Sir John Armitt delivers speech at the Edge Annual Lecture

City & Guilds Chairman, Sir John Armitt spoke at the Edge Foundation’s Annual Lecture in his inaugural public address.

06 December 2012 / Be the first to comment

At The Skills Show in November, City & Guilds Chairman, Sir John Armitt spoke at the Edge Foundation’s Annual Lecture in his inaugural public address since taking over the position of Chairman in October.

Sir John used his speech to provide an employer’s perspective on vocational education and training, highlighting topical issues such as careers information advice and guidance, the resurgence of the TechBac, and the need for employers to get involved in vocational qualifications. Key areas of focus and extracts from the speech can be found below:

Why City & Guilds is supporting The Skills Show

‘What better way can there be of showing off the importance of skills? And The Skills Show offers all of us the opportunity to see where skills can take you, whether you are a young person, a teacher or parent, or someone in industry. When done well, vocational education and training can be a powerful tool for engaging a diverse group of people; it helps us find and keep a job, and it provides a clear return on investment for business.’

The importance of careers guidance

‘About one third of a young people we interviewed said that they have never received any careers guidance. Of the 1000 14-16 year olds we spoke to, around two-thirds said they had received some form of careers information, and it was from their school teacher. We also asked the young people what would be the most useful source of careers guidance – the runaway winner was time with an actual employer.’

Work experience as a form of careers guidance

‘Young people want the opportunity to gain work experience, and they really benefit from it when they get it. A national standard for work experience that provides clear guidelines for employers and schools isn’t beyond our wit and is something that organisations like ours can easily provide. We don’t want to pigeon-hole people by asking them to participate in one kind of work experience; we are opening their eyes to the world of possibilities out there.’

The purpose of education

‘We can all be guilty at times, whether in policy circles or industry, or a particular realm of education, of fixating on one singular goal – university. But what about technical education? Does that need the input of Government? We need to be clear about the purpose of technical education. Given the economic climate, we have no choice but to prioritise technical and vocational education. We need to get back to a society where the vocational option is seen as the first choice, rather than second best.’

Start early

‘In our survey of 3000 seven to eighteen year olds, they told us that they want to know about jobs from a primary school age. About half of the respondents also told us, unprompted, that they want to see their maths lessons more geared to practical or work-related scenarios. BIS recently put forward their Industry Strategy for the nation and there are perhaps no surprises in the priority sectors. If we are going to deliver on these areas, we need technicians. So we need an education and skills policy that matches up with these ambitions.’

Fixing the National Curriculum

‘I know that universities are currently being tasked with looking at the A-level curriculum and that is great, but employers need to be involved too. Employers and universities also need to be involved in vocational qualifications, and so as the TechBac gains prominence once more, let’s make sure the right people are in the lead on its development. The City & Guilds Technological Baccalaureate was offered as a predecessor to 14-19 Diplomas, and it continues to be a good model because it does some of the things we all recognise as good practice: it contextualises the subject, it’s developed in conjunction with industry, provides the all-round skills we need to get on in life, and is focused on developing technical skills.’

Look at our own practices

‘We can all do that bit more as employers. We can go into schools and we can offer work experience, but we need to ask Government to make this as simple as possible for us. We also need to pass on the message and generate an understanding that employers actively work with us on qualifications from the very first stages of their development, not as a last resort. If we can stress how achievements in vocational qualifications can lead someone to be work-ready, and are just as valuable as a degree, we are going to do wonders for the perception of this branch of the education system.’

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