses are developing today to meet these needs:

L&D staff in business are harnessing technologies to help them work directly with line managers to identify and capture best practice and create new types of solutions to help them be more responsive to changing demand /business priorities. For example the rapid development of business driven learning programmes was seen as a significant contributor to the business turn around at Cable &Wireless (see case study at http://tinyurl.com/TMC-Wstory)

In a fast paced knowledge economy, more businesses blending both formal learning interventions and informal peer to peer support to build staff performance on a day to day basis.
eg BT are trialling podcast/You tube style learning to encourage peer to peer sharing of knowledge and experience (
http://tinyurl.com/TMBTstory) and Thomson Reuters have developed new learning services to deliver 70:20:10 model of learning to address the changing needs of their knowledge workers (http://tinyurl.com/TMCJintervw).

When staff are no longer able to travel but still have to keep up to date, organisations are bringing online content, resources, live links to experts and trainers to them as this example shows where busy dental professionals are able to meet professional CPD demands without having to leave the surgery (http://tinyurl.com/TMDentChstory)

Organisations are also changing models of formal learning intervention to take advantage of knowledge within the business and channel it into structured learning programmes. This example of customer service training in the library sector highlights how networks of staff were brought together to support learners(http://tinyurl.com/TMlibrstory).

Businesses are also building skills in the supply/distribution chain to ensure consistent skills & knowledge is not only available but also that can be adapted to local needs – the example of Toyota’s training of their distributors is a good example (http://tinyurl.com/TMtoyotastory).

These are just a few examples of changes taking place in the workplace today (see www.towardsmaturity.org for more).

Many of these solutions were developed with specialist partners who are innovative, responsive and unconstrained by funding mechanisms and the need to measure qualifications and student numbers. These solutions have been born out of business necessity and are outcome driven.

Implications for the 2020 vision for the FE sector

Whilst larger business are reinventing their skills solutions for themselves, it is up to the FE & Skills sector to respond on behalf of small organisations and individuals faced with the same challenges. This throws open a series of questions that have implications for the 5 areas of this vision.

What new partnerships will needed between funded providers, commercial providers and employers to ensure innovation and responsiveness?

Whilst technologies help to throw open the door of innovation in new skills solutions, the current funding mechanisms and measurements firmly close those doors again. Employers who have been successful in this area are driven by the outcomes not the learning inputs (i.e. number of staff trained/qualified). What do we need to do to shift current funding /attitude barriers that frustrate innovation and responsiveness?

The skills outlined in the vision for providers will need to be supplemented with a consultative business driven approach if current ‘providers of courses’ are to become ‘facilitators of business and individual performance’ so desperately needed in the new economic environment. What additional skills are needed in a demand led system?
On behalf of the Towards Maturity community, we welcome this debate and look forward to the ideas that will come through from this site.

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