Preparing for the world

Former principal of South Essex College Jan Hodges is CEO of independent education charity, the Edge Foundation.

07 December 2012 / Be the first to comment

Former principal of South Essex College Jan Hodges is CEO of independent education charity, the Edge Foundation. She explains why there is too much emphasis on memorising facts and not enough on employability.

My parents wanted me to leave school at 16 and go into banking…

They thought I should get a nice clean office job. They were keen on education, but the opportunities were fewer back then. Fortunately my teachers persuaded my parents I should stay on. I was doing pretty well at school and they saw I had the potential for higher education. 

I was the first in my family to go to university. If there had been more work-based routes I might have taken an apprenticeship. But I came from a poor family, they wanted me to earn money and be employed.

I was quite entrepreneurial as a 16-year-old - I could have gone into business. I was someone who always worked – I had part-time jobs from 15. Delivering Christmas post was good fun but filling bottles with disinfectant in a chemical factory wasn’t so nice.

I did a degree in English and French. While working in Switzerland I saw their apprenticeship scheme was held in as much esteem as the academic route. That’s what Edge and City & Guilds are concerned about, we want to challenge the idea that academic and vocational are different but not equal. 

The other day I was talking to a man whose son is doing an apprenticeship in aviation engineering – he was amazed at the high level of maths skills required.

It’s vital that young people learn practical tasks. We overemphasise skills like memorising facts and passing exams, but there are other things like employability and being well prepared for work. 

It’s a real concern that there’s not enough information on vocational routes. Edge research shows that teachers don’t feel they know enough about apprenticeships, because they haven’t done them themselves. But we’ve found parents are more open to vocational qualifications. When it comes to university people think, ‘Will my son or daughter get a job? Is it money well spent?’

City & Guilds has a fantastic reputation. It helps and prepares people for work, offering qualifications across different sectors, as well as supporting a wide range of talents for future careers.

Edge’s Six Step Campaign is to ensure that learning by doing has equal value. We also want to ensure that all learners experience academic and vocational education. The campaign was recently launched and now we’re rolling it out. We’re getting a lot of support and employers are very positive. We want training for young people of all talents and abilities so they’re better prepared for the world for work. Today, that's more important than ever. 

Check out the Edge Foundation's website:

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