The Lifelong Learning UK Third Annual Conference

by | Dec 16, 2009 | Articles

Lifelong Learning UK is the Sector Skills Council responsible for building the skills of the Learning and Development Sector, both for funded learning providers and commercial learning providers.  The Third Annual Conference on 8th December 2009 was an exciting and challenging day. 

Some of the stimulating and thought-provoking presentations can be seen at where you will be able to view videos, download presentations and engage in the debate.

The strap line of the conference was: The power of lifelong learning; innovation during a recession recovery?

Sir David Melville (Chair of Lifelong Learning UK) set the scene on the short-term future for learning and development professionals.  “When we emerge from the recession the nature of jobs and the skills needed will be different”, was his opening statement.  We lag significantly behind our European partners in qualifications and in skills. The UK workforce has to compete against an increasingly competitive and mobile Global workforce.  Those currently in work also face competition from new entrants with radically different digital skills. Those entering post-compulsory education now have been immersed in a digital environment; in 2009 60% of 13 year-olds have a web presence, in 2007 it was 60% of 16 year olds.

Young people are used to presenting themselves to others through a digital medium.  Those beginning skills training today will enter a very different technological world.  Those of us who train and educate this generation “Y” in the workplace need to understand their very different view of the digital environment; different to the majority of those currently in work today.

Will Hutton, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Work foundation, followed this with a hard-hitting punchy presentation on the dire situation in which the UK finds itself as we struggle to emerge from the current recession.  For the last 20 years the finance sector has been the engine room of the UK economy.  We cannot afford for its growth to continue after the recession. You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium as he stated that if we allowed it to do so then in the next recession, which will come, Britain would be truly crippled by a financial disaster.  He backed this assertion up with solid clearly presented facts.

The solution is to expand the rest of the economy. This has to be skills based; in many cases skills we do not yet understand we need.  We have to earn our living as knowledge workers; by 2020 52% of us.  The UK has to make a living from the innovation and application of new technologies. We must have skills to develop techniques and technologies that are at the moment only dreamt of.  The challenge for the learning and development professional is to enable this skill development right across the board at all levels.

The theme on having to respond differently was continued by Stephen Uden, the Head of Skills and Economic Affairs at Microsoft.  He compared the learning investment made in the current workforce, the average is £1K per employee per year, in the IT sector (predominantly knowledge workers) the average investment is £2½ K The hill to climb in developing skills is massive.

Forty percent of employers, many of whom are small companies, are concerned about the literacy and numeracy of their workforce (CBI/Anglia Nord Skill Survey).  Innovative small firms will largely fuel the recovery.  Traditionally it is very difficult to connect small employers with learning and development activity, whether it is funded or not; when they do invest the funded sector takes third place in employer investment.

Eighty-two percent of employers prioritise the employability skills of under-graduates.  The essential apprenticeship level training tends to be overlooked.  The result is that the percentage of the UK workforce employed at the technician level is 10%, against a European average of 20%.  The apprenticeship programme for Microsoft seeks to engage small employers.  This highly successful programme takes seven months to create skilled technical people (most of whom did less well at school than they should have done).

The choices are quite stark, the solution is to ramp up skills provision across the board, particularly for those in work. Technology has a key part to play in the future of learning.

Read more about the conference on the website or download the summary document

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