Talent Matters - 6 Challenges to the UK Skills System

Education and Skills

The Labour Party have made recommendations to improve the UK skills system. The Skills Taskforce Interim Report highlights 6 problematic areas within the UK skills system as:

  1. The divide between vocational & academic education.
  2. Low levels of employer evolvement in the skills system.
  3. A fragmented education system.
  4. The need for a new vision for further education.
  5. The lack of high quality apprenticeships.
  6. Poor quality advice to navigate the transition between education and work.

Responses from the FE Sector

The 157 Group

"We are pleased that the Labour party has placed what is refers to as the 'damaging divide between vocational and academic education' at the heart of its thinking, as we have long argued that those who are successful in both work and life have a balance of theoretical and applied skill, and our education system should reflect this."

"Today's report presents a vision where FE colleges, such as those represented by the 157 Group, remain central to the provision of education and training, and recognises the broad and extensive work going on in colleges to develop those in every part of society, including for young people, for those who are employed, and for those who are unemployed or in need of a career change. We applaud the report's emphasis on the importance of further education for adults and for learning throughout life." -Lynne Sedgmore, Executive Director (read full response)

The AoC (Association of Colleges)

" [The report] sets out the problems caused by a funding system which restricts the courses colleges can deliver; the prevalence of competition between institutions rather than collaboration and the low levels of employer involvement in the skills system

“Colleges have excellent links with industry, working closely with big names such as Land Rover, Rolls Royce and EDF Energy, and devise bespoke training programmes in response to particular training needs. We note the comments about staff secondments to industry; there’s been significant investment in Teach First for schools and we’d like to see similar investment in College teacher training and support the opportunity for employers to get further involved in the delivery of skills to young people and for college staff to be seconded to industry." - Gill Clipson, Deputy Chief Executive at the Association of Colleges (read full response)

UCU - University College Union

"We agree that college lecturers should have the opportunity to spend more time in industry, but there has to be mechanisms in place to ensure employers are fully committed to providing that support."

'We desperately need better options for our young people. Record numbers of them are not working or training and politicians are right to look to education to solve the problem. However, improvements will not be achieved by simply expecting more of our excellent further education workforce and cannot be done on the cheap.

"Further education has a well-qualified, hard-working, professional workforce and the Labour Party needs to support it with commitments to invest to raise the nation's skills.' - Sally Hunt,  General Secretary, UCU (read full response)

Read the full report The Skills Taskforce Interim Report: Talent Matters-why England needs a new approach to skills pdf

TorMacleod 15:57

An Agile and Responsive Curriculum For Colleges

supporting agile deliveryLast year the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) asked the learning and skills sector to open up a strategic dialogue to discuss their key issues.

In response the 157 Group have examined the challenges colleges faced in aligning their curriculum to business objectives, wholesale curriculum redesign and responding to employer, learner and labour market demands.

Individual projects carried out by Derby College, Hull College, Liverpool Community College, New College Nottingham, Sunderland College and the Sussex Downs College and York College have found several success factors in implementing swift curriculum change.

  • A learner responsive curriculum: change driven by leaner needs
  • Employer engagement: change driven by employer needs
  • Strong communication: between staff, departments and referral agents.
  • Internal structure: establish an effective, streamlined and agile system within the college

How to support a flexible delivery

" The current inflexibility suffered by many colleges dues to their inability to move quickly in response to identified needs from the communities. Colleges need to review their structures (including staff contracts and processes for planning staff utilisation) critically, and develop mechanisms that enable them to identify and respond to needs in a timely way with high-quality provision." - 157 Group

Macleod Associates Unity system (now Workpepper - Sept 2013) has already been used by colleges to tackle many of the common issues raised above; streamlining the referrals process, improving communication across departments as well as with the JCP and allowing colleges more agililty to swiftly adapt their delivery to meet changing curriculum and learner needs.

Contact us to find out more

Read the full report Curriculum redesign in further education colleges: exploring current challenges and opportunities pdf


Tor Macleod 11:45

5 Tips To Motivate Learners

5 Tips To Motivate LearnersDue to the nature of the further education and skills sector learner motivation will always be a potential barrier to skills and employability training. Here are 5 tips to improve learner motivation, attendance and course progression:

clear line of sight 1. 'A Clear Line of Sight to Work'

Knowing that there could be a real job opportunity waiting at the end of a course can do a lot to keep learners motivated. Building strong relationships with local employers, recruitment agencies and tailoring coursesin response to real vacancies can provide learners with an a target and achievable goal or job outcome.

"A clear line of sight to work is critical because vocational learners must be able to see why they are learning what they are learning"

- Its about work: Excellent Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning

streamlined booking2. Streamline The Booking Process

For the unemployed it can often feel like you are just being passed from one person to the next, answering the same questions - yet nothing is actually being done to help career progression. Being able to book learner onto a course within the first interview will do a lot to reassure them that something is being done and empower them to want to complete the course.

"It is much more satisfying for both us and the learners to be able to book a course there and then and give them their IAP. Leaners have the dates; they know the room and exactly what they are booked on. It is a much better way for them to start rather than building an action plan only to send them away to wait fot us to be in touch."

- Lin Sheppard, JobSmart Tutor, Gloucestershire College

know your learners

3. Know Your Learners

With sometimes hundreds of learners coming through the doors, how can you ensure that someone does not get lost in the system? Having an easily accessible learner records, will enable administrators and tutors to quickly offer support and answer learners queries - reassuring learners of your commitment to them and that you know who they are.

additional support4. Offer Timely Support

Every college or provider deals with a widely diverse range of learners with different needs and circumstances. Sometimes there isn't enough time for a personal tutor to be truly 'personal'. With little time for one-on-one tutorials it helps to be able to highlight learners who require additional support and ensure that they are not left behind.

keep in touch5. Keep in Touch

Setting automated reminders via text or email can helped to improve attendance as well as learner motivation. A detailed view of the learner journey can ensure learner progression by enabling early identification those who have failed to attend.

Do you have any tips for keeping learners motivated? Let us know in the comments section below.

Macleod Associates Unity system (now Workpepper - Sept 2013)  has given training providers the ability to manage and track the learner journey, identify learners for additional support, swiftly adapt courses to meet local labour needs and streamline the booking process. Contact one of our team to find out more.

Tor Macleod 12:46

Funding Priorities for 2013/14

A recent letter from Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills details the 2013-14 budget and the Agencies priorities for the year.

"A key focus must be on supporting young adults, the low skilled and unemployed to acquire the skills needed for employment and progression, and i look to the Agency to continue to encourage the sector to use their funding flexibilities to deliver tailored, high-quality provision which meets employer needs; and to further incentivise providers on the basis of job outcomes."

The letter highlights the continued government focus on education that tackles local and community issues .Training providers are again encouraged to 'relate skills to labour market issues' and to deliver training that can achieve employment outcomes.

Read the full letter >

Tor Macleod 11:42

A New Streamlined Funding System for Adult Skills and the Need for Destination Tracking


Details of  changes to the way that adult training is funded and delivered published by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA).

The new streamlined funding system focuses on 4 guiding principles; fairness, transparency, protecting public funds and recognising the diverse needs of adults.

The Government has continued its focus on training that contributes true value to learners and the local community. As mentioned in our previous blog 'The Missing Link Between Education and Employment' training providers will be judged based on their ability to secure job outcomes, respond to the needs of the local area and help learners to overcome barriers to work.

Funding will follow the learner journey

destination trackingIn the new system funding will distributed over the learner journey from starting to achieving their learning aims. As 'funding will directly link to retention and achievement' destination tracking and the capability to report on job outcome will become increasingly important.

Changes will come into effect this August and the report urges providers and colleges to prepare.

"Any providers who have not already started analysing their current patterns of delivery in the light of the changes for the 2013/2014 funding year should urgently do so." 

Macleod Associates Unity (now Workpepper - Sept 2013) system is already being used by training providers to track and report on the learner journey. Contact us to find out how destination tracking can be used to monitor and evidence job outcomes.

Read the full update: A New Streamlined Funding System for Adult Skills pdf

Tor Macleod 15:26


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